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Dracula | Chapter 17 : Dr. Seward's Diary | Summary

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Summary

Seward returns with Van Helsing to his hotel to find a telegram from Mina Harker saying she's on the way with news. Van Helsing instructs Seward to meet Mina, while he makes other preparations, and gives him the typed transcripts to study. Seward and Mina bond immediately over shared love for Lucy.

Mina's entry for September 29th describes her surprise upon seeing Seward dictate his diary into a phonograph. She wants to hear an entry played back, but Seward makes an excuse—he doesn't know how to find a particular entry among his recordings. When Mina offers to type them, he hesitates to burden Mina with the horrible facts. Mina assures Seward that, once he reads her typed transcripts, he'll trust her. Embarrassed, he hands over the wax cylinders.

Seward adds to his September 29th entry after he reads the transcripts of Harker's diary and Mina's letters. When he sees Mina again, she's been crying. The phonograph has captured every cruel detail. She has transcribed the entries so that "none other need now hear your heart beat, as I did." Moved by Mina's brave determination, Seward decides to tell her the rest of Lucy's story after dinner.

Mina returns to her own journal after Seward plays his most recent entries for her. She's not the type to faint, but even so, the events are so terrible that only the knowledge that Lucy is no longer an Un-Dead sustains her. She listens again, this time typing everything in exact order and detail. She also researches back issues of newspapers to gather information about Dracula's arrival in Whitby and the attacks on children in Hampstead. The work keeps her calm.

Seward's September 30th entry reports Jonathan Harker's arrival in the morning. Harker strikes Seward as intelligent and energetic, if a little formal. After lunch the Harkers return to their room; Seward hears them typing up the latest intelligence. Harker reads Seward's diary as well. Together they deduce that Carfax is Dracula's lair; his presence draws Renfield to its chapel. Harker suggests that Renfield's moods correspond with Dracula's movement, so Seward interviews his patient, who speaks rationally of going home, a subject he's never before mentioned. Seward suspects a new ploy.

An entry Harker wrote while on the train on September 29th follows. He travels to Whitby to meet Mr. Billington, the lawyer who handled Dracula's move to England. He gets copies of the paperwork to ship the boxes of "common earth, to be used for experimental purposes" to Carfax and realizes how thoughtfully Dracula planned. Harker visits the harbor master, customs officials, coastguards, and carters. Everyone has a story to tell about the Demeter's strange arrival, which is already passing into area lore.

The next day Harker interviews the stationmaster who received the boxes near Carfax and the clerks at the moving company, who give him copies of invoices. The men who delivered the boxes found long-neglected Carfax eerie and its chapel frightening.

On September 30th, Mina writes proudly of Jonathan's restored resolve and nearly pities Dracula, the hunted. Morris and Holmwood arrive while Seward and Harker are out, so Mina plays hostess as they study copies of the transcribed materials. When Holmwood becomes tearful over Lucy, Morris leaves so Holmwood can grieve openly to a sympathetic woman. They pledge to be like brother and sister for Lucy's sake. Mina leaves Holmwood and sees Morris in the hall. He's glad that Holmwood unburdened himself, and Mina expresses sympathy for Morris as well. They exchange a kiss of friendship, a meager reward, Mina says, for Morris's staunch friendship, but one he gladly accepts.

Analysis

In Chapter 17 the band of heroes who will oppose Dracula, under Van Helsing's leadership, begins to assemble, and each member's abilities become clear. Mina, "pearl among women," as Van Helsing calls her, brings a sharp mind and nearly superhuman organizational abilities to the team. The "sweet-faced, dainty-looking girl," as Seward describes Mina, transcribes all of Seward's cylinders in an evening, a feat that may stretch readers' credulity, while also stepping into the role of hostess for the bachelor doctor. Mina describes herself as "quite wild with excitement" and praises her husband who, now "full of volcanic energy," goes on a fact-finding mission to seek out the smallest clues about Dracula's movements. The team names their enemy openly now, though Van Helsing still has not said Dracula's name.

Seward does his part, parsing Renfield's moods and words for access to Dracula's plans, while Morris and Holmwood study Mina's records so that everyone will be ready when Van Helsing returns. The chapter is packed with details and place names as the busy researchers gather information. There may be monsters in the world, Mina reflects as she updates the intelligence, but the world "seems full of good men," too.

One act of preparation stands out from among the invoices, paperwork, transcripts, news articles, and diaries: Holmwood's expression of his grief. Lucy's unexpected decline and sudden death, happening just after Holmwood's father's death, and the horrible events that followed have left him little time to mourn his fiancée and their future. These circumstances allow Stoker to show Mina's more typically feminine traits in a chapter in which she types things up in "manifold" (a special type of paper to make multiple copies) and marvels over wax cylinders. With Holmwood, Mina sets aside her businesslike demeanor and reveals her "mother-spirit," holding him as she would her own crying child. She then pledges to love him as a sister would, for Lucy's sake. Mina is uniquely qualified to bear witness to Holmwood's sorrow because she's not just a woman, of whom this role is expected, but she knows exactly what Lucy and Holmwood endured. "No one but a woman," Morris says gratefully, "can help a man when he is in trouble of the heart"; Mina's innate ability to comfort the stricken keeps her from being seen as too mannish, despite her skills.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing, too, is at work, consulting with experts in vampire lore. Everyone prepares, physically and emotionally, to destroy the Un-Dead that invades from the east. Their failure could mean nothing less than the death of Western civilization.

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