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Chapter 4

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 4 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 4 : Jonathan Harker's Journal | Summary

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Summary

Later on May 16th, Harker wakes in the guest bed. His clothes are neatly folded nearby, and his watch is unwound—these are not his habits, so Dracula must have carried him to the bed. Yet he wants to believe he only dreamed about the fanged women. On May 18th Harker records he tries to visit the room where he saw the women again, in daylight, to confirm what happened. But the door to the room is now shut so tightly the jamb is splintered—proof he wasn't dreaming.

By May 19th Harker feels trapped when Dracula asks him with exaggerated politeness to write three letters, dated June 12th, 19th, and 29th, leading Mr. Hawkins to believe that Harker has finished his work and is back in Bistritz. To placate Dracula and buy time, Harker complies. But the specific dates convince Harker that Dracula will soon kill him.

Harker writes again next on May 28th. He hopes to escape or at least get word out with a group of Szgany (Romany gypsies). Harker gestures to them through the castle window and then writes letters to Mina, explaining his captive situation in shorthand but withholding terrible details, and to Mr. Hawkins, asking him to get in touch with Mina. He throws the letters to the Szgany with a gold piece and trusts the men to post them, but Dracula intercepts the letters. The shorthand symbols enrage him; he burns the letter to Mina but agrees to send the letter to Mr. Hawkins.

On May 31st Harker goes to get paper from his bag, in case he has the chance to write again, but finds that his supplies and travel documents are gone, as are his suitcase and traveling clothes.

Harker doesn't write again till June 17th, when he hears wagons approach the castle. Dracula has locked Harker in the guest room, so he calls to the drivers from the window. The drivers refuse even to look at him. They hurriedly unload many empty boxes and depart.

On June 24th Harker reports that Dracula is in his rooms while a group of Szgany does some kind of work; he can hear what sounds like digging. He sees Dracula emerge from his window, wearing Harker's traveling clothes and carrying the bag he earlier gave to the loathsome women. Apparently, Dracula intends to appear in town to as Harker, who rages against Dracula's treachery and his inability to defend himself. Later, while watching for Dracula's return, Harker is distracted by whirling specks of dust in the moonlight. At first he feels soothed; then he realizes that the specks are hypnotizing him as they slowly take the form of the three ghastly women. Rousing himself with effort, he flees, screaming, to the well-lit guest room. Later, he hears a brief, anguished cry from Dracula's room and then a woman's pitiful voice from the courtyard. "Monster, give me my child!" she begs. Dracula calls wolves to the courtyard; they devour the woman and leave.

On the morning of June 25th, sunlight lifts Harker's fear, and he resolves to act. Since he rarely sees Dracula during the day, the count must sleep then. Harker decides to climb through the window of Dracula's room. Harker exits through another window and, barefoot, eases along a stone ledge toward Dracula's window. He slips into the room, only to discover that it's nearly empty, though it holds a pile of gold coins. A heavy door leads to a circular staircase, which Harker descends until he reaches an abandoned chapel and grave vault. Dracula's workers, he sees, have dug up the dirt floor and piled it into 50 wooden boxes delivered earlier. Dracula lies in one of the dirt-filled boxes, eyes open but unseeing, alive somehow without breath or a pulse. Harker intends to search Dracula for the castle keys, but fear overwhelms him, and he flees.

On June 29th Harker thinks about the final letter Dracula forced him to write, reporting his return to Bistritz. He sees Dracula, again wearing Harker's traveling clothes, creep away to impersonate him in town. Harker reads till he falls asleep and wakes to Dracula's presence. Tomorrow, the count says, they must part. He's made arrangements for a carriage to take Harker to the pass in the morning, but Harker wants to depart immediately, even if he must leave his luggage behind and walk. Feigning courtesy, Dracula guides Harker into the hall, as if to allow him to go, but when he opens the great door, fierce wolves await. Harker admits defeat in the face of Dracula's allies, and Dracula gloats in his victory. Back in the guest room, Harker hears Dracula outside the door, whispering a promise about the next night. Harker flings the door open to see the three women lick their lips before they leave. Now he can do nothing but pray.

On the morning of June 30th, Harker writes what he fears may be his final entry. Dawn brings him courage: He rushes to the great door, but Dracula has locked the bolt. Desperate to get the key, Harker takes the ledge to Dracula's rooms again and descends to the vault, determined to search Dracula's clothes. This time, Dracula is gorged on blood and looks much younger. Repulsed, Harker searches for the key, hating his part in helping Dracula get to London, where he will find new victims. He grabs a shovel, intending to smash Dracula's head, but the count's strange gaze causes him to miss. He slashes Dracula's forehead and drops the shovel in terror. Harker hears workmen singing and tries to reach them, but the door mysteriously slams shut. Harker hears the men loading the crates and driving away; he is alone, locked in with the terrible women. He gathers some of the gold coins and decides to climb down the castle walls to escape—or fall to his death trying.

Analysis

Chapter 4 begins to intensify as Harker's fear grows as he and readers learn more about Dracula's powers and guess at his plans, and Harker's inference that June 30th is the day Dracula will hand him over to the vampire women heightens the chapter's horror. Harker attempts to escape and to enlist the Szgany workers to help him, but the terrible incident in which Dracula preys on a child and then sends wolves to devour its mother suggests what happens to workers who are less than loyal to the count. Harker doesn't pity the woman even this painful death because he knows "what had become of her child, and she was better dead." It's hard for modern readers, so familiar with the vampire in media, to think as Harker does, based only on his experiences in the castle, which haven't yet included incidents of vampires drinking blood. Harker has only inferred that they drink blood. What Harker knows is that somehow, viciously, Dracula fed on the child. The closest readers have yet come to vampire action is when, in Chapter 3, the fair vampire woman presses her sharp teeth against Harker's neck hard enough to leave slight, temporary dents.

For much of this chapter, fear and dread rob Harker of his ability to act—an essential trait for Victorian men. This puts him further in Dracula's power. He writes the letters Dracula demands to avoid Dracula's anger, and he rages helplessly when Dracula locks him in the guest rooms. Interestingly, Harker is angered not only by Dracula's intent to mislead Harker's friends and kill him but also by the knowledge that any crimes Dracula commits while dressed in Harker's clothes will be imputed to him. The young lawyer lacks even the protection of the law, and the threat to his reputation as a decent man is as infuriating as the threat to his life. Harker despairs in the "thrall of night and gloom and fear," but when day breaks, he finds the courage to act even if it costs his life. For Harker, who throughout much of the novel wavers between overthinking and acting, the decision is a turning point. Harker doesn't wrest all control from Dracula, but he at least fights for his life.

The contrast between day and night, wholesome action and evil plans, strengthens in this chapter and foreshadows the struggles other characters will face on English soil. Harker's strength ebbs at night; he cries in his room and writes of his coming death. At night, he faces the furious wolves at the door and cries fearfully and in "bitter disappointment." But the scent of morning, sunlight, a rooster's crowing—these spur him to action. Throughout the novel, plot events will be tied to Dracula's nocturnal life, and only as characters face their fears of the dark will they succeed.

Horrible Gothic details are on full display in this chapter, more so than at earlier points in the novel. Dracula's appearance in particular, when Harker sees him resting in the box of earth, is gory and repulsive. Fresh blood clots on his lips and oozes over his neck; his face is swollen. Harker compares him to a leech, implying gluttony, excess, and hateful waste. Readers note that Harker stops referring, late in this chapter, to Dracula as a man. He is a "creature," a "being," and Harker, by assisting with the real estate purchase, is helping this hellish thing take his evil to London. The vampire women, too, cease to be women to Harker. They have nothing in common with Mina, a real woman. The question of what a real man or woman is comes to a head at the end of the chapter, when Harker decides to escape the castle despite the steep cliff. "At its foot a man may sleep," he declares, "—as a man," not as a monster.

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