“Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a novella by the author Robert Louis Stevenson that was first published in 1886. Stevenson conceived of the novella when he began studying the different aspects of man and how good and evil can play a part in our everyday lives. He decided to create a story where a character can split his good and bad sides like a split personality.
The novella became an immediate critical success and one of Stevenson’s most popular and best-selling works. Within six months of its release, forty thousand copies were sold and by 1901 it had sold around 250,000 just in the United States alone. The novel is still a popular choice among gothic horror readers and it has since been adapted into over 120 stage plays and films alone.
The novella tells the story of a man named Utterson who begins to suspect that his friend, Dr. Jekyll has fallen in with an unsavory type. He is told that the man, Mr. Hyde was recently seen knocking a small girl to the ground and trampling her with no remorse, among other things. Mr. Utterson is a lawyer who has been asked by Jekyll to draw up a will leaving all of his earthly possessions to Hyde. Utterson begins to investigate Hyde who seems to be an evil, ugly man.
At the end of the novella, Utterson is called to Jekyll’s home by his servants to discover what has become of the man as he has locked himself in his laboratory. When Utterson is able to break in, he finds Mr. Hyde dying and no sign of Jekyll. Soon he finds a letter to himself from Jekyll describing an experiment he undertook. The experiment was to separate the good and evil side of man by drinking a potion that he invented. When Jekyll did this he would turn into Hyde but he soon found that he began turning into the other man when he did not drink the potion and worried that he would soon be stuck as Hyde forever. In the end, this is exactly what happened only Hyde chose to end his life.
Two men named Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield are walking along on a nice street in London, England on a Sunday afternoon. Mr. Utterson is a lawyer and a well-respected and wealthy one. He is a reserved man, but an honest one and a good friend as he is always willing to lend a hand to those in need when the situation calls for it. Mr. Enfield is his distant relative and also a well-bred gentleman of London. The two are friends, although they have little in common. They take this walk through town weekly and often go quite a distance in companionable silence, neither saying a word to the other.
As they are walking on this particular Sunday, however, Enfield notices a neglected, run down building that is at odds with the rest of the prosperous neighborhood. Enfield has a story relating to the building and decides to tell it to Utterson. He says that one night, after dark he was walking in this neighborhood when he saw a small, misshapen man bump into a young girl and trample over her. Enfield manages to stop the man and keep him from getting away. A crowd gathers around the girl and when her assailant is revealed the crowd is disgusted by him. He is revealed to be very ugly and grotesque. The crowd defames the man and tells him that they will ruin his good reputation if he does not make amends. The man offers to buy them off and goes into the neglected building only to return with a check moments later. The check, Mr. Enfield notes, bares the name of a very reputable man around town although he refuses to reveal to the crowd who it is. Enfield wonders if the misshapen little man has blackmailed the respectable man but he cannot see that the check is a forgery or a fake.
Back in current time, Utterson asks a few leading questions about the incident that make Enfield wonder if the man knows more about this than he lets on. Enfield reveals that he “never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scared to know why”. He tells Utterson that the man’s name was Hyde and Utterson reveals that he knows this man and, furthermore, he can guess whose name was on the check. However, since both men are respectable and honest men who do not seek to gossip they do not reveal the man’s name and agree to never discuss the topic again.
Utterson hurries back home. He recently drew up a will for a prominent man in town named Dr. Jekyll and wants to review it again based off of the conversation he had with Mr. Enfield. The will states that all of Dr. Jekyll’s worldly assets were to transfer to a man named Mr. Edward Hyde in the event of his death. While drawing up the will, Utterson had thought this was odd and now that he knows something of this Mr. Hyde’s character from Enfield’s story he is more convinced than ever that the man has some untoward control over Dr. Jekyll.
Utterson visits another doctor who is a friend of Jekyll’s, Dr. Lanyon. But Lanyon reveals that he has long since fallen out of communication with Jekyll and knows nothing of anyone named Mr. Hyde. Lanyon notes that he and Jekyll fell out over a professional dispute and calls Jekyll’s new line of research “unscientific balderdash”. That night as he is sleeping, Utterson dreams of a frightening man knocking over a small girl in the street. In the dream, the man appears by Utterson’s bedside and beckons him to rise.
The next day Utterson returns to the neglected building with the design of speaking to this Mr. Hyde. After a while of waiting, Hyde exits the building. He is a small man and young, too. Utterson introduces himself, saying that he is a friend of Dr. Henry Jekyll. Hyde greets him but keeps his head down. Mr. Utterson asks Hyde to look up at him so that he will know his face if he sees him again. Hyde does so and Utterson is taken back by the man’s ugliness but, like Enfield, he cannot discern why it is that Hyde is so ugly. Hyde tells Utterson his own address and Utterson takes this a sign that he will be waiting to have his money sent to him after Jekyll’s death.
At this point, the reader discovers an additional fact that Utterson is familiar with. The neglected building is actually a laboratory attached on the opposite side to Dr. Jekyll’s townhouse. Utterson circles the building to get to the entrance of the townhouse and is admitted in by Dr. Jekyll’s butler, Mr. Poole. Poole tells Utterson that Jekyll is not home and, when questioned about Mr. Hyde, the butler informs Utterson that Hyde has a key to the laboratory and all of Jekyll’s servants have orders to obey Mr. Hyde. Utterson now feels that Mr. Hyde is blackmailing Dr. Jekyll in some way. He worries about his friend as he heads back to his own house.
Jekyll throws a lavish dinner party two weeks later and Utterson takes it as an opportunity to speak to Jekyll privately about the will. At first, Jekyll seems cheerful about the subject but he quickly turns serious and even frightened when Utterson tells him that he has been researching Mr. Hyde. Jekyll insists that Mr. Hyde is not blackmailing him and that he can be rid of him whenever he chooses. But he emphasizes that he has a great interest in Hyde at the moment and that he wishes to provide for him. Jekyll makes Utterson vow that he will carry out his will as he wrote it.
The next chapter, chapter Four, begins one year later. A house maid has just woken and is looking out the window of her room. As she looks out she witnesses a murder in the street below. She sees Mr. Hyde, whom she recognizes as he comes upon a polite, older man. The man offers Hyde a greeting and Hyde as if suddenly seized by an unspeakable rage, turns and beats the man to death with his walking stick. The police arrive and find a letter addressed to Utterson on the corpse. Utterson is summoned and identifies the man’s body as Mr. Danvers Carew, a member of Parliament and one of his top clients. The police inform Utterson that their culprit is Mr. Hyde and Utterson tells them that he still has Mr. Hyde’s home address.
Utterson goes with the police to Mr. Hyde’s home which is for the poor, run down the side of town. Utterson recognizes that it is odd that a man who is heir to Dr. Jekyll’s considerable fortune would live in such squalor. Hyde has a landlady who is herself very ugly and evil-looking. She lets the police and Mr. Utterson in but informs them that Mr. Hyde is not home. Inside Hyde’s home, the police find the murder weapon and the burned remnants of Mr. Hyde’s checkbook. They learn that Hyde still has an account at the bank listed on his checks and theorize that they need only wait till he goes to the bank to withdraw money. However, after waiting weeks Hyde still does not reappear. The police are unable to find any sign of him or anyone who can even give an accurate description of his features.
Utterson pays a visit to Jekyll whom he finds in his laboratory looking sickly. Jekyll tells Utterson that Hyde has left town and that their previous relationship has ended. Jekyll shows Utterson a letter written to him by Hyde assuring him that he is leaving and that he feels unworthy of Jekyll’s friendship and generosity. Jekyll is unsure of what to do with the letter as he worries giving it to the police could damage his reputation. Utterson asks Jekyll if Hyde was the one who came up with the terms of the will, including the provision that Hyde should inherit the fortune if Jekyll were to simply go missing. Jekyll admits that he did and Utterson informs him that Hyde probably meant to kill him and that he is lucky to have avoided it.
Utterson takes the letter and leaves. On his way out of the house, Utterson asks Poole to give him a description of the man who delivered Mr. Hyde’s letter. But Mr. Poole is surprised. He claims to have no knowledge of any mail other than the usual being delivered, and no letter from Mr. Hyde. Utterson, following a hunch, takes the letter to a friend of his, Mr. Guest who is an expert in handwriting. Mr. Guest compares Hyde’s letter with some of Jekyll’s writing and confirms that the two were written by the same hand. Hyde’s writing was merely written by the opposite hand as Jekyll’s as if to avoid detection. Utterson believes that Jekyll may have forged a letter from Mr. Hyde and is shocked at the idea.
In the months following Hyde’s disappearance, Jekyll begins to recover both physically and mentally, in the eyes of Utterson. He seems to be healthier and more social and begins to devote his time to charity. Utterson observes that the removal of Mr. Hyde’s negative influence in Jekyll’s life has improved the man for the better.
Two months after Hyde left, Jekyll holds a dinner party where he and Utterson and Dr. Lanyon converse like old friends. However, when Utterson attempts to visit again a few days later, Poole tells him that Jekyll is not taking any visitors. After a full week of not being able to see Jekyll, Utterson visits Lanyon in the hopes that he will have some information about Jekyll. Instead, Utterson finds Lanyon is very poor health. Lanyon tells him that he has had a bad shock and expects to die within the next few weeks. Utterson attempts to get more information but Lanyon begins speaking nonsense and demands that they speak of anything but Jekyll. He tells Utterson that after his death Utterson may learn of what has happened to him but for the moment he will not discuss it.
Utterson returns home and writes to Jekyll asking about why he is not taking visitors and what caused the rift between him and Lanyon. Before long, Jekyll replies in a letter of his own. He tells Utterson that he still cares for Lanyon but understands why the doctor has told him that they must not meet. He tells Utterson that he cares for him, also but from now on he needs to stay secluded away from people. He says that he is suffering a punishment that he cannot speak of. Weeks later, Lanyon dies as he predicted he would. After his funeral Utterson finds a letter addressed to him in Lanyon’s safe. However, inside the envelope is another letter with instructions printed on the outside to keep closed until after Jekyll has also died. Utterson is desperately curious to discover it contents, but being a principled man does as he is told and puts the letter away without reading it.
The next Sunday as Utterson and Enfield are taking their walk they pass the laboratory again. Enfield notes that London will never see Hyde again and that he has probably disappeared. The two men stop to look up at Jekyll’s house and Utterson tells Enfield of his concern for Jekyll. However, to their surprise the men see that Jekyll is standing at a window, breathing in the fresh air. When they shout up to him, Jekyll complains that he feels “very low” and Utterson asks if he would like to join them on their walk. Jekyll tells them that he cannot leave the house and a frightened look suddenly crosses his face. He quickly closes the window and disappears. Utterson and Enfield walk away in shocked silence.
Unexpectedly, Mr. Poole comes to visit Utterson one night after dinner. The man appears agitated and says that he feels that some “foul play” has befallen Dr. Jekyll. Poole quickly escorts Utterson back to Jekyll’s townhouse through the dark and windy night. When they reach the house all of the servants are gathered, fearfully in the main hall. Poole and Utterson walk to the door of Jekyll’s laboratory and Poole calls for his master. He tells him that Utterson is there and a strange voice that Utterson doesn’t recognize replies that he isn’t taking any visitors.
Poole brings Utterson to the kitchen where he tells him that the voice coming from the laboratory is not Dr. Jekyll’s. Utterson points out that a murderer would hardly remain in the laboratory after killing Jekyll. Poole then tells him that the strange voice has been sending him on errands to chemists, looking for an ingredient that Poole cannot find in any drugstore. Poole has been receiving notes of instruction and Utterson asks if the notes are in the doctor’s hand. Poole then says that he saw the person come out briefly to search for something and he looking nothing like Jekyll. In fact, he looked like Mr. Hyde.
This revelation sways Utterson into insisting that he and Poole break into the laboratory to see what has happened to Jekyll. He stations two servants at the laboratories outside the door so that Hyde cannot escape and arms himself with a fireplace poker and Poole with an ax. At the door, Utterson calls out to ask for admission. The voice inside begs for Utterson to leave him alone. Utterson recognizes the voice as Mr. Hyde and demands that Poole break down the door.
Once they get inside the laboratory, they find Hyde lying on the ground with a crushed vial in his hand. Utterson recognizes that he has poisoned himself. He also notes that Hyde is wearing a suit that appears to be Jekyll’s and is much too large for him. The servants search the laboratory for Jekyll but cannot find him. They do find a large mirror and Utterson thinks that it is strange to find such an item in a scientific laboratory. On one table Utterson finds a letter addressed to himself that contains a will that leaves all of Jekyll’s assets to Utterson instead of Hyde and a note to Utterson that, according to the date, is from that day. The note tells Utterson to go home and read the letter that Lanyon gave him and says that if he needs more information he can read the last thing that Jekyll has left for him a note that is labeled: “Your worthy and unhappy friend, Henry Jekyll”. Utterson promises Poole that he will return shortly and send for the police and then heads back to his house to read the letter that Lanyon gave him.
Chapter nine, the second-to-last chapter in the story, is an exact transcription of Lanyon’s letter to Utterson. Lanyon writes that he received a strange letter from Jekyll after his last dinner party. The letter asked Lanyon to go to Jekyll’s townhouse and break into the upper room of Jekyll’s laboratory. Once inside, Lanyon was to take a specific drawer and it contents back home with him and wait for a man who would come at midnight. The letter offered no explanation for the instructions but promised Lanyon that if he did these things he would understand everything soon.
Lanyon did as the letter instructed and then returned home to wait for the mysterious man. Inside the drawer, Lanyon found a few vials, one containing what appeared to be salt and one containing a strange, red liquid and a notebook filled with notes on experiments. Lanyon began to wonder if Jekyll had gone insane, but at midnight a strange, small man appeared. It was Mr. Hyde, but at the time Lanyon had not seen the man and therefore didn’t recognize him.
Hyde seemed excited and slightly desperate, he did not engage in polite conversation and demanded the drawer. Lanyon gave them to him and Hyde then began mixing the ingredients in the vials. The mixture became purple and then green. Hyde then paused and asked if Lanyon wanted to see him drink the mixture and witness something that would “stagger the unbelief of Satan”. Lanyon declared that he was so involved already he may as well see the rest of it and Hyde drank the mixture. Before Lanyon’s eyes, Hyde’s small body seemed to swell and shift until, before long Dr. Jekyll was standing in his place. Lanyon ends the letter here, saying that Jekyll told him something afterward that so shocked him that it wrecked his constitution and lead to his illness which then led to his death.
In the last chapter of the book, we are told what the contents of Jekyll’s letter to Utterson are. Jekyll tells the story of how he got involved in this miraculous experiment, saying that he was born into a wealthy family with a healthy constitution but always felt that he had a secret, frivolous and indecent side that he was hiding from polite society. By the time he was a man, he felt as though he had two sides to him and that the moral side was always guilty for the things the darker side indulged in. His scientific studies led to studies of the mystical side of nature and he got it in his head that he should somehow be able to separate the good and evil sides of the human spirit. Jekyll says that “man is not truly one, but two”.
After much research, Jekyll eventually created the potion that would do this. After adding salt as the last ingredient, he took the potion. At first, he experienced only nausea and pain but as those subsided he realized that he had become the shrunken, hideous Mr. Hyde and felt filled by all the bad aspects of his personality. He wonders if Hyde’s size can be attributed to the fact that he represented his evil side and nothing else. Jekyll soon came to enjoy the recklessness that came from living as Hyde. He began to indulge in his evil desires and even set up a bank account and a home for Hyde. When he transformed back into Jekyll he was free from any guilt over the actions of Hyde as he felt like they had been done by another person, although he did try to right any wrongs he had caused as his alter ego.
However, soon Hyde began to be a cause for concern. Jekyll first noticed that something was wrong when he involuntarily transformed into Hyde overnight without the aid of the potion. This scared Jekyll enough that he vowed to stop becoming Hyde, but it only lasted two months as he began to miss being able to live out his evil side. When Hyde returned he was even more savage and vengeful than before as he had been repressed so long. It was at this time that he beat the man, Carew to death with his cane. Hyde did not feel remorse for the murder but Jekyll was beside himself with despair. Jekyll once again vowed that he would never transform into Hyde again and it was during this time that Jekyll appeared to be in better spirits to his friends.
However, after a time Jekyll began to indulge in his dark desires again. This time, he intended to do it without transforming into Hyde, but the delight of doing evil again made him spontaneously transform into Hyde while away from home. He felt brave and powerful as Hyde but he knew that he could not return to his home for fear of being caught by the police. It was then that he sent word to Lanyon to fetch his potion for him. After that, he had to begin taking a double dosage of the potion every six hours to avoid turning into Hyde again. As soon as the potion began to wear off the transformation would start again. It was one of these exact moments that caused him to step back from the window while he was talking to Utterson and Enfield in the street.
In his final hours, Hyde continued to grow stronger as Jekyll grew weaker and the ingredients necessary for the making of the potion began to run out. Jekyll ordered more ingredients, particularly salt and discovered that the salt he used for the original must have had some small impurity that made the potion work. Jekyll realized with terror that he was soon to become Hyde permanently. He used the last of his potion to buy himself some time to write the letter to Utterson. He tells Utterson that he doesn’t know if Hyde will kill himself or allow himself to be arrested but he does know that by the time that Utterson reads the letter, Henry Jekyll will be no more.
Dr. Jekyll/Mr.Hyde – the main character of the novel. Dr. Jekyll is a respectable London scientist who is able, through the use of a mysterious potion, to transform into the savage, uncontrollable Mr. Hyde at a moments notice in order to live out his darker desires. There is some debate over what extent the two characters, Jekyll and Hyde are truly the same person. They are so opposing in every way that they seem to not even be adequate friends until the ending reveals the twist. This, of course, was Stevenson’s point in writing the story. To illustrate the opposing forces of good and evil in every person. The evil side that lurks behind the polite facade of every person. Because of this, in order to fully understand either character, we must consider them as one person and judge their actions accordingly. In fact, neither man is particularly interesting when taken alone, it is only together that they make a compelling story.
While it’s true that Jekyll is supposed to be considered the moral and decent side of the pair, and he is shown doing things like giving to charity withing the narrative, Jekyll never fully represents a truly moral man in the same way that Hyde represents evil. Jekyll only undertakes the experiment with the idea of separating his good side from his bad and thus, leaving his good side totally pure but only succeeds in giving life to his bad side, leaving a bad side and a normal self. And, if anything, giving birth to this bad side makes Jekyll less than virtuous as a character as it absolves him of any blame for the bad actions that he is still committing as Hyde.
Jekyll almost seems to imply that if he had begun the experiment with purer motives an angelic side may have emerged instead of Hyde. But the fact that it was Hyde that emerged from Jekyll’s experiment seems more than a chance thing and something that is perhaps, because of Jekyll’s normal state of mind. That is, that Hyde already existed within the doctor and drinking the potion only let him out, instead of creating him.
Hyde himself is a darker relic of a past when man did not feel the need to struggle to fit into polite society. He is Jekyll’s animalistic side, and thus is described as such.
Mr. Utterson – the narrator for much of the novel. Though he is not technically the main character, the story is told through Mr. Utterson’s eyes and perceptions. Utterson is the perfect image of an upright Victorian man. He is most likely what Jekyll was before the intervention of Hyde. Utterson is moral, a man of his word and not a man of any strong passions or evil desires. His character is specifically written to be not only a template for what Jekyll is running from in doing his experiment but as a good touchstone for the reader to insert themselves into. He is interested in investigating the mystery that suddenly befalls his friend and in many ways throughout the short novel he is shown to be a good, loyal friend. He does not gossip about people and even when he suspects that Jekyll may have broken some laws he does not damage his friend’s reputation with any information that he does not know for sure to be true.
Dr. Lanyon – Jekyll’s colleague and former friend. When we first meet Lanyon in the novel he tells Utterson that he has had a falling out with Jekyll over something professional. He says that Jekyll’s new line of research is “balderdash”. From this, we are to assume that Jekyll shared some of his early research into the potion with Lanyon and that Lanyon, being a rational man and a skeptic, thought it was nonsense. In this way, he is presented as a foil for Jekyll although the two only have one scene together in the narrative. Because of this difference of opinion, it is appropriate that Lanyon is the first person to actually see Jekyll transform. The rational man is subjected to a physically impossible sight that he must rationalize. Lanyon is not able to do this and suffers a shock that kills him weeks later. It’s as if some part of Lanyon prefers to expire rather than continue on in a world where such a metaphysical event could happen.
Robert Louis Stevenson Biography
Born November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was the son of an engineer. Robert studied engineering, himself, and then law at the University of Edinburgh, but he had a natural inclination towards literature. Soon, he became a serious writer and gave up engineering and law to write novels, essays, poems and works on travel. Robert also wrote music. He played several instruments.
Robert suffered from tuberculosis, although more recent views are that he suffered from either bronchiectasis or sarcoidosis. He traveled extensively in search of healthier climates. Some of his earliest works were descriptions of these travels.
After a canoe trip through Belgium and France, he wrote, “An Inland Voyage” (1878). Travels with a “Donkey in the Cervantes” (1879) is an account of his journey on foot through the mountains in southern France. He also traveled by immigrant ship to New York, then by train to California. By the time he arrived in California his health was so bad he was almost dead. The ranchers he met there nursed him back to health, but after a long winter, he was at death’s door again. Francis Osbourne, his soon to be bride came to help him recover, and they were married in 1880.
Francis, or Fanny, as he called her, was a divorcee with two children. They originally met while he was on the canoe trip in France. She was recovering from a disastrous marriage to a philandering ex-soldier from America’s Civil War. She was born in Indianapolis, married at seventeen, and by age thirty-five had had three children. In 1875, one of her sons died and she finally left her husband, relocating from Nevada, where she had joined her husband, to Paris, so she and her daughter could study art. That is where she met Robert. He was so impressed with her, that he wrote an essay “On Falling in Love” for the Cornhill Magazine. They met again in 1877, and he spent much of the with her and her children in France. She and her children went back to America and settled in San Francisco. Robert followed a year later, against the advice of friends and not telling his family. This added to the ill feelings with his father. This is when he took the immigrant ship to New York and train to California, that almost killed him.
Having chosen another profession than his father, uncles and grandfather’s who were engineers for generations, Robert had been estranged from his father, but, after his marriage, his wife, Fanny, helped him to repair that relationship. She also cared for his health, which was vacillating. Finally, after his father died, Robert took his mother, wife and her children to Samoa, where he settled, after extended stays in Hawaii, where he became good friends with King Kalakaua and his niece, Victoria.
Robert became involved in the politics of Samoa, writing letters and publishing essays to help expel corrupt and inept European officials. He was so beloved by the people of the island, that when he died at age forty-four, on December 3, 1894, they erected monuments to him. His home on the island is now a museum, with a pathway deliberately laid to his tomb.
As a celebrated son of Edinburgh, Scotland, there are monuments throughout the country. The Writer’s Museum on the Royal Mile has devoted a room to him. There is another memorial in the West Princes Street Gardens below the Edinburgh Castle.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a well-loved and prolific writer, whose immortality is seen in his works. Generations have and will be able to hear his words and enjoy his mastery of the story.