Van Helsing has made it “my life’s work” to study vampires, and knows a vast amount of information about them, enough that he can debunk Arthur’s fearful suspicion that Dracula can turn into a vampire. He takes meticulous notes and re-listens to them, while he goes over Jonathan’s diary, in the hopes of adding to his current inner library of knowledge, which is directed around his one particular interest. He’s highly observant, and notices not only the hearse leaving Dracula’s castle (which he later concludes must have held his nemesis), but also a fragment of Lucy’s photograph left over in Jonathan’s room. Once back in London, once he knows Lucy is in danger, he visits her, assesses her, compares her physical symptoms to what he knows, and then advises a solid course of action to save her life, but it fails due to the maid’s kindly meant intervention. Rather than kill Lucy at once after he discovers she has turned, Van Helsing spends several nights following her around and observing her, hoping she will lead him to Dracula. Though a compassionate and gentle man, Van Helsing is also reliant on the facts and unafraid to articulate them; he leaves Arthur and Mina the diary Jonathan had with him, so they can read the truth of his downfall for themselves and come to believe in vampires. Despite his affection for his friend, he drives a stake through his heart when he discovers him as a vampire in Dracula’s castle. He does the same to Lucy, once Arthur convinces him it’s more moral to do so (if they let her live, even to lead them to her master, she might kill more people and endanger more children). Van Helsing accumulates facts about vampires, and corrects Arthur’s wonderings about Dracula’s ability to turn into a bat as a “logical fallacy.” He fills Jonathan’s diary full of notes, citing points of interest and useful facts that he can use to contribute to his research. He’s curious to know what time things happened, and has rather a fatalistic view of vampirism, built up of the fact that no one has ever survived it. Van Helsing does not theorize much, other than to assume Dracula traveled out of the country in a coffin, nor does he figure out how Dracula gets into the house until the maid references her mistress’ demand that she under no account enter the cellar.  

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Van Helsing is sympathetic, polite, and often considerate of other people’s feelings; he says he did not want to send a letter telling them what happened to Jonathan, since it would “come as less of a shock” if he did it in person. He can be charming and likable, tender with women and reassuring, but likes to remain calm and have those around him calm—he actually slaps a hysterical woman to get her to focus and tell him what happened, but the rest of the time handles difficult tasks without batting an eyelash. He kills the “monster” that has possessed his best friend (a vampire’s spirit) and looks at it as having done him a service, in ensuring he now “rests in peace.” He does, and intends to do, the same for Lucy. Though he defeats Dracula at the end, he appears to feel sympathetic toward him as he watches his painful disintegration into ash. Even when he asks the maid when she disobeyed him (causing Lucy’s death), he’s quite detached and mild-mannered about it. But he is also principled, wants to do the right thing, and tries to behave appropriately.