Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Chapter 6 : Remarkable Incident of Dr. Lanyon | Summary

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Summary

Two months pass without news of Hyde, and Jekyll settles into a routine, spending time with friends and engaging in religious and charitable activities. Utterson becomes accustomed to seeing Jekyll regularly, but then unexpectedly and without explanation Jekyll shuts Utterson out. At a loss Utterson visits Dr. Lanyon and finds his old friend very changed. He looks older and unwell. Lanyon says he's had a shock and might not recover. Utterson tells him Jekyll is unwell, too, and asks if Lanyon has seen him. The question upsets Lanyon, who asks his friend not to mention Jekyll: they've had a split, and Lanyon regards Jekyll as dead.

When Utterson gets home, he writes Jekyll, asking why he has barred him from his home and broken with Lanyon. He receives a reply the next day. Jekyll doesn't blame Lanyon for the end of their friendship and agrees it must be over. He further asks Utterson not to be surprised if Jekyll often refuses to see him.

A few weeks later Lanyon dies. Utterson then opens an envelope Lanyon had left to be opened after he was dead. Inside is another envelope, labeled to be opened only if Jekyll dies or disappears. Upon reflection Utterson locks this envelope in his safe. After Lanyon's death he tries repeatedly to visit Jekyll, but Jekyll refuses to see him. Utterson's visits become less frequent over time.

Analysis

One of the first things readers should note about this chapter is its title: they don't actually get to see the "remarkable incident" described. It is, like so much else in this suspenseful classic, hidden and delayed. Readers must guess at what the incident is based on clues visible in its aftermath. Whatever it is, the shock was traumatic because it ruins Lanyon's health. And, just as Utterson saw evil in Hyde's face when they first met, he sees several key truths in Lanyon's face and body. First, Utterson sees Lanyon's "death-warrant" written on his face. He recognizes that Lanyon is dying. Second, something about Lanyon indicates he has faced "some deep-seated terror of the mind." And third, Utterson can see that this knowledge is more than Lanyon can bear. In combination these details testify to the power of sight and knowledge in this novella.

Readers will later learn what has happened to Lanyon: Lanyon saw Hyde transform into Jekyll.

The nested envelopes serve a useful and similar purpose. On the one hand, they work literally: Lanyon gives Utterson an envelope within an envelope. However, they also work to build suspense: within a message is a hidden message. Perhaps within a self there is a second hidden self? Since Utterson doesn't open the inner message, this is another form of suspenseful delay. Both Lanyon and Utterson keep the letter contained as a way of exerting power over its contents. This is similar to how Utterson practices self-discipline. Whereas Jekyll, as readers will eventually learn, intentionally opens the door to his inner passions, Utterson consciously works to keep these doors closed.

Lanyon's death serves several functions. It is another sin or crime readers can lay at Hyde's feet, along with the trampled and frightened girl and Carew's death. It also breaks the circle of friends and further isolates Utterson and Jekyll. Neither man has as much help as he used to in dealing with Hyde. Symbolically, since Lanyon is a man of science and has broken with Jekyll in the past over science, his death removes science from the narrative. From now on law and ethics must deal with the mystery of Hyde without science's help.

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