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Dracula | Chapter 14 : Mina Harker's Journal | Summary

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Summary

Mina writes, on September 23rd, how proud she is of Jonathan's efforts to take up Mr. Hawkins' tasks. Since he must work late, she decides to read his notebook. She writes again on the 24th, dismayed by what she has read, even if Jonathan only imagined the events because of the brain fever. Yet Mina wonders, because Jonathan is sure he saw Dracula in London, whether the events happened. She decides to transcribe and type up the notebook's contents in case they are needed.

On September 24th Van Helsing writes to Mina, asking to meet her. He's read Lucy's letters and diary and has questions she may be able to answer. The matter is pressing but also private. Mina responds the next day in a telegram inviting Van Helsing to Exeter.

After her first meeting with Van Helsing, Mina is sure that Jonathan's notebook records real events. To practice interview skills, she records her conversation with Van Helsing verbatim. She describes his appearance and manner in worshipful language and thanks him for trying to save Lucy. Van Helsing asks about the night Lucy walked in her sleep to the Whitby churchyard, and Mina proudly presents her shorthand account of that event. Then, feeling guilty about her little joke, she gives him the typed transcription of her journal and leaves him to read while she orders lunch. When she returns, he praises her journal and declares Harker blessed in his marriage. Mina relates the encounter with the thin man in London and, overcome by emotion, kneels and begs Van Helsing to help her husband.

After lunch, Van Helsing assures Mina that he keeps an open mind about things that seem unreal, so she gives him Jonathan's transcribed journal to read, and they agree to meet again the next day. Later that evening, he writes a brief note assuring Mina that the events in the notebook happened and that Harker, because he had the strength to escape Castle Dracula, will heal.

Jonathan Harker adds to his journal on September 26th—his first entry since escaping the castle. Mina has caught him up on events. Doubt, he says, had made him suspicious and uncertain, but now that he knows his experiences were real, his confidence is restored. The next day he meets Van Helsing at his hotel. Van Helsing assures Harker of his friendship and praises Mina as a model woman. Harker buys newspapers for Van Helsing to read on the train and waits at the station for the train to depart. Van Helsing, already on the train, turns pale as he reads and exclaims, "So soon!" But the train pulls away before Harker can ask what he means.

Though Dr. Seward had decided, after Lucy's death, to quit his phonograph diary, he takes it up again on September 16th to report that Renfield is again calmly collecting flies and spiders. A letter from Holmwood reports he is getting by, with Morris's support; and Seward himself is beginning to recover. But Van Helsing arrives with a copy of the Westminster Gazette articles about the bloofer lady and the wounded children, drawing Seward back into sorrow. Seward sees the wounds are like Lucy's but can't draw any conclusions about them. Van Helsing is frustrated: How, after everything that's happened and all the hints Van Helsing has dropped, can Seward still be ignorant? Van Helsing wants Seward to believe in things that seem to defy scientific fact. He describes bats that suck blood from livestock and kill sailors as they sleep on deck, leading Seward to ask whether Lucy was bitten by such a bat. Van Helsing finally reveals that the children's wounds were not made by the same thing that wounded Lucy, but by something much worse—Lucy herself.

Analysis

In Chapter 14 Lucy yields the spotlight to Mina as the beloved woman in need of protection. Both women are, though only Van Helsing knows it at this point, caught in the struggle for dominance between Dracula, the dark foreigner from the Old World , and the young men as vanguards of modern England. So Stoker spends time in this chapter presenting Mina as worthy of the sacrifices the struggle will demand—as a model of late Victorian womanhood. For some Victorian readers, indeed, Mina may test the boundaries of acceptable feminine behavior.

Mina, who's already proven herself a devoted and dutiful wife, shows proper respect for Van Helsing, surrogate father to several of the young people (Lucy, Holmwood after his father's death, and Harker after Mr. Hawkins' death). She describes him in glowing terms. Like Seward, Mina praises Van Helsing as a resolute man, worthy to be followed, and by their third meeting, she falls on her knees, like a petitioner, to beg his help.

Van Helsing is as impressed with "Madam Mina," as he calls her. He praises her to Harker as a woman "so true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist." The last descriptor is especially important. Women at this time were expected to gladly subjugate their own desires and needs to those of their husbands, children, and in some cases aging parents. Readers may note that while Mina is clearly proud of her abilities and intellect, she frames them as tools to use for her husband's benefit. She learns shorthand to be useful to Jonathan (and compares herself to prideful Eve craving "the taste of the original apple" when her shorthand records stump Van Hesling), and she practices interviewing because a friend of her husband recommends it for improving the memory. Rarely does Mina learn a new skill for her own uses, but readers can tell how much she enjoys tasking herself. This is one way in which Mina walks a fine line between proper Victorian womanhood and the progressive and positive concept of the New Woman, who seeks a career for her own sake and exercises control over other desires as well—including her sexuality.

But Van Helsing praises the more traditional role. Mina, he declares, is one of the "good women, whose lives and whose truths may make good lesson for the children that are to be." Even later in the novel, when he praises Mina for having a woman's heart and a man's brain, he marks her out as an anomaly, perhaps created by God for the struggle against Dracula.

Sweet, pretty Lucy, the child-bride with a secret wish to wed multiple men, and clever, disciplined, but plain Mina, the competent helpmeet, perhaps represent ends of a spectrum of traditional and progressive Victorian womanhood. Yet Dracula targets both for his harem.

One other important scene in Chapter 14 includes Van Helsing's long lecture to Seward about the necessity of opening his mind to ideas that seem unscientific in order to make the leap to unlikely truths. This scene might leave some readers frustrated because Van Helsing seems to make unreasonable demands of his former student. Having hoarded his store of vampire lore, behaved mysteriously, and refused all questions, Van Helsing suddenly blames Seward for failing to see the big picture. Science, with its goal to "explain all; and if it explain not," or to deny that something exists, has ensnared Seward's thinking. In contrast to Mina, who now has the information she needs to understand her husband's illness, Seward can only clutch at stray facts as Van Helsing spouts them (some of the information Van Helsing provides can be considered as pseudo-science or superstition, as readers know). Not only does this scene develop the novel's theme of the limits of modern knowledge, but it also sets readers up for a huge revelation: Lucy is drinking children's blood.

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