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Dracula | Study Guide

Bram Stoker

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Chapter 8

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 8 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 8 : Mina Murray's Journal | Summary



Mina adds to her August 10th entry late that night. She and Lucy return tired from a long walk. Lucy seems to sleep well; her cheeks are ruddy with health. Mina could be happy if only she weren't worried about Jonathan.

Mina describes how, in the wee hours of August 11th, she sleeps briefly but wakes to find Lucy gone. She flings on a shawl and hurries toward their usual seat in the churchyard, where she sees Lucy in her white nightgown and a shadowy figure standing behind her. Mina struggles up the steps as the shadow bends over Lucy. When Mina cries out, the figure turns toward her, showing a pale face and glowing red eyes. The church blocks Mina's view as she runs; when she reaches the stone seat, Lucy is alone, still asleep, breathing in gasps and pulling her gown around her throat as she shivers. Mina wakes Lucy to guide her home. As she puts Lucy to bed, Mina promises not to tell anyone about this incident, especially Mrs. Westenra, who is ill—a fact she will not know until August 15th.

Mina wakes Lucy at noon and notes that she looks healthier than ever, though she has slight puncture wounds on her throat. Mina assumes she has accidentally pricked Lucy with a cloak pin. The two women spend a happy day vacationing, but Mina locks Lucy in her room that night, just in case.

On August 12th, Mina reports having to keep Lucy from leaving her room twice during the night, but by day Lucy is happy. On the night of August 13th, Mina wakes to find Lucy, asleep, sitting up and pointing to the window. Against bright moonlight, Mina sees a large bat swooping in arcs. It comes near the window but finally flits away, and Lucy sleeps soundly. The next afternoon, Mina and Lucy sit in their favorite churchyard spot. Mina reads and writes while Lucy rests; suddenly, Lucy exclaims, as she looks at the sunset, "His red eyes again! They are just the same." Lucy gazes toward the stone seat where Mina found her on the night of the 11th. Later, Mina goes out to walk and brood over Jonathan. She sees Lucy leaning out her window and waves at her, but Lucy doesn't respond. Beside her is what looks like a large bird. By the time Mina reaches the room, Lucy is in bed, her hand on her throat. Mina tucks her in and blames her paleness on some secret worry.

On August 15th Lucy wakes exhausted but glad to hear Arthur's father is better. The marriage can take place soon. Mrs. Westenra tells Mina she's glad Lucy will soon have another protector because she has a terminal diagnosis of heart disease.

Discouraging events keep Mina from writing again until August 17th. Mrs. Westenra's heart is failing; Lucy is mysteriously weakening; and there's no word about Jonathan. Mina always locks Lucy in her room now at night. The puncture marks have not healed and in fact seem larger.

The chapter includes letters between S.F. Billington, the lawyer who handled the Demeter's cargo, and a moving company. Billington's office sends instructions for delivering the boxes of dirt to Carfax's chapel, and the moving company responds with a note confirming delivery.

The chapter returns to Mina's journal on August 18th. Mina writes that Lucy seems better, though she's still pale. On the night she walked in her sleep, Lucy says, something like a dream drew her to the churchyard. As she walked, dogs howled, and her soul seemed to hover near her body. An earthquake seemed to shake her, and then Mina woke her. Lucy laughs strangely, and Mina, worried, changes the subject. That evening, Lucy seems ruddier.

Mina's August 19th entry begins with "Joy, joy, joy!" She has a letter from a Sister Agatha, sent via Mr. Hawkins. Jonathan has been ill, and Mina will travel to bring him home. Jonathan managed to reach Buda-Pesth (Budapest), where he has been in a hospital's care for six weeks. Sister Agatha warns Mina, as Jonathan's fiancée, that Jonathan spoke in his delirium of terrible things. She advises Mina to keep Jonathan calm to prevent relapse.

Dr. Seward's diary entry for August 19th follows the sister's letter. That evening, Renfield began sniffing the air like a hound on a scent. Renfield won't explain himself to the attendant or Seward; they don't matter now that "the Master is at hand." Renfield's murderous thoughts are dangerously mingled with some religious fervor, and he becomes deviously quiet. When Seward tries to draw him out, Renfield speaks cryptically of "vampire women" rejoicing at the coming of the bride, echoing the "Parable of the Ten Virgins" from Matthew 25.

Later that night, the watchman reports that Renfield has broken his window and escaped. Seward glimpses Renfield climbing over the wall that separates the asylum's grounds from those of abandoned Carfax. Seward climbs over the wall and creeps toward Renfield, who stands near the old chapel door, assuring the "Master" that his "slave" is ready to serve. Seward, the attendant, and watchman, and "three or four men" converge on Renfield, who struggles furiously as they drag him back to his room.


At this point in the novel, Lucy is the woman in danger, though other characters don't yet grasp it. Because Holmwood, Morris, and Seward all love her and because Mina is devoted to her, Lucy appears to be the central female character in the novel. However, readers should pay attention to Mina not only because her importance increases over the novel's plot but also because Mina is Stoker's variation on the "New Woman," a late Victorian stereotype, shaped to fit Stoker's beliefs about womanhood. Mina is independent and resourceful, but still faithful and discreet. She is capable and proactive, taking steps to keep Lucy safe in her room, consulting with Mrs. Westenra, and deciding when to consult a doctor about Lucy's wounds. Mina plans to travel to Buda-Pesth unaccompanied to reunite with Jonathan. In the next chapter, readers see that she's made the journey in just five days, a fact she tosses off. All these details are evidence that Mina is not an average female Victorian character.

Contrasting Mina and Lucy reveals another model of womanhood, however. Lucy is depicted, in this chapter and elsewhere, as innocent and vulnerable. Much of Lucy's clothing is white, a sign of her purity, which for Victorian women depended in large part on virginity and sexual innocence. Even the implication of improper behavior, such as when Lucy wanders alone at night, could spoil her pure beauty—hence Mina's concerns. (She is not concerned, at this point, about vampires, of course, though readers know she should be.) Lucy is obedient and compliant like a child; Mina shields her from more adult concerns. But hints of the destruction of Lucy's innocence are already creeping into the plot: the crimson blood on her throat and snowy nightgown, her desire to keep her mother from knowing of her nighttime wanderings, and her strangely sensual description of the night in the churchyard.

Chapter 8 also develops Renfield's story, which is drenched, at this point, with biblical imagery and allusions, twisted to suit Renfield's uncanny awareness of Dracula's arrival in England. Seward worries that Renfield has developed delusions of grandiosity and will soon think himself a god, or God. Ignorant of Dracula's existence, Seward misunderstands Renfield's cryptic statement about the vampire women and the bride, oblique and inaccurate allusions to Christ and possibly his Second Coming. These allusions in fact apply to Dracula, who seems to have come to assert dominion over England and establish a new order, with him as its insatiable head. Once Seward grasps Renfield's desire to serve a greater being in hopes of rewards, he mocks his patient as a "selfish old beggar" who "thinks of the loaves and fishes even when he believes he is in a Real Presence." Yet ominously, Renfield calls out to his master that he has "worshipped him long and afar off." Readers know what he means—another moment of dramatic irony since Seward is clueless.

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