Dracula Chapter 1 Summary

Dracula is told in an epistolary format; that is, in a series of letters, journal entries and diary jottings, a ship's log, and various newspaper clippings. The novel begins on May 3rd with Jonathan Harker's journal. Harker is a London lawyer traveling by train across Europe. When the novel begins, he is in Budapest, on his way to Count Dracula's estate, located somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. This chapter is important in setting the mood of the novel since there are rich descriptions of the vast landscapes he sees, moving from the west to east. He has been sent by his London law firm to tie up a real estate purchase in England made by Count Dracula.

Harker writes in his journal about the exotic meals he eats and the surrounding landscape and peoples- all very strange and new to him. When Harker's train finally reaches Bistritz, not far from the Borgo Pass, Harker checks into the Golden Krone Hotel as instructed by Count Dracula. Harker reads a letter of welcome from the Count, who also writes about some of the local legends, beliefs, and superstitions. Ironically, Harker's arrival at Bistritz is on the eve of St. George's Day, a night when "evil things in the world . . . have full sway." At first, Harker dismisses all of the superstitions as just that- silly superstitions. After he sees how fearful one woman was of Dracula's name and his own safety, he was unnerved. She pleaded with him not to go and, seeing she could not stop him, gave him a rosary for protection. He took it even though he thinks it nothing but idolatry.

The next morning, as he departs, many peasants gather saying various words that all mean vampire or Satan. They also do the sign of the cross and point two fingers toward him; another superstition of the culture that means safe travel. The carriage takes him up and through the Carpathian Mountains. The country peasants, as the coach goes by them, all kneel and cross themselves. Soon all the landscape passes into a misty coldness. The setting becomes starkly gothic in style. It is vast and gloomy. Harker hears wolves and creatures of the night, and often describes the journey as if he is caught in a dream-like state. He can't seem to tell what is real and what is not, and also feels as though he is passing over the same ground.

At the Borgo Pass the passengers get off and begin to scream when they see the horse drawn carriage that was sent by Dracula to pick up Harker. In the carriage Jonathan sees that it is midnight and he is fearful; he hears the wind howl, and he sees the great rocks "frowning." The driver is Dracula, although Jonathan does not realize it yet. Harker watches him soothe the horses by a whisper in the ear. He also has some sort of control over the wolves, being able to move them back with a sweep of his arm. The driver stops and gets out to go to a mysterious blue flame. Jonathan feels a "dreadful fear" and is unable to speak or move. He then arrives at the castle. Harker's fear is symbolic of his inability to comprehend the customs and superstitions of the foreign people.

Jonathan is logical and wary of the strange country and the ways of the east. He will question his common sense and logic during his stay with the Count.

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