Seward and Holmwood are concerned about Lucy’s suddenly failing health. When Van Helsing arrives to find Lucy terribly pale and unable to breathe easily, he transfuses Holmwood’s blood into Lucy. The doctors examine the punctures on Lucy’s neck. Though Seward is convinced that these wounds caused her severe loss of blood, he can offer no explanation for them. Van Helsing orders Seward to stay up with Lucy that night. The young doctor does so, and Lucy awakes feeling much restored.
The following night, however, the exhausted Seward falls asleep on his watch. The next morning, he and Van Helsing find Lucy pale and completely drained of strength, her gums shrunken and her lips white. Seward performs another transfusion, this time providing the blood himself. Attempting to sleep, Seward wakes to thoughts of the punctures on Lucy’s neck and the ragged appearance of their edges. That afternoon, a large package arrives for Van Helsing. It contains white garlic flowers, which Van Helsing orders Lucy to wear around her neck. Under the skeptical gaze of Seward, Van Helsing places garlic flowers all around the room and leaves Lucy, assuring Seward that she will now be able to sleep safely.
In the morning, Van Helsing and Dr. Seward return to the Westenra residence. They are greeted by Lucy’s mother, who tells them that during the night she removed all the “horrible, strong-smelling flowers” from Lucy’s room and opened the windows to let in fresh air. After Mrs. Westenra leaves the room, Van Helsing nearly crumbles. He and Seward rush to their patient to find her near death. Only another blood transfusion from Van Helsing resuscitates her. Van Helsing warns Mrs. Westenra never to remove anything from Lucy’s room again. For the next four days all is well, and Lucy reports that she feels much better.
A clipping from the Pall Mall Gazette reports that a large wolf escaped from the Zoological Gardens. The animal returns the next morning, covered in broken glass. Seward’s September
Van Helsing telegrams Seward that day, advising him to spend the night with Lucy, but there is a delay and the message does not arrive until the following morning. On September
Seward’s inability to diagnose or stem the progression of Lucy’s illness demonstrates the effectiveness of Dracula’s assault on Victorian social order and also exposes the limits of Western science and reason. Only legend and superstition—not reason and science—are effective in fighting Dracula. Even the many advancements of medical science prove useless. Maintaining an open mind and acknowledging the power of superstition, Van Helsing challenges the rigorous confines of Victorian thought. Although Van Helsing proves himself a competent modern surgeon by performing one blood transfusion after another, neither his methods nor his knowledge are restricted to the teachings of Western medicine. As he places garlic flowers around Lucy’s room, he steps outside the role of doctor and becomes more of a “philosopher and a metaphysician.” One of the main ironies of the novel is that the Londoners are made vulnerable to Dracula’s attacks precisely because they live in a world that encourages them to dismiss such supernatural predators as powerless in a civilized society such as Britain.
Though Lucy’s blood transfusions occur so frequently as to seem almost comical, they serve two important metaphorical functions. First, the transfusions confirm the moral purity of the men who submit to them for Lucy’s sake. If there were ever any doubt about the moral righteousness of Van Helsing and his compatriots, Stoker means to dispel it here. The blood itself is characterized as morally outstanding: preparing Holmwood for the first transfusion, Van Helsing points out that his patient “is so young and strong and of blood so pure that we need not defibrinate it.”
Second, the transfusions hint at a kind of sexual intimacy that societal constraints prevented Stoker from writing about openly in the
Van Helsing’s comments could well be the words a popular romance novelist rather than a medical professional. However, the link Van Helsing makes is crucial to establishing the scope of Dracula’s threat. As Dracula repeatedly drains Lucy of her transfused blood, he comes to possess not only Lucy’s body, but also the bodies of all the men who have offered her their blood. In this way, the count begins to make good on his threat to the three weird sisters in Chapter III—if his power goes unchecked, all of these men will indeed “belong to [him].”