Places: Dracula

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1897

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Horror

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Castle Dracula

*Castle DraculaDracula. Ancestral home of Count Dracula in Transylvania that is visited by the English estate agent Jonathan Harker at the beginning of the novel. The gate of admittance to the unearthly horrors that are to come, Castle Dracula is the catalyst for the forces of evil in the novel and the place where the young solicitor sent to transact business with the count encounters things worse than any death. An avatar for the loneliness of terror, the castle, “from whose tall black windows came no ray of light,” also becomes the setting for one of the most seductive scenes in the novel–Harker’s encounter with the three vampire “sisters.”

Almost everything that happens at Castle Dracula is chilling or unnaturally suspenseful. What seem to be ordinary circumstances gradually begin slipping into the realm of nightmare, and by the time Dracula leaves his home for England, the castle has already worked its spell, setting the stage for the unholy dread that is then unleashed.

Modeled on Prince Vlad Dracula’s real castle (located in Romania), Castle Dracula is eerily like its historical counterpart although the partially restored ruins are actually quite far from Stoker’s conceptualized fortress. It is to Stoker’s credit that Castle Dracula’s haunting spectral form retains its extraordinarily powerful aura both at the novel’s beginning and again at the end.

*Whitby

*Whitby. Picturesque Yorkshire fishing port off the coast of northern England and the setting of Count Dracula’s dramatic arrival in Great Britain. It is here, in fact, that the Russian schooner Demeter runs ashore–its captain dead at the mast–with a horrid account in its log of the crew’s disappearance at the hands of a fiend, and it is here that a few nights later, Mina Murray (Harker’s fiancé) rescues her sleepwalking friend, Lucy Westenra (Dracula’s first victim), in the local churchyard. With its naïve charm symbolically mirroring the girlish innocence of the two young women, Whitby represents the perfect location for the unsuspecting intrusion of evil.

Hillingham

Hillingham. Westenra family mansion in London. This house does not appear to have been modeled on a real location but may be a composite based on Stoker’s own residence at Cheyne Walk. This is the scene of Lucy’s continued agony at the hands of Dracula after she returns home from Whitby, and it is where the reader is first introduced to Professor Van Helsing, the doctor-philosopher-scientist-metaphysician who later becomes the acknowledged leader and mentor of the group in its relentless pursuit of Dracula. Hillingham not only witnesses the pathetic death of Lucy–despite the countless transfusions she is given–but that of her mother as well, who suffers a massive heart attack when the escaped wolf Bersicker comes crashing through their window in a spectacular mise en scène.

Seward’s Insane Asylum

Seward’s Insane Asylum. Private London hospital for the mentally ill and the residence of Dr. John Seward, this institution appears to have been modeled on the London County Lunatic Asylum near Chatham Road. It is a location fraught with dramatic events, which begin when Seward struggles to understand the mysterious but astute lunatic Renfield, a patient seeking to attain a unique kind of immortality by devouring progressively higher forms of life. When Dracula moves next door to Carfax (formerly Lesnes Abbey/Lady Chapel), the estate Harker has procured for him, the asylum becomes an even greater pivotal center of activity; Renfield gradually begins to do the count’s bidding and allows him to attack Mina after she and her new husband Jonathan join their friends’ concerted efforts to destroy Dracula. The asylum also is witness to moments of great personal dilemma as Renfield alternately embraces the vampire’s temptations and then attempts to liberate himself from Dracula’s omnipresent self. His final abjuration of the count comes at a great personal cost, his own violent death, and leads to one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel–the “blood baptism” of Mina and the searing of her now-polluted flesh with the holy wafer.

*Hampstead Heath

*Hampstead Heath. Large, wildly beautiful, and hilly area in north London that is the scene of Lucy’s attacks on local children, who call her the “Bloofer Lady,” after her untimely death.

*Kingstead Churchyard

*Kingstead Churchyard. London churchyard clearly modeled on the famed Highgate Cemetery, whose name Stoker diplomatically changed to avoid legal repercussions. The final resting place of Lucy, it is also the site where Van Helsing proves to Seward that she has become a vampire and where they proceed with her destruction, joined by her fiancé Arthur Holmwood and the Texan Quincey Morris. In an emotionally powerful scene, the grieving but determined friends drive a stake through the heart of the woman they have all loved, bringing her “the calm that was to reign for ever.”

<i>Czarina Catherine</i>

Czarina Catherine. Ship on which Dracula flees England, bound for the port of Varna. After the ship reaches Varna, Dracula forces it up the Danube River and then proceeds to take an overland route back to his castle. An unusual aspect of this location is that Mina, now under Dracula’s telepathic control, is able to report on the ship’s whereabouts through Van Helsing’s hypnotically induced trances, thereby providing the vampire hunters with daily bulletins regarding Dracula’s intended escape route.

*Borgo Pass

*Borgo Pass. Mountain gap in Transylvania near Castle Dracula in which the final dramatic scenes of the novel take place in a series of symbolic tableaux devised to convey the message that good ultimately triumphs over evil. It is here that the men finally track Dracula after purchasing a steamship, horses, and provisions, and it is here that Van Helsing and Mina anxiously wait for them while protecting themselves from Dracula’s “sisters” by means of a sanctified holy circle. From this secure place, Van Helsing later makes his way to the castle and destroys all three, along with Dracula’s lordly tomb, returning to Mina just in time for them to witness the novel’s most intense chase, as the gypsy wagon carrying the count’s sleeping body races against the desperate horsemen attempting to overtake them. The last deft strokes of the narrative conclude with the mortally wounded Morris plunging his bowie knife into Dracula’s heart as Harker cuts his throat. Comparing the surrounding snow to the now stainless forehead of Mina, Morris dies acknowledging that the curse has passed.

When the friends return to this site seven years later, they revisit their terrible memories of Castle Dracula, which “stood as before, reared high above a waste of desolation,” but are nonetheless deeply comforted by the newfound joys that have come into their lives, especially the birth of the Harkers’ little boy, Quincey, the promise of new life.

BibliographyCarter, Margaret L., ed. Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1988. Part of the Studies in Speculative Fiction series, this work examines some of the major critical interpretations of Dracula.Leatherdale, Clive. Dracula, the Novel and the Legend: A Study of Bram Stoker’s Gothic Masterpiece. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1985. An excellent critical study, which offers interpretation of perspectives in Dracula including sexual symbolism, religious themes, occult and literary myth, and political and social allegory.Roth, Phyllis A. Bram Stoker. Boston: Twayne, 1982. One of the volumes in Twayne’s English Authors Series, this book deals with both Stoker’s life and his works. Contains an extensive chapter on Dracula.Senf, Carol A., ed. The Critical Response to Bram Stoker. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. An anthology of some of the more interesting critiques of Dracula from a scholarly point of view.Stoker, Bram. The Essential “Dracula.” Edited by Leonard Woolf and revised in collaboration with Roxana Stuart. Rev. ed. New York: Plume, 1993. Includes the original complete text of Dracula with notes, an introductory essay, a selected filmography of major vampire films, commentary by leading horror writers, and new illustrations by Christopher Bing. Also features an extensive bibliography.
Categories: Places