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Chapter 27

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 27 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 27 : Mina Harker's Journal | Summary

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Summary

On November 1st Mina records her travels toward Castle Dracula with Van Helsing. Though the people they encounter are pleasant and helpful, when they see Mina's scarred forehead, they make gestures against evil. Mina notices that she feels freer of fear than she has in weeks. In contrast Van Helsing sleeps little and looks haggard, though his resolve to face Dracula doesn't flag. On November 2nd Mina persuades Van Helsing to let her drive so he can save his strength. The cold air weighs on their spirits, as does the knowledge, gained through hypnosis, that Dracula's boat has reached faster water. He's near his goal. That night Mina and Van Helsing climb through wild country toward Borgo Pass. Mina prays for Jonathan despite her belief that she's unclean and not worthy of prayer.

By November 4th Mina becomes so sleepy that she can no longer keep up her records, so Van Helsing writes to Seward, in case they don't meet again. He and Mina have stopped to rest on the cold mountainside. When they reached the pass the day before, Mina became excited, recalling the way to the castle from Jonathan's journal. All day as they travel, Mina sleeps, but at dusk she wakes. They make a fire, and Mina gets food ready while Van Helsing tends to the horses, but when he returns, she claims to have eaten already, rousing his suspicions. He sleeps fitfully—each time he wakes, Mina is watching him closely. But at dawn, she falls asleep so deeply that he must carry her to the carriage.

On the morning of the 5th, Van Helsing assures Seward in a letter that he is sane when he says that he can no longer sleep at night for fear of Mina. Instead, he dozes as he drives and she sleeps. That night Mina again watches, ruddy and alert by the fire. Van Helsing draws a circle of communion wafer crumbs in the dirt around her to protect them both. As Mina watches calmly, Dracula's vampire women materialize, calling their "sister" to join them. Van Helsing rejoices to see revulsion in Mina's eyes; she doesn't yet belong wholly to Dracula. The fire and wafer crumbs protect him and Mina as the ravenous vampire women feed on the moaning horses. As dawn approaches, the vampire women fade into the mist, and Mina sleeps.

Harker writes grimly on November 4th to report damage to the steamer. He and Holmwood are proceeding on horseback.

On the 5th Seward reports that he and Morris saw, ahead on the road, a group of Szgany guarding a wagon as they travel fast. Snow falls, wolves howl, and the men knowingly "ride to [the] death of someone."

Van Helsing adds to his November 5th memorandum. He leaves Mina sleeping in the protected circle and goes to the castle, where the doors, to his surprise, are open. He knocks them off their hinges so he can't get locked in, as Jonathan did, and heads to the chapel. The heavy airs reeks, and wolves howl in the distance, signaling Dracula's approach. For an instant he hesitates—the protective circle will not keep the wolves from attacking Mina. But that death is preferable to the fate of the Un-Dead, so he presses on. He finds the two dark-haired vampire women in their graves and feels the pull of their enthralling beauty. A distant but heartbreaking wail—Mina crying as she sleeps—wakes him from the drowsy desire the vampire women arouse in him. Then Van Helsing opens the grave of the fair-haired vampire woman, whose beauty astonishes him and moves his masculine instinct to protect her. But Mina's wail steadies him. Finally, Van Helsing sees a grand tomb with "DRACULA" carved into the stone. He places crumbs of the communion wafer in it and turns to the "butcher work" of freeing the vampire women's souls. As he leaves, Van Helsing sterilizes each door so Dracula can't enter his castle through them. Mina wakes when Van Helsing returns to the fire. She feels Jonathan nearby; they must go to him.

On November 6th Mina, much restored, writes of the final encounter with Dracula. Wrapped in furs, she and Van Helsing walk east down the cold mountain road, seeking Harker and Holmwood. The castle looms behind them; wolves howl threateningly around them. Van Helsing finds a small hollow in the rocks where they can rest. Through binoculars, he sees the Szgany men approaching the castle with the box of earth in which Dracula rests. Van Helsing draws a protective arc of wafer crumbs around the hollow's opening since, at sunset, Dracula will be at full power and will no doubt be ravenous after his long travels. The Szgany try to deliver the box and flee before sunset. But Van Helsing sees two men on horseback—Morris and Seward—pursuing the Szgany. Soon he sees Harker and Holmwood closing from the north. He and Mina arm themselves as the wolves, Dracula's allies, gather in the snowy vale before them. Time seems to slow as the hunters and hunted converge near the protective hollow where Mina and Van Helsing watch. Harker and Morris yell at the Szgany to stop, but the Szgany throw themselves into hauling the cart up the road. Harker leaps from his horse onto the cart and pushes the box of earth off as Morris fights his way through the armed Szgany to Harker's side, bowie knife flashing. Mina can see that Morris is wounded; he holds his bleeding side as he defends Harker, who pries open the box. The Szgany, surrounded by the four armed men, give up the fight just as the sun begins to set. Dracula wakes, his red eyes glowing with triumph—a few seconds too late. Harker slashes Dracula's throat with the kukri, and Morris spears his heart with the bowie knife. The vampire's body crumbles to dust as the sun's last rays disappear. The Szgany flee, leaving Mina and her protectors alone. Just before the body disintegrates, Mina is sure she sees peace on Dracula's face.

Morris collapses as Mina rushes to him. Just before he dies, he points to her face and says, "See! the snow is not more stainless than her forehead!"

Harker writes the note that ends the novel. Seven years have passed since Dracula's destruction. He and Mina have a son, born on an anniversary of Morris's death and named Quincey for him. The Harkers returned to Transylvania the summer before, viewing the desolate castle and recalling the terrible events, but without despair. Seward and Holmwood are happily married, and all is well, so Harker feels able to take all the documents and transcripts from the safe and assemble them into a narrative, though no one who reads it will believe it, he thinks. Van Helsing is visiting; he sits with Quincey on his knee and comments that the boy will one day understand how brave and good his mother is and why men once dared so much to protect her.

Analysis

The novel's Gothic influences assert themselves again in the final chapter of Dracula as the band of heroes faces one threat after another: biting weather, worried villagers, gathering wolves, and Szgany armed with very practical and modern weapons. The eeriest scenes occur in the forest, when the vampire women link arms and sway, calling to their new sister to join them, and of course in Castle Dracula, where Van Helsing faces his great temptation. The castle, which Harker once experienced as lavish but dated and empty, stinks, when Van Helsing enters it, of "some sulphurous fume" that sickens him, and the chapel is grimed with layers of ancient dust. Yet Dracula's tomb, fittingly for one so proud, is "lordly ... and nobly proportioned."

Van Helsing is an old man, by late 19th-century standards, and married to a woman to whom he is no longer attached. But he feels the lascivious pull of the vampire women lying in their boxes of earth. He knows the risk as he approaches their graves—that a man will gaze on their beauty and "delay, and delay, and delay" until he's entranced and easy prey at sunset. The blonde vampire woman, the first of the harem, lies in a "high great tomb" and is "so radiantly beautiful, so exquisitely voluptuous," that Van Helsing becomes dizzy with desire to protect her. Interestingly, Dracula is described as thin, cruel, hard, and tall, but never as handsome or desirable. Only the female vampires possess a wild sexuality that both entices and destroys men. Van Helsing passes the test, but only, he reports, because Mina's "soul-wail" breaks the spell the vampires cast over his senses.

Van Helsing is the novel's protagonist, though he doesn't strike the killing blow against Dracula. He guards Mina despite the threat that she will attack him, and he carries out the terrible task of destroying the vampire women alone. He writes to Seward of the "horrid screeching as the stake drove home; the plunging of writhing form, and lips of bloody foam"—but he endures these horrors three times. When he returns to Mina, she immediately perceives what the ordeal cost Van Helsing. In the mountains near the castle, Mina is particularly vulnerable to the influence of Dracula's blood in her, and Van Helsing watches her carefully. Mina watches Van Helsing with bright, hard eyes; her teeth seem longer and sharper; and only revulsion in her eyes persuades Van Helsing she won't join her new sisters. With the castle sterilized against Dracula's return and the vampire women released to salvation, only one task remains—destroying Dracula. The final battle seems to some readers almost anticlimactic. The Szgany workmen are torn between fear of sunset and hard duty to their employer and don't put up much of a fight. The wolves never attack, and Dracula never has the chance even to sit up in his box of earth. Two sharp blows end his reign of terror.

If Dracula's death seems anticlimactic, after the long chase, it may be because Stoker wants to focus attention on the final dramatic moments of the novel, when Morris, holding Mina's hand, declares himself glad to die for such a cause and points in joyous astonishment at her forehead, exclaiming, "See! the snow is not more stainless ... The curse has passed away!" Mina's virtue is restored, a clear sign that Dracula's evil has been utterly undone. Stoker holds this moment of high emotion and triumph, of sacrifice and redemption, until the last few lines of the narrative.

The note Harker writes seven years later serves multiple purposes. First, it ties up loose ends. Seward and Morris recover from their heartbreak and marry. The area in Transylvania around Castle Dracula is safe. Morris's heroism has been celebrated in the birth of the Harkers' son, and Van Helsing is de facto grandfather to the child, who will someday understand why men would risk everything for Mina, the "brave and gallant woman" they love. Van Helsing could have called Mina pure in these last lines, or virtuous, or clever. But he calls out instead two traits usually ascribed in Victorian novels to men—courage and valor.

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