Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 2

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 2 of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Chapter 2 : Search for Mr. Hyde | Summary

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Summary

Once he is home Mr. Utterson reviews Jekyll's will. It leaves everything to Edward Hyde and says that if Jekyll disappears for three months or more, Hyde gets all Jekyll's possessions. Utterson worries the will might indicate madness or a personal disgrace on Jekyll's part. He visits Dr. Lanyon, a friend to both Utterson and Jekyll. He finds that Lanyon and Jekyll have fallen out of contact because of a clash over one of Jekyll's theories that Lanyon finds "unscientific balderdash." Utterson is relieved: he can dismiss it as a scientific disagreement rather than a more serious ethical or medical concern. After the two men part, Utterson dreams of Hyde trampling the child and wishes he could see Hyde's face. He commits himself to finding Mr. Hyde so he can see him for himself.

Whenever he finds time, Utterson plants himself near the door where Hyde went to retrieve money to pay the blackmail. When he finally sees Hyde approaching the door, Utterson taps him on the shoulder. Hyde is momentarily frightened but talks to him. During this conversation, Utterson learns some facts about Hyde, like his address in Soho. This conversation also signals to readers that Hyde is closer to Jekyll than his old friend Utterson is. He knows what Jekyll would and wouldn't have said, and he calls Utterson on a lie.

Once Utterson sees Hyde's face, he speculates on what makes it so distasteful. He concludes that it bears "Satan's signature" and is marked by "something troglodytic." Utterson then goes to visit his friend Henry Jekyll who lives close by, but Jekyll's servant, Poole, tells him Jekyll isn't home. Utterson tells Poole he saw Hyde enter through the "dissecting room door" and asks if it is okay. Poole tells Utterson it is common: Hyde has a key. This troubles Utterson and makes him more certain than ever that something is wrong in Jekyll's life, and he wonders whether "the ghost of some old sin" has returned to haunt Jekyll. For that to happen, Jekyll would have to have committed some serious sin in the past. This foreshadows the final chapter when Jekyll admits his history of immoral acts.

Analysis

Prior to learning of Mr. Hyde's violence, Utterson has been concerned about Dr. Jekyll's will because it is odd. He can think of no good reason for Jekyll to give everything he owns to Hyde. But now after hearing the story of the girl Hyde trampled on the street, Utterson's concern has grown. In a way this event foreshadows Jekyll's eventual exposure as Mr. Hyde, because already people are making connections between the two men. From this point on, it is extreme arrogance for Jekyll to continue transitioning between the two identities, and yet he does.

While he searches for Hyde, Utterson moves through London. However, the London through which he walks is not a literal London. There was no "Gaunt Street" at the time, and the paths Utterson walks don't match actual London geography. Instead, as Mighall has indicated, this should be treated as an allegorical and symbolic city. Read this way, the street where Utterson lives symbolizes his "gaunt" character. Similarly, it is appropriate that Jekyll inhabits a section of the city where "ancient, handsome houses" exist in a state of decay, divided into units for "all sorts and conditions of men," including "shady lawyers, and the agents of obscure enterprises." Jekyll is by this point a divided, shady, and obscure fellow. Some readers, including G. K. Chesterton, have claimed that this London should be read as Stevenson's home town of Edinburgh, which is sharply divided into two sections, the old and the new.

Whether or not readers take the interpretation in this specific direction, they should note the uncanny, Gothic qualities the city holds for Mr. Utterson after he hears Enfield's account of Mr. Hyde. As night comes on, Utterson shifts from thinking about Hyde intellectually to exploring the story he heard imaginatively and through images. Enfield's words shift into a series of "lighted pictures," and the London in that vision haunts Utterson. The city he knows so well and navigates easily by day becomes a confusing labyrinth. He watches Hyde, "that human Juggernaut," repeatedly trample the child, then sees some strangely powerful figure haunting sleepers' dreams and making them do its bidding. Though Utterson does not know it, this image foreshadows Hyde's control over Jekyll and signals that, on some level, he already knows the relationship between the two men. Perhaps most terrifying, though, is the way Utterson's dream generalizes this threat: what started as one man crushing a child now happens on "every street-corner." And actually, if the theories Jekyll expresses in the final chapter are correct and all people have these divided, multiple selves within them, that is the implication of his potion: there could be a "human Juggernaut" everywhere.

This chapter further develops the symbolism of the door. Readers should notice that it isn't just a door but the "dissecting room door." Hyde enters through the room where human bodies are cut apart. Looking back on this chapter, readers will recognize that the door also leads to the room where Dr. Jekyll dissects his own personality.

The section in which Utterson stands still and tries to identify what specifically is disturbing about Hyde's appearance is telling. He can identify some contributing elements: he sees Hyde as both visibly marked by sin and like a caveman. Hyde is both evil and evolutionarily inferior. But as Utterson indicates, there is more. There's a mismatch between the soul and the flesh that make up Hyde. This description is also a fine example of what Freud called "the uncanny," a quality common to Gothic literature. When a text evokes the uncanny, readers encounter something that blurs distinctions between the real and the unreal. This is finally what makes Hyde so disturbing and why Utterson's dreams do a better job of pinning down Hyde's nature than his conscious mind can.

Readers also learn that Hyde's actions and nature disrupt several different arenas of life. Not only does he have some odd hold over Jekyll, but Hyde violates law, ethics, and social norms. Hyde's violations even extend to the biological realm, as witnessed by Utterson's observation of "something troglodytic" in his face. Hyde is essentially a different species. If that weren't enough, Lanyon's objection to Jekyll is over a scientific topic, one that can be construed to involve Jekyll's experimentation with separating an individual's personality. Together, these disruptions suggest and foreshadow the magnitude of Jekyll's misdeeds.

Utterson finds Hyde so upsetting that he sets out to find him. In a way Utterson is another doubled identity: he plays "seek" to Hyde's "hide." Whatever Hyde is trying to conceal, Utterson is trying to reveal.

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