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Chapter 22

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 22 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 22 : Jonathan Harker's Diary | Summary

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Summary

Harker's October 3rd entry records his deep distress and disordered thoughts after Dracula's attack on Mina. Before Dracula left the asylum, he beat Renfield and broke his neck while the attendant sat in the hall, oblivious. Seward frets over what he'll tell the coroner, and the men decide that, going forward, they'll tell Mina everything they know, since nothing they say could be more terrible than what she's endured. Mina may in fact be a threat to them now, but she insists that she would kill herself before harming any of them. Moved by her words, Van Helsing cautions her to stay alive. If she dies while Dracula still lives, she'll become an Un-Dead. Van Helsing puts Mina in charge of managing the information again, and the men prepare to sterilize the boxes of earth at Carfax while sunshine protects them. They'll look for paperwork and keys, figure out the locations of the missing boxes, and cut Dracula off from all his hiding places. They need a plan for breaking into the Piccadilly house without arousing suspicion. Harker can hardly wait to act; he sees that Mina is too pale. Her lips have drawn back, but—thankfully—her canines haven't become longer yet. When Harker wants to stay to protect Mina, she insists he go with the others. His understanding of legal paperwork may help them locate the lairs. Van Helsing approves: it's daytime and Dracula, having "banqueted heavily," will likely sleep late. Mina goes paler, Harker looks incensed, and Van Helsing apologizes for his insensitive comment.

The men equip themselves. As they prepare to leave, Van Helsing touches the communion wafer fragment to Mina's forehead for extra protection, but it sears her skin. Mina cries not only from pain but from the realization that Dracula has polluted her with his evil. Harker holds her as they sob over her contamination, but Van Helsing believes that, on Judgment Day, God will perhaps remove the scar, and Mina's face will again be as innocent of evil as the men know her soul to be. They kneel to pledge themselves to each other and pray for guidance. Jonathan writes his own private pledge: Should Mina become a vampire, he won't let her go alone into "that unknown and terrible land."

The men search Carfax but find no leases or keys. They place a bit of communion wafer in each box of earth. As they pass the asylum on the way to London, Harker waves to Mina to let her know the work at Carfax is done. They reach Piccadilly after noon. Morris and Holmwood, using his influence as Lord Godalming, go for a locksmith while the others wait nearby. Holmwood's ruse works; the locksmith opens the door, and Holmwood walks in as if he owns the house. The men find and sterilize eight boxes of earth in the house—they'd expected to find nine. They find paperwork and keys to other properties, so Holmwood and Morris go to sterilize the boxes at these while the others wait at Piccadilly.

Analysis

Practicality returns in Chapter 22. After what Mina has endured—at least three times—there's no point in trying to protect her from painful information, and the men need her skills anyway. Several loose ends must be tied up neatly and quickly; for example, Seward must prevent an investigation into Renfield's suspicious and violent death, the records must be updated, and a plan for breaking into the house in Piccadilly in broad daylight must be made. The work is the only thing holding Harker together; he chafes under any little delay.

Yet a complication arises. Now that Mina is back in the inner circle, ready to act, she admits to being a threat to the men. Dracula told her as he forced his blood into her, "When my brain says 'Come!' to you, you shall cross land or sea to do my bidding." He now has some telepathic control over her. To counter the threat, Mina announces she'll watch herself closely and kill herself, or let one of them kill her, rather than attack them. Modern readers may not know how scandalous suicide was in Victorian culture. Until 1823 a person who killed him or herself could be buried at crossroads with a stake through the heart as a mark of shame to that person and his or her family. Only in 1879 did suicide cease to be murder (punishable with jail time for someone who attempted suicide), and not until 1882 could persons who committed suicide be buried by daylight. This is why, when he commends Mina's self-sacrificial bravery, Van Helsing says that he would "hold it in my account with God to find such an euthanasia for you"—that is, her death could be justified as a "good death," a holy death, except that, should Mina die while Dracula lives, the curse will make her an Un-Dead. Bravely, Mina agrees to live, if she can.

Before the men leave, the second dramatic scene of the chapter occurs. Van Helsing, with the best of intentions, touches the communion wafer to Mina's forehead to protect her from Dracula's curse. As he speaks the traditional words of blessing, Mina shrieks. The wafer burns her "as though it had been a piece of white-hot metal"—no slight reddening but a vicious wound. Her reaction is over the top: she falls to her knees "in an agony of abasement" and, letting down her hair, pulls it over her face, "as the leper of old his mantle." (Proper Victorian women wore their hair up, with perhaps a curl or two down for special occasions, except in their husbands' presence and in the privacy of the bedroom, so Mina's actions are not only despairing but inappropriate.) Jonathan falls down beside her in an "agony of helpless grief," but Van Helsing begins to speak as if "stating things outside himself"—that is, in words inspired by some greater understanding. What he doesn't say is that Mina isn't to blame for her polluted condition, or that she's merely a victim and mustn't feel guilty—things modern readers might expect him to say. Rather, he says God may require her to bear the mark on her forehead until Judgment Day; it's her cross to bear, just as Christ bore his cross, and just as the men will also bear their crosses of fear, grief, pain, and perhaps death, as God's "chosen instruments" against Dracula's evil.

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