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Chapter 2

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 2 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 2 : Jonathan Harker's Journal | Summary

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Summary

Harker adds to his May 5th entry. At the castle, the driver helps Harker out of the carriage and drives away, leaving Harker by the massive door, unsure of what to do. Harker has been sent to handle paperwork for the count's purchase of a house near London, but his journey so far has hardly been routine. With much clattering, the heavy door is unlocked and opened, and an elderly man all in black motions for Harker to enter. He carries an old lamp with an oddly smokeless flame and welcomes Harker, in accented English: "Enter freely and of your own will!" As Harker crosses the threshold, the man grasps his hand with iron strength. Harker asks whether the man is Count Dracula, to which the man replies, "I am Dracula." He sees Harker's need for food and rest and leads him to a bedroom with a warm fire.

Harker puts his fears behind him, changes, and joins Dracula at the table; Dracula says he's already dined and does not "sup." He reads the letter Harker's employer, Mr. Hawkins, has sent, deputizing Harker to handle the real estate matters. After dinner, Harker observes his host closely. Everything about Dracula's face is sharp—cruel mouth, protruding teeth, crimson lips. His skin is pale, and his palms, oddly, are hairy. Dawn nears, and Dracula urges Harker to sleep well while he attends to business. He leaves Harker to troubled prayers and sleep.

Harker's May 7th entry records a day of rest. Food is set out for him, though he never sees servants. The castle's ornate furnishings proclaim Dracula's wealth, yet curiously, he sees no mirrors. Harker browses in a library full of English books and periodicals on many subjects till Dracula arrives. He asks Harker to correct his English so he won't feel like a "stranger in a strange land" in London, using the words of Moses in exile (Exodus 2). Dracula gives Harker the run of the castle, except for rooms locked for good reason. They talk at length until Harker asks about the blue flames and the driver's strange behavior. Regional superstition holds that on one night of the year, blue flames appear where treasure fell during battle. Yet the local people, Dracula scoffs, are too fearful to venture out to find the treasures.

Harker and Dracula go over the paperwork for the house in London. The stone house, Carfax, dates to medieval times but is now in disrepair; it suits Dracula, who prefers shadow and solitude. He excuses himself, and Harker examines an atlas in which Dracula has marked Carfax and the coastal city of Whitby. Dracula calls him to supper, again saying he has already dined, and they talk through the night. When a rooster crows, Dracula apologizes for having kept Harker up and leaves with a bow.

Harker starts his May 8th entry with a promise to curb his imagination and record only facts. He now thinks only Dracula lives in the castle. That evening, Harker hangs up his "shaving glass" ( small mirror) to shave and feels Dracula's hand on his shoulder. He hadn't seen his host come up in the mirror, though everything else in the room is reflected. Startled, Harker nicks his face. When Dracula sees the trickle of blood on Harker's chin, his look turns vicious. He grabs at Harker's throat but, grazing the beads of the crucifix, steps back. Dracula warns Harker that to cut himself is dangerous in Transylvania. He flings the mirror, through the window to the courtyard below, where it shatters.

As Harker eats breakfast alone, he realizes he's never seen Dracula eat or drink. Harker explores the castle, which is perched on a high cliff. He wanders, finding "doors, doors, doors everywhere, and all locked." The windows are the only exits, and they lead to a deadly fall. Harker realizes he is not a guest but a prisoner.

Analysis

In Chapter 2's journal entries, readers get to know Dracula as Harker does, and Stoker lays the foundations of the conflict between Dracula and Harker that will end in the novel's final paragraphs. That conflict is reflected even in how Harker refers to Dracula and how Dracula refers to himself. When Harker shakes Dracula's icy hand and asks whether he is Count Dracula, Dracula bows "in a courtly way" and politely corrects Harker: "I am Dracula." The rank of count is appropriate to Europe in 1893, when the events are set, but in Dracula's mortal life, his rank was closer to that of a prince. He never refers to himself as a count, but Harker and, later, John Seward do so repeatedly. Dracula was once, he later declares, a master of many people and substantial land, and he means to be so again, through the means of making others his blood servants. "Count" is too low a term for his self-importance, but the title is also a reminder that Harker, Seward, and the others refuse Dracula the honor he claims for himself.

Aside from who Dracula is, Harker's early encounters with his host also hint at what he is. Modern readers are familiar with two fantastical creatures—the vampire and the werewolf. Yet Harker notes not only Dracula's pale skin, fangs, and unusual strength but also his hairy palms. And while in Bistritz, Harker heard villagers using a word vrolok, which can mean werewolf or vampire. Both are creatures that must feed on humans, act at night or in the dark, and spawn others like themselves through biting. Stoker's novel establishes vampire lore, but Dracula's hairy palms didn't carry forward into the sleek, urbane adaptations of his character in most later works. However, Dracula's connection to wolves, also evoked by his hairiness, did persist. Dracula tells Harker the wolves are the "children of the night" whose howls are songs, and later in the novel, the wolves are his allies.

The incident with the mirror reveals more of Dracula's uncanny nature. Harker realizes uneasily that Dracula has no reflection, and Dracula's odd reaction—to accuse the "foul bauble of man's vanity" of causing Harker's wound and smash it—is inexplicable. Harker also reports feeling sick and shaky when Dracula touches him; Dracula himself notes the reaction, pulling back with a "grim sort of smile." Harker senses that, whatever Dracula is, he's not merely a wealthy aristocrat buying a house outside of London.

Yet Harker and Dracula also reveal themselves to be similar in this chapter. Both are proud, able men. Dracula's pride is in his lineage; the lavish though outdated furnishings of his castle and his elegant manners are evidence of his wealth and influence. Harker, though only at the beginning of his career, is proud he's now a full-fledged solicitor (lawyer), which he learns soon after he departs London for the business trip to Transylvania. Harker is engaged; he's smart and hard-working—a young man on his way up. At the same time, Dracula and Harker are deeply at odds. Dracula wants a return to old ways, to respect and power he had when mortal and to outdated chains of command. He prefers lamps to electric lights and carriages to trains. (Later, readers will see his preference for sailing ships over steamships.) Harker, on the other hand, looks forward. He's mastered shorthand and, readers later learn, encouraged Mina to do so as well; his dossier on Carfax includes photographs he took of the property with his Kodak, a device that debuted a few years before the novel's setting. These contrasts are part of the conflict between the old, Eastern, superstitious world, as Stoker sees it, and the innovative, scientific Western world.

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