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Dracula | Chapter 24 : Dr. Seward's Phonograph Diary, spoken by Van Helsing | Summary

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Summary

Van Helsing leaves a message for Harker on Seward's phonograph telling Harker to guard Mina while he and the other young men investigate Dracula's disappearance. Van Helsing suspects Dracula is on board a ship, in his last box of earth, retreating to Transylvania.

Harker's October 4th entry describes Mina's relief that Dracula is no longer in England. The past days seem like a dream to Harker, but the scar on Mina's forehead is all too real.

Mina adds notes from a meeting on October 5th to her journal. Van Helsing learned at the wharf that only one sailing ship was bound for the Black Sea—the Czarina Catherine, headed to Varna. A man fitting Dracula's description booked hasty passage on the ship; the man returned with a large box and carried it aboard himself.

Van Helsing decides to travel overland to meet the ship at Varna. Mina dreads being parted from the men again, but Van Helsing forcefully insists—now is the time to stop Dracula's ambitions. Powerful forces of life, earth, and time combine with Dracula's innate courage and intelligence to create a remarkable enemy. By destroying him, they will do God's work, like "old knights of the Cross." But Mina counters that Dracula, having been routed from London, will simply stay in his castle. Not so, Van Helsing says. He prepared carefully, over years it seems, for his assault on London; he will perhaps do the same to another city if they don't stop him. They decide to sleep and Mina feels almost peaceful as she goes to bed—till she sees her scarred forehead in the mirror.

The next day Seward records how he feels almost that recent events never happened, but Mina's forehead is a constant reminder of their quest. Moreover, some power, perhaps the poisonous vampire blood in her body, seems to restrain her ability to speak her thoughts. If so she might have a connection to Dracula that jeopardizes their mission. Later he talks privately with Van Helsing, who agrees that Dracula may be able to know what Mina is thinking. Mina shows early signs of becoming Un-Dead—sharper teeth, harder eyes. They must again exclude her from their plans and explain why.

When the men meet later, Mina sends her excuses, relieving Van Helsing of the painful task of explaining her demotion. Seward assumes that Mina knows she's vulnerable to leaking information. The men review what they know: traveling overland, they can reach Varna in three days, but the ship will take nearly three weeks. They have time to rest and get supplies, including rifles to fend off Dracula's wolf allies. They decide to leave soon. Van Helsing wants Harker to remain with Mina. When Harker objects and says he'll talk to Mina about it, Seward thinks they should share their concerns about Mina's mind. But Van Helsing's gesture silences him.

After the meeting Harker puzzles over the sudden exclusion of Mina from meetings and over her own decision not to attend. He watches Mina sleeping like an innocent child; her face makes him feel almost happy. Mina wakes near evening and makes Jonathan promise to stay silent about the plans to pursue Dracula, at least while she still bears the red mark. He promises, though he immediately feels cut off from her. At midnight Harker adds that Mina's cheerful behavior has encouraged them all. He goes to bed, hoping for dreamless sleep. But before dawn on October 6th, Mina again asks for Van Helsing to tell him, before the sun rises, that she must travel to Varna, for the safety of all. If Dracula calls her, she must go to him, even if it means deceiving her husband. Also, she knows something of Dracula's mind and may, under hypnosis, reveal vital information. Exhausted by the effort of speaking, Mina collapses into sleep. Van Helsing says they'll leave the next morning. They will meet the Czarina when it docks, place wild rose on the box where Dracula rests, and then, when no one is around, open the box and destroy Dracula. Morris is willing to do this before a thousand witnesses, no matter the consequences. Later, Harker writes that Mina becomes anxious as night approaches; he feels she'll speak just as the sun sets. He ends the entry, "She is calling to me."

Analysis

Dreams, sleep, and trance-like states figure in Dracula's final chapters. In Chapter 24, for example, Harker thinks of his experiences in Castle Dracula as a "long-forgotten dream"; the brisk autumn air and slanting light almost convince him that all is well. Then he sees, like Seward, Mina's scarred forehead, and reality crashes in. Van Helsing hypnotizes Mina at sunset and sunrise, times that are not quite night and not quite day; and she feels such relief that she's almost glad again—till she sees her reflection in the mirror. Even Seward feels a resurgence of hope and awe at human resilience, but dire reality soon intrudes as he considers that Dracula may have access to their plans through his connection with Mina. Yet there are touches of humor, perhaps a kind of comic relief, in Chapter 24 as well. Van Helsing's garbled report of the captain's language is one. The captain curses, using the epithet blood often, but Van Helsing, in his stilted English (not his first language, readers by now know), translates the curse wrong. The captain says that Dracula had better, as Van Helsing puts it, "be quick—with blood—for that his ship will leave the place—of blood—before the turn of the tide—with blood" and so on. Van Helsing's mistranslation is of course ironically accurate. Dracula does all things with blood, the blood he takes from prey. He currently has in him blood from most of the main characters—Mina, Lucy, and through Lucy, Holmwood, Morris, Seward, and Van Helsing.

Despite an upturn in mood and touches of humor, serious questions arise in the chapter. Some are expected: How much pain will Mina and the others suffer when she is excluded yet again from the planning? Should Mina stay in England or go with the men, and if she stays, should Harker, who so desperately wants to avenge his wife? But an unexpected question arises as well, connected to the novel's theme of damnation, salvation, and redemption: What if Dracula had turned his brilliant mind, ability to lead, and great strength to the good? "Oh! if such an one was to come from God," Van Helsing enthuses, "and not the Devil, what a force for good might he not be in this old world of ours!" But as it is, Dracula has had a glimpse of the power he could have, so much greater and over so many more people than he does in Transylvania. Now he's more dangerous than ever, his appetites whetted and his ability to wait out his opponents. He must be stopped before he reaches the castle. Stoker introduces a nice twist here. Dracula could wait for years, decades, even centuries before mounting a new attack. But for the band of heroes, Stoker has used the clock. "Put a clock on it," writers in many fiction genres often advise. Racing the clock against disaster ratchets up the novel's tension, despite Dracula's disappearance from the plot yet again. To enhance the suspense, the chapter ends with each character updating wills and taking care of other last affairs, each in a different mood. Morris, characteristically, takes everything in stride; Van Helsing urges last-minute preparations; and Harker worries as the sun sets that "some new pain" may have to be borne before Mina can be free of the curse.

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