Dracula | Study Guide

Bram Stoker

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Chapter 3

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 3 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 3 : Jonathan Harker's Journal | Summary



The May 8th entry continues: Harker frantically runs through the castle, checking doors and windows for an exit. Calming himself, he determines not to let Dracula see his fears. When Harker finds Dracula making up the guest bed, he infers not only that Dracula has no house servants but also that he is the driver who controlled the wolves. Harker pieces events together. The villagers' fear, the landlady's crucifix, the small gifts of garlic and wild rose people at the pass gave him all make more sense now.

Harker draws Dracula out on a favorite topic, Transylvanian history, hoping for clues as to Dracula's past. Dracula takes pride in his people, the Szekelys, tracing his blood to Attila the Hun and other heroes of Hungarian history. Dawn nears, and Dracula leaves Harker to sleep again.

Harker returns to his journal on May 12th as he tries to sort the facts from the fantastic as he recalls events of May 11th. Dracula asks many questions about arranging his move to London. Then he commands Harker to write to Mr. Hawkins, saying that Harker will stay another month in Transylvania, a proposal that chills Harker. Dracula provides paper and warns Harker to write only of business matters, but Harker writes secretly, in shorthand, to his employer and to Mina Murray, his fiancée. Dracula also writes several business letters. That night, Harker fixes the crucifix above his bed for comfort and takes a staircase to a tall stone window, from which he can see the moonlit valley. It's a peaceful scene—until Harker sees Dracula emerge from his room's window and creep down the castle wall, face down and cloak billowing, as quick and sure as a lizard.

On May 15th, Harker records seeing Dracula creep about the castle exterior again. He explores the castle further but finds more locked doors. He decides to search Dracula's room for the key to the great door to the courtyard. At the top of a staircase, he forces an old door open and enters another wing of the castle, from which he can see another suite of rooms and the deep fall from the castle walls into the valley. He is, he sees, cut off from help.

On May 16th, Harker wonders whether he is going mad with shock. Ignoring Dracula's warning to sleep only in the guest rooms, Harker falls asleep in the older wing of the castle he discovered the night before and wakes to see three ladies, two dark and one fair, who cast no shadows. He fears them yet longs to be kissed by their vividly red lips. They discuss who should kiss him first. The fair woman bends over him, her breath scented like honey and blood, and sensuously licks her lips and sharp teeth. She presses their tips against Harker's neck as he closes his eyes in ecstasy, but her kiss is interrupted by Dracula's sudden appearance. The woman is furious when Dracula orders the women to leave. The women laugh harshly and fall on a bag Dracula has brought them. As they carry it away, Harker hears what sound like a child's choked cries. The women fade into mist, and Harker collapses into unconsciousness.


Chapter 3 reveals more of Dracula's unworldly nature and malicious plans, and it introduces questions of masculinity and femininity that the novel develops going forward. In later chapters, readers get to know three young Victorian men—Harker, Seward, and Holmwood—and an energetic Texan, Morris. Under Van Helsing's guidance, these characters come to represent a manly ideal. But Harker struggles in these early chapters, and whether Harker can live up to the masculine ideal is unclear till well into the novel.

Readers notice, for example, Harker's embarrassment when he comes upon Dracula doing chores reserved for servants and women in Victorian culture: making the bed, clearing away dishes, and such. "[A]ll these menial offices" fall to Dracula, readers know, because servants would be in perpetual danger in Castle Dracula. But for many Victorian readers, and certainly for Harker, chores are beneath Dracula or any man of means. Dracula's long account of his bloodline, on the other hand, praises extreme masculinity, tracing the warrior-like nature of his people back to the powerful Norse gods Wodin and Thor. Conquest defines masculine virtue for Dracula, for whom the late 19th century is a time of "dishonorable peace" when men are afraid to spill blood in pursuit of power. Dracula, of course, is more than willing to do so. Yet despite Dracula's belief in his ancestors' victories and his importance as heir to their deeds, by the chapter's end, Dracula looks less like a man than like a monster. Harker compares him to a lizard, describing how his "fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stone" as he crawls down the castle wall. The image of Dracula's cloak billowing behind him associates him with his famous form as a bat, another object of disgust. Dracula demonstrates male control over his vampire women, but it's an outdated, entitled masculinity that subjugates women into servants, and it disgusts Harker and, later in the novel, enrages the other young men.

Harker worries over his own manliness when he panics about being locked in the castle. Looking back, he's embarrassed by his reaction and records how quickly he regained control over his wild emotion. He focuses his thoughts on what he can control, trying first one plan and then another to escape. But Harker's plans are useless when he encounters the vampire women, whose hypnotic sexuality twists Victorian ideals of feminine beauty and purity. The vampire women appear young and beautiful, but their beauty is exaggerated. Their teeth are like "pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips," lips that prompt Harker's "wicked, burning desire." The scene in which the fair bride nearly kisses Harker is packed with sensuous detail: the bittersweet smell of her hot breath, the sight of her tongue wetting her lips, the rough sound of her tongue passing over her teeth, and the "soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin" of Harker's throat. Overcome by the fair bride's sensuality and power, all Harker can do is wait for the bliss of her kiss. He's saved not by thoughts of Mina, who may one day read his journal with pain, but by Dracula's sudden return. The overt sexuality of the vampire women and, worse, their greedy yearning to suck blood from Harker are perversions of feminine beauty and warnings against unchecked female desire, which here unmans Harker entirely.

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