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Chapter 5

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 5 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 5 : Letter from Miss Mina Murray to Miss Lucy Westenra | Summary

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Summary

Mina's May 9th letter to Lucy opens with an apology: A busy assistant schoolmistress, she's also been learning shorthand and typing so she can be "useful to Jonathan," so she's been slow to write. But she looks forward to a seaside visit with Lucy. She mentions a letter from Jonathan, who will be home in about a week.

Lucy replies in a letter on May 17th, though she has nothing much to tell about her happy social life in London. She dismisses rumors about suitors and tells Mina about Dr. Seward, a determined man with an uncanny ability to guess people's thoughts by gazing at their faces. Lucy then admits she's in love with Arthur Holmwood, a secret she shares only with Mina, her childhood friend.

Lucy writes again to Mina on May 24th. Three men have proposed to her. Dr. Seward, nervous but frank, proposes to Lucy first and graciously accepts Lucy's refusal. Her second suitor is an adventurous Texan, Quincey P. Morris. His earnestness causes Lucy to cry as he begs a kiss to soften her rejection before leaving. Lucy accepts Arthur Holmwood's proposal with joy and gratitude; she can hardly write about it, despite having described the other two proposals in great detail.

A May 25th entry from John Seward's diary, which he records on phonograph cylinders, is also part of this chapter. Seward feels depressed after Lucy's rejection, so he throws himself into his work at a lunatic asylum, reporting on a fascinating patient, R.M. Renfield, a physically strong but psychologically fragile 59-year-old suffering from hallucinations.

A May 25th letter from Quincey Morris to Arthur Holmwood follows. Quincey and Arthur are longtime friends and adventurers. Morris invites Holmwood and Jack (John Seward) to dinner to toast Holmwood's engagement and to commiserate over his and Seward's rejection. Holmwood responds in a telegram, saying he'll be there.

Analysis

The tone of the first four chapters of the novel gives way, suddenly, in Chapter 5 to contrasting domestic matters of friendship, marriage, and work. The letters, telegrams, and work diary pull readers away from Castle Dracula's gloomy threats and introduce other characters in their usual routines. Mina is an assistant schoolmistress looking forward to a vacation with friend Lucy, a pretty and wealthy young woman. Seward pursues his medical career, and the young people consider their futures. The relative calm of this chapter gives readers breathing space to get to know these new characters.

For example, Mina's and Lucy's individual traits are reflected in their writing styles and concerns, revealing not only their character but also Victorian views of womanhood. Lucy comes from a wealthy family. For her, becoming a wife, assuming she marries in her class, means managfiing the household's staff, having children, and supporting her husband's social status and obligations. For Mina, in contrast, work is a necessity, but few kinds of work were considered appropriate for women. (Teaching children is one.) Mina expects to be not just a companion and adornment on her husband's arm but a helpmeet, a woman who assists her husband. She's keeping up with what Jonathan studies and learning shorthand, typing, and journaling to be "useful to Jonathan." This distinction is important. Mina isn't learning these skills for herself but for her husband.

The tone of Mina's writing matches her earnest goals. It's straightforward and mature, concerned with schedules and obligations. Only in her postscript does she indulge in girlish gossip. Lucy, by contrast, uses a more frivolous, almost silly tone at times. She asks Mina not to mention the three proposals so that other girls won't feel "injured and slighted" because Lucy's more popular than they are, for example. Yet Lucy, too, understands what's expected of good women and worries about being thought of as a flirt. "Why are men so noble," she frets, "when we women are so little worthy of them?"

Seward and Morris, the other pair of characters readers meet in Chapter 5, similarly present models of masculinity. Seward models the importance of work, for example, not only for its own sake but as a refuge from troubling emotions. When Lucy rejects him, he turns gratefully to "the only cure for this sort of thing"—his work at the asylum. When Lucy rejects Morris, he doesn't let jealousy interfere with his male friendships, nor does it stop him from celebrating Holmwood's success with her.

Seward, Holmwood, and Morris—three men from different classes and even continents—have a history of travel, hunting, and military adventures. Not even Seward's broken heart and Morris's disappointment can disrupt their friendship.

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