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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 4

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Chapter 4 : The Carew Murder Case | Summary



A year passes without incident, but then a savage murder occurs. A young maid servant is looking out the window at the moon when she sees a white-haired gentleman and Mr. Hyde meet on the street outside. She recognizes Hyde because he had once visited her employer. The two men talk, and then Hyde suddenly beats the older man to death with his cane. The maid calls for help, but Hyde is long gone when the police arrive. It wasn't a robbery, they note, because they find money and a gold watch on the victim as well as an envelope with Mr. Utterson's name on it. When the police take the envelope to Utterson, he accompanies them to view the body and identifies it as Sir Danvers Carew, a respected gentleman. Utterson then guides the police to Hyde's home located in a disreputable part of town.

When they knock on the door, the housekeeper answers and tells them she hasn't seen Hyde for two months until yesterday. Utterson and the inspector search Hyde's house and find that Hyde uses only two rooms, leaving the rest of the house empty. Those two rooms are expensively furnished, however, and are in a chaotic state as if they have been "ransacked." A number of papers are partially burned in the fireplace. They find his checkbook and the broken end of the cane that has been used to kill Carew. They then visit Hyde's bank and find that he still has thousands of pounds there. This encourages the inspector, who thinks he's sure to come get the money.


The murder is the main event in this chapter, but readers should notice how Stevenson introduces it and how he signals possible interpretations for what happens. The description of the maid servant musing at the window is distinctly romantic. She is dreaming of life's possibilities. Hyde's appearance turns that "daydream" into a nightmare. Hyde's interaction with the other man also introduces a disturbing red herring as far as Jekyll's motivation. Though Stevenson never says this, the interaction between Carew and Hyde suggests a homosexual encounter: two men who seem not to know each other striking up a conversation in the night, in a disreputable, lower-class neighborhood. Period readers might have asked themselves if Carew is a homosexual and if that is the nature of Hyde's hold over Jekyll. However, Stevenson quickly shows that the situation is more complicated. If Hyde is simply homosexual, he and Carew could have gone off together. If his hold over Jekyll is blackmail about homosexual activity, one would think he would have taken the money.

This chapter also does a fine job of creating an urban landscape defined by Gothic elements. When Hyde commits this horrific crime, the neighborhood is full of fog, blurring clear sight. It is lit by moonlight rather than sun, and the maid who is the only witness sees these events while in a "dream of musing." As she watches, the actions slide smoothly from ones that make rational sense—men walking down the street, one greeting the other politely—into a savage scene of irrational violence. All is transformed. The cane Jekyll carries as a marker of his status becomes a murder weapon in Hyde's hands. Carew's murder is driven by passion that leaves reason behind: Hyde doesn't even bother robbing the man. The violence permeates this world: the sound reaches the watching maid and causes her to faint.

This chapter touches on several themes as well as ongoing narrative threads. When Utterson visits Hyde's home, he finds his housekeeper has an "evil face," but good manners. This is another example of the theme of the divided self. It also does a good job of underscoring how upsetting Hyde's face is: even people with recognizably evil faces don't like him.

Hyde hits Carew hard enough with his cane to break it. The cane is symbolic of Hyde's identity as a gentleman. Its breaking is symbolic of change. Now under investigation for murder, Hyde can no longer pass freely in society.

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