Chapters I - III

Chapter I - Story of the Door

 

  • Mr Utterson is described as ‘a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile [...] lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable’.  The metaphor that his face was never ‘lighted by a smile’ not only ominously opens J+H with ideas of darkness, but also introduces us to man apparently stern, a sentiment which is somewhat mediated by the collection of adjectives ‘lean, long, dusty, dreary’.  Here, the use of alliteration creates a sense of repetitiveness, adding to the sense of Utterson as shabby, somewhat dull and certainly unremarkable. Yet he is ‘somehow lovable’, the word ‘somehow’ suggesting that even the writer is baffled by his exact redeeming qualities, which lie perhaps in him being ‘the last good influence on the lives of downgoing men’.  (This phrase also foreshadows the idea of a man on the path to his doom, as we will see in the story). Thus, Utterson is introduced as a likeable man, perhaps a little dull in his ‘austere’ manners, but someone approachable and oddly envious at ‘the high pressure of spirits’ involved in ‘misdeeds’. It seems that perhaps, in someone as bland as Utterson, lurks a strange wonder at the capacity of people for extreme actions.  

  • As such, Utterson becomes the perfect man to investigate the Strange Case of the novel - an amiable gentleman intensely curious in the darkness and secrets of others, with a propensity to befriend those who sin.  

  • ‘His affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied no aptness in the object.’  This simile ostensibly tells us that Utterson’s choice of friends is not guided by their own worth, but by their proximity to him and the amount of time they spend around him.  Yet the use of ‘ivy’, a strangling plant, is a slightly morbid detail, again suggesting the dark and gothic traditions which the novel places itself in.

  • Utterson and his friend, Mr Enfield, seem like unlikely companions, but they treasure their walks together - though they walk in silence.  

  • The juxtaposition between the Sunday shops with ‘florid charms’ and a street ‘with its freshly painted shutters, well-polished brasses’ and ‘gaiety of note’ with the ‘sinister block of building’ and a ‘blistered and distained’ door may be seen to symbolise the way in which darkness and moral decay exist behind and within facades of morality.

  • The reader then discovers that Enfield connects the door with an ‘odd story’, when a girl was attacked by a ‘Juggernaut’ of a man - ‘so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running’.  The man, in recompense, gave them a cheque, which Enfield was scandalised to see belonged to a person who was ‘the very pink of the proprieties’, who Enfield supposes must have been blackmailed to do so.  We eventually find out towards the end of the chapter that the man’s name was ‘Hyde’ - a homophone of course for ‘hide’, suggesting his hidden nature.

  • ‘He gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point’.  This is the first of many references to the fact that the nature of Hyde’s horror cannot quite be spoken.  When we come to the evil inherent in humanity, the language of civilisation breaks down and fails. 

  • At the end of the chapter, the two men resolve to ‘never refer to this again’.  On the one hand, this emphasizes Utterson’s opposition to gossip, marking him again as a plain yet intensely respectable man.  On the other, as a structural device it functions to leave the reader wanting more of the story. When Utterson swears ‘with all my heart’ never to refer to Hyde again, the reader may see this as an example of dramatic irony, as we know the story will be all about him.

  • To continue our analysis of Utterson in the novel, the man appears to be a juxtaposition of two Victorian cultural mindsets - rationalism, with its acceptance of logical explanations, propriety and common sense, and superstition, with a dark curiosity about the secrets of the world.  Ultimately, Utterson, while compelled by the supernatural, rejects it in favour of logic, though the reader may view Hyde in a more supernatural way. Moreover, Utterson’s deliberate choice to maintain his rational thinking may be seen to lead him (and Enfield) to an inability to truly understand the import of what happens around him.  When Enfield expresses his inability to fully describe Hyde (‘although I couldn’t specify the point’), he reveals his inability to see that Hyde’s physical appearance directly reflects his spiritual decay, the bodily and the supernatural combining in Hyde’s person. To the two men, however, Hyde is simply not quite right, but they lack the willing insight to see that this is a moral problem, rather than simply a physical one.  They cannot articulate the reason why a dark, tarnished building may appear to mar the gilded shop-fronts of society. This may be seen as a failure of rationalism and rational thinking - blindness to human irrationality.

 

Chapter II - Search For My Hyde

 

  • ‘It was his custom on a Sunday [....] a volume of some dry divinity on his reading desk [...] when he would go soberly and gratefully to bed’.  By describing Utterson’s habits yet again in this semantic field of dull refinement, the author piles up our impression of the man as utterly immersed in the strictures of etiquette and societal morality.  Alliteration used in ‘dry divinity’ creates a slightly sing-song, mocking tone, emphasizing the ‘dry’ and dull nature of Utterson’s theological texts. ‘Soberly’ suggests his serious demeanor, while ‘gratefully’ suggests perhaps his godliness.  He even lives next to a Church, reinforcing his proximity to society’s physical embodiments of morality.  

  • We find Utterson pouring over Dr Jekyll’s will, which he is keeping, and which specifies that not only in the case of his death are ‘all his possessions’ to be left to ‘his friend and benefactor Edward Hyde’, but that in the case of Jekyll’s ‘disappearance or unexplained absence’, Hyde should settle his debts.  The first of these quotations alerts us to the fact that Jeckyll clearly was not simply blackmailed by Hyde, but was actively his friend. Moreover, the second quotation rouses a reader’s interest - why would Jeckyll assume that he may suddenly disappear?

  • The will, we see, was an ‘eyesore’ to the lawyer (the noun suggesting not only that it annoyed him, but was in some way physically painful to look at).  Perhaps this is because it offended his love ‘of the sane and customary sides of life, to whom the fanciful was the immodest’. Not only then is Utterson suspicious of the letter, but its strangeness repels the rationalist in him.  

  • Utterson goes to visit Doctor Lanyon, a more vivacious man - ‘hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced’, the adjectives which list Lanyon’s appearance are all those of conviviality and slight over-indulgence.  Contrasting the sober figure of Utterson, Lanyon is ‘somewhat theatrical’, but equally kind and genuine. We may also contrast this image of Lanyon from that of later in the novel.

  • Lanyon, we find, was also a friend of Jekyll’s, yet over ten years ago, Jekyll became ‘too fanciful’ and ‘unscientific’ for his liking.  While ostensibly it is Hyde’s imaginative approach to science that Lanyon dislikes (again the rationalism vs fancy debate) there are undertones that his imagination somehow polluted his work.

  • During the night, Utterson dreams of ‘a nocturnal city’, the dark and uncanny vision of Victorian London, where a man runs down a child (a common Victorian symbol of innocence) and then flees.  He also dreams of Jekyll visited in the middle of the night by a man whose commands he cannot ignore - perhaps symbolic of the way in which humanity cannot ignore its baser instincts.  

  • Note the way in which sentences in this passage are extremely long and complex, mirroring the ‘wider labyrinths of lamplighted city’.  London and the passage itself becomes a labyrinth of the human soul, in which darkness one may easily become lost and confused. It may also symbolise Utterson’s inability to understand the supernatural darkness which has engulfed his friend.  

  • The image of the figure with no face - ‘even in his dreams, it had no face, or one that baffled him and melted before his eyes’ symbolises perhaps Utterson’s refusal to recognise the darkness present within all people, or the way in which the alter-ego is essentially uncanny - similar to a person, but never fully recognisable.  Even when it recalls Jekyll, he does not see that they are one and the same. The faceless nature of Hyde may also suggest his ubiquity - pervading all men and the whole city. 

  • The ‘uncanny’ incidentally, comes from the German word ‘unheimlich’, meaning ‘unhomely’.  It refers to things which feel not quite right - not quite like home. In light of this, perhaps consider the nature of homes and buildings in this text.  

  • Simultaneously, it is only in dreams (the uncaged subconscious) that Utterson can in any way understand Hyde’s nature - in life he refuses to acknowledge at first any supernatural link between Jekyll and Hyde, yet in dreams the connection and the supernatural nature of events is at least hinted at.

  • ‘A man who was without bowels of mercy’ - this quote uses an emphatic metaphor to show how Hyde is utterly bereft of kindness, pity or love. 

  • Thus, Utterson comes to be the detective figure typical of Victorian novels - though an unlikely one.  Punning on Mr Hyde, he names himself ‘Mr Seek’.

  • Utterson and Hyde meet, and as they are talking of Jekyll, Hyde ‘snarled aloud into a savage laugh’, the verb ‘snarled’ and the adjective ‘savage’ creating an animalistic sense of Hyde’s angered laughter.  

  • ‘Mr Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation’.  Like his morality, Hyde is stunted and ‘dwarfish’, his outer appearance resembling his inner decay. This trope is common to Victorian literature (see Dorian Gray), the idea that morality may be seen visually in a person’s appearance.  Hyde’s appearance bears some resemblance to the un-evolved ape that Darwin had written about in the decades prior to this text, and juxtaposes the image of Jekyll as the ideal Victorian man - tall, refined and healthy. It also captures the Victorian fear of recidivism - that after its great progress, humanity would regress to a primitive state, partially influenced by contact with so-called ‘savage’ civilisations. 

  • ‘God bless me’, Utterson exclaims, recoursing again to the Church, ‘the man seems hardly human!’  Alliteration here draws attention to Hyde’s inhumanity and animalistic nature - though ironically, he is an essential part of one human - Jekyll.  Utterson wonders if it is ‘the mere radiance of a foul soul’ which makes Hyde appear so awful, and believes that he sees ‘Satan’s signature’ upon Hyde’s face.  The latter quote of course connects Hyde to the devil, as though his is branded with his mark. The former quote suggests the awful and ‘foul’ nature of Hyde’s soul, which shines through his body, unable to be concealed by the trappings of human flesh.  It is interesting that Utterson interprets this in a religious way - as Hyde was previously part of Jekyll we may then say that all humans are inextricably sinful. 

  • Jekyll’s house, unlike Hyde’s seedy residence ‘wore a great air of wealth and comfort’, the personification emphasizing its luxury and cosy grandeur, as well as juxtaposing the dynamic twist that it is ‘now plunged in darkness’.  The ‘bright, open fire’ of the room symbolises warmth, light and hope, contrasting the darkness of the outside world. Utterson, we see, is also now beginning to understand the presence of evil even within goodness and superficial light, as ‘he seemed to read a menace in the flickering of the firelight’, alliteration of fs dramatising the fire moving, casting shadows around the room.  

  • The chapter ends with Utterson convincing himself that Hyde is some spectre of Jekyll’s past, and thinking on the strange clauses of Jekyll’s will. 

 

Chapter III - Dr Jekyll Was Quite At Ease

 

  • Dr Jekyll, who we begin the chapter with, has ‘every mark of capacity and kindness’, the phrase deliberately designed to contrast ‘Satan’s signature’ which characterises Hyde. He also has ‘a sincere and warm affection’ for Utterson, again goodness begin symbolised by light and warmth. 

  • Utterson and Jekyll speak of the latter’s will - Jekyll begs Utterson to drop the subject, and promises that he will be rid of Hyde as soon as he can be. 

  • This chapter is designed to create a contrast between the figures of Jekyll and Hyde, and give the reader a positive impression of the former - though we do not yet know his role in the novel’s events. 

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