Stoker uses a circular structure for his novel, incorporating two settings. Transylvania is the setting for the beginning and end of the novel, and, since he had never been there, Stoker had to rely on research for his description of the country and its people. The rest of the novel takes place in England, a setting familiar to Stoker and his audience.
The novel begins with Jonathan Harker’s journey to Transylvania on May 3 of an unspecified year. Harker later states that seven years elapse between the events themselves and his compilation of them, so we may assume that the action of the novel takes place from May to November in 1890. Harker’s initial enjoyment of a country filled with wonderful new sights, people, and food contrasts sharply with his apprehension as he approaches the count’s castle and his terror when he finally realizes he is Dracula’s prisoner. This section, the first four chapters of the novel, has been highly praised for its accurate descriptions of the region and its use of those descriptions to create suspense and terror. In the novel’s final chapter, which begins on November 1, All Saints’ Day, the setting is again Count Dracula’s Transylvania.
Most of the novel’s events, however, take place in England, primarily in the northeastern coastal city of Whitby, itself a reminder of England’s island isolation and its vulnerability to attack. Whitby’s history also contributes to its effectiveness as a setting. It is the site of a 7th-century abbey, traces of which still remain, at which the Synod of Whitby, an important church meeting, was held in 664. The presence of abbey ruins is a typical element of the popular Gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. Moreover, Whitby’s role in the history of English Christianity relates the setting to the thematic conflict of good and evil.