Dracula Chapter 10 – Background

In this chapter, Dr. Seward, Van Helsing, and Arthur all attempt to manage the health of both Lucy and her mother, Mrs. Westerna. The men make the decision not to tell Lucy that her mother is on the verge of a heart attack, and not to tell Mrs. Westerna that Lucy is suffering from some mysterious ailment that appears to be life-threatening. They believe that both women are too weak to be able to handle the truth about one another.

There is a long history of mistreatment of women in medicine, dating back to the ancient Greeks. The word “hysteria” comes from the Greek word for “uterus,” and it is from the association that we get modern stereotypes about women being hyper-emotional and irrational. The Victorians would frequently commit women who did not conform the social expectations to asylums. Physicians would often consult with a woman’s husband about her medical condition, while information about her own body would be kept from her.

Also in this chapter, we see the use of blood transfusions to help Lucy recover from her mysterious blood loss. This was still an experimental procedure; blood types (O, A, B, AB, positive and negative) would not be discovered for a few years after Dracula was written, along with the wisdom that transfusions of different blood types was often fatal. So when Van Helsing proposes this procedure to save Lucy’s life, the characters would have viewed that as radical and desperate.



Finally, in this chapter Van Helsing uses garlic as a weapon against Dracula. Here are some theories on why that was thought to repel vampires; one of the most interesting connections (in my opinion) is that garlic is a natural antibiotic, and since many of the outbreaks of “vampirism” in Europe were actually just diseases like cholera and tuberculosis, the connection between garlic and warding off death might have been a true one.


Van Helsing places garlic flowers (from his friend in the Netherlands, which is famous for its flower greenhouses) all over Lucy’s room. Garlic flowers are surprisingly beautiful!



Click here for your reading guide –>Dracula Reading Guide – Chapter 10