Dracula is a Transylvanian military leader (voivode, or commander) and nobleman who somehow survives physical death but requires human blood to sustain his supernatural youth and strength. In his mortal life, Dracula had authority and wealth; proud of his ancestry, he seeks to reassert his dominion as a vampire. Sometimes described as a child who's learning and at other times as a new species, Dracula is vain and superior, yet also intelligent and patient.
Abraham Van Helsing is a 72-year-old Dutchman whose vast expertise and open mind compete against Dracula's superhuman age and strength in a classic good versus evil showdown. Van Helsing galvanizes the group of young men to protect Lucy, Mina, and, by extension, all young women of London against Dracula. He inspires trust in the young men and brings all his knowledge to bear on their plight. Van Helsing is not perfect; his unwillingness to share information freely causes problems, and his mistakes imperil Mina especially. Still, he is Dracula's nemesis and the novel's hero.
Dr. John (Jack) Seward is Van Helsing's former student, a doctor who specializes in working with the insane. Seward runs an asylum, is devoted to the scientific method, and rejects at first Van Helsing's explanations for Lucy's and Mina's apparent illness. As one of Lucy's rejected suitors, Seward has only his work to engage him; his relationship with one patient in particular—Renfield—reveals both the uses and the limits of scientific knowledge. Seward originally appeared in Stoker's notes as the "mad doctor," and his backwardness in how he runs his practice is evident in the published narrative, such as when he suggests he supports the practice of vivisection (operations on live animals for scientific research).
Lucy Westenra, whose first name means "light" and whose last name means "light of the west," is important both as a character and as a symbol. A young, beautiful, virginal woman, Lucy is loved by three men, including Holmwood, to whom she is later engaged, and dear to her friend Mina as well. Often depicted in white, she is sweet and childlike, the perfect prey for Dracula, whose blood perverts her soul till Van Helsing purifies her body through violence.
Mina Murray, later Mina Harker, is a bright, driven young woman with ambitions—for her husband. She's a quick study, learning and later mastering shorthand, typing, and research and interview skills like one of the "lady journalists" to be "useful" to Jonathan when they are married. Mina is courageous and sweet, inspiring utter devotion in the men who protect her from Dracula's intent to make her a vampire.
Jonathan Harker is an earnest young solicitor (lawyer), who learns he has just passed his examination as the novel begins, eager to return from a work trip and marry his beloved Mina. But his weeks in Castle Dracula and his torment over Mina's vulnerability transform Harker into a white-haired, drawn, frantic man. His devotion to Mina is extreme: He would rather become a vampire with her than allow her to live under that curse alone. Only with Dracula's death can Harker be freed from constant anxiety and return to the methodical paperwork of his quiet law office.