Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel, and invasion literature. The novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film, and television interpretations.
The story is told in epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and ships' log entries, whose narrators are the novel's protagonists, and occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings relating events not directly witnessed. The events portrayed in the novel take place chronologically and largely in England and Transylvania during the 1890s and all transpire within the same year between 3 May and 6 November. A short note is located at the end of the final chapter written 7 years after the events outlined in the novel.
The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, visiting Count Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer, Mr Peter Hawkins of Exeter. At first enticed by Dracula's gracious manners, Harker soon realizes that he is Dracula's prisoner. Wandering the Count's castle against Dracula's admonition, Harker encounters three female vampires, called "the sisters", from whom he is rescued by Dracula. Harker soon realizes that Dracula himself is also a vampire. After the preparations are made, Dracula leaves Transylvania and abandons Harker to the sisters. Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life.
Dracula boards a Russian ship, the Demeter, taking along with him boxes of Transylvanian soil, which he required in order to regain his strength. Not long afterward, the ship having weighed anchor at Varna, runs aground on the shores of Whitby in the east coast of England. The captain's log narrates the gradual disappearance of the entire crew, until the captain alone remained, himself bound to the helm to maintain course. An animal resembling "a large dog" is seen leaping ashore. The ship's cargo is described as silver sand and 50 boxes of "mould", or earth, from Transylvania. It is later learned that Dracula successfully purchased multiple estates under the alias 'Count De Ville' throughout London and devised to distribute the 50 boxes to each of them utilizing transportation services as well as moving them himself. He does this to secure for himself "lairs" and the 50 boxes of earth would be used as his graves which would grant safety and rest during times of feeding and replenishing his strength.
Harker's fiancée, Mina Murray, is staying with her friend Lucy Westenra, who is holidaying in Whitby. Lucy receives three marriage proposals from Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood (the son of Lord Godalming who later obtains the title himself). Lucy accepts Holmwood's proposal while turning down Seward and Morris, but all remain friends. Dracula communicates with Seward's patient, Renfield, an insane man who wishes to consume insects, spiders, birds, and rats to absorb their "life force". Renfield is able to detect Dracula's presence and supplies clues accordingly.
Soon Dracula is indirectly shown to be stalking Lucy. As time passes she begins to suffer from episodes of sleepwalking and dementia, as witnessed by Mina. When Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously, Seward invites his old teacher, Abraham Van Helsing, who immediately determines the true cause of Lucy's condition. He refuses to disclose it but diagnoses her with acute blood-loss. Van Helsing prescribes numerous blood transfusions to which he, Seward, Quincey, and Arthur all contribute over time. Van Helsing also prescribes garlic flowers to be placed throughout her room and weaves a necklace of withered garlic blossoms for her to wear. However she continues to waste away – appearing to lose blood every night. While both doctors are absent, Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf and Mrs. Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright. Van Helsing attempts to protect her with garlic but fate thwarts him each night, whether Lucy's mother removes the garlic from her room, or Lucy herself does so in her restless sleep. The doctors have found two small puncture marks about her neck, which Dr. Seward is at a loss to understand. After Lucy dies, Van Helsing places a golden crucifix over her mouth, ostensibly to delay or prevent Lucy's vampiric conversion. Fate conspires against him again when Van Helsing finds the crucifix in the possession of one of the servants who stole it off Lucy's corpse.