Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 5

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 5 of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Chapter 5 : Incident of the Letter | Summary

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Summary

Utterson visits Jekyll, who receives him in his laboratory, to ask if Jekyll has heard about Carew's murder. When Jekyll acknowledges he has, Utterson tells him he was Carew's lawyer as well as Jekyll's and asks Jekyll if he is hiding Mr. Hyde. Jekyll swears he is not and promises Utterson that he'll never hear from Hyde again. He then gives Utterson a letter, saying he does not know if he should give it to the police, and asks Utterson for his opinion. When Utterson reads it, he's relieved. It seems to indicate that Hyde has repaid Jekyll for his help and left the area. Utterson asks Jekyll if Hyde dictated the particular clauses in Jekyll's will, but the doctor goes pale and does not answer. Jekyll does say, though, that he's learned a powerful lesson.

As Utterson leaves, he asks Poole who had delivered the letter, but Poole insists no letter was received. This makes Utterson worried. Once back in his office, Utterson asks his chief clerk, Mr. Guest, to read the letter and offer his opinion on what to do with it. Guest notices something odd about the handwriting. When a servant delivers a note from Dr. Jekyll, Guest compares the handwriting to that of Mr. Hyde's letter and says they are the same, except they slant in different directions. Utterson concludes that Jekyll forged the letter for Hyde.

Analysis

Hyde's sudden and intense violence leading to murder terrifies Jekyll. Though readers aren't told this until the final chapter, Jekyll can promise Utterson he'll never again hear from Hyde because he is now committed to not taking his potion any more.

The setting of the scene is telling, however. The Henry Jekyll who is friends with Utterson and travels in polite society would normally welcome people into his living room or his study. This Jekyll greets Utterson in his lab. This is where he belongs and feels most natural. It is also where Hyde has access to the house. So although he is currently Jekyll, he is greeting Utterson in Hyde's domain.

This chapter builds the novella's suspense, first when Jekyll refuses to answer certain questions from Utterson and then when Utterson learns that the same person wrote both letters. Utterson concludes it is a forgery, which in a way it is, but it also works on a deeper, thematic level. Just as their handwriting is the same but slanted in different directions, so Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, but slanted in different directions. Jekyll is slanted toward the good, or at least the socially accepted blend of good and evil. Hyde is slanted toward evil. It is a useful symbol of the divided self that their handwriting is recognizably similar.

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