Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 8

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 8 of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Chapter 8 : The Last Night | Summary

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Summary

Some time later Utterson is sitting home alone when Jekyll's butler, Poole, visits him. Poole is afraid something has happened to Jekyll, though he won't say what. He asks Utterson to come with him to investigate. They leave immediately, and when they arrive at Jekyll's, the rest of the servants are assembled and are frightened.

Poole guides Utterson to the laboratory door and calls in to Jekyll, telling him Utterson is there to visit. Jekyll refuses to see Utterson, and Poole does not insist but instead guides Utterson away so they can talk in private. Poole insists that it is not Jekyll's voice and that someone did away with Jekyll eight days ago. When Utterson challenges this story, Poole gives his evidence. Jekyll sometimes left written orders for his servants. That's the only way this strange person in the lab has been communicating. Poole shows Utterson one of the notes, written to a chemical merchant. The tone of the note is demanding, even desperate. In addition Poole has caught one actual glimpse of the man in the lab. The figure is too small to be Jekyll, and the person wears a mask. Poole is sure Jekyll has been murdered. Poole and Utterson conclude that it must be Hyde in the lab, and they agree to break down the door. They send two servants around back with sticks to capture the man if he tries to run that way. Utterson arms himself with a fireplace poker while Poole gets an axe. Then Utterson demands to see Jekyll or he will break down the door. Whoever is inside begs them not to insist, but they hold firm, and Poole chops through the door. Once it is down they find Edward Hyde. He has poisoned himself and is dying. Poole and Utterson search, but they can't find any trace of Dr. Jekyll. They do find some chemicals, which Poole identifies as the drug he brought Jekyll. On another table they find an envelope addressed to Utterson. Inside there is a copy of Jekyll's will, which has been changed to leave everything to Utterson instead of Hyde, and a letter to Utterson from Jekyll. It is brief and says mainly that Jekyll has disappeared and Utterson should read the enclosed accounts.

Analysis

With plenty of dramatic tension, this chapter provides many of the novella's high points. It begins quietly enough as Poole visits Utterson and urges him to help him discover who is in the laboratory. From there the drama and suspense increase as the story advances to its climax, which occurs when Utterson and Poole arrive at the house. The fact that the servants are assembled rather than off working at their assigned tasks, as they would be in a functional household, is a forceful sign that something is very wrong. Stevenson heightens the tension through the servants' reactions.

Poole's response to Jekyll's situation provides a useful commentary on class relations at this time, as does the reaction of the other servants. They are deeply concerned about Jekyll but don't feel they can take action themselves. Nor do they approach the police or simply leave the house. They are emotionally, socially, and economically bound to their master's household, and, as members of that household, they wish to keep his affairs private. Therefore, it is clear when Poole approaches Utterson about Jekyll that something is very wrong in the house.

Poole's reasoning about the situation also provides insight into class structure during this period. Poole's reasoning is methodical. He insists on evidence and can provide it, including eyewitness accounts and physical evidence in the form of the note "Jekyll" shared with his servants. His reasoning is, in short, as solid as any reasoning Utterson provides. Readers can draw two conclusions from these observations. First, Hyde's perversions are upsetting to all classes, not just the upper class. Second, a strict distinction among classes is artificial: all people regardless of class have an equal ability to think and reason logically.

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