Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Utterson, a lawyer, is modest, a little dreary but endearing, with something very warm in his eyes, though his dinner conversation is not very impressive. This warmth can be seen in the way he lives too, being loyal to his old friends even when they have been abandoned by others. Modest as he is, Utterson has kept a set of friends without seeming to choose them along the way and his affection is based on the bond of time, not quality.
Stevenson sets up the character of Utterson in a way that will illuminate the other characters, his friends. By focusing on Utterson’s loyalty and kindness, and his ability to overlook flaws and misdemeanors, the author plants a question in the reader’s mind, about how far this loyalty can be tested.
Themes
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Bachelorhood and Friendship Theme Icon
One of Mr. Utterson’s friends is Richard Enfield, with whom he takes regular Sunday walks. To see the pair walking together, one would think they had nothing in common, but they both claim to look forward to these walks. One day, they are walking and come to a particular busy by-street in London. The houses are bright and everything has an air of prosperity, apart from one property two doors from the corner of the street, which has a bleak gray front and a door in need of repair.
Stevenson paints a picture of this by-street as a colorful collection of people and properties, a place full of life, ensuring that the grey, desolate mystery-building stands out and invites the passers-by to investigate. A row of houses suggests privacy, anonymity, and family but the way this particular house juts out to meet them does not fit in with the appearance of the street.
Themes
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon
Utterson asks Enfield if he has ever noticed this door and Enfield says that he has, and that there is a strange story associated with it, which he proceeds to tell. One night, so late that the street was totally deserted, Enfield was walking near the house in question and had worked himself up into a frightened state. Suddenly, a little girl and a man had appeared running from opposite streets and knocked into each other. The man had trampled the little girl and left her crying in the street. Mr. Enfield describes how he caught the man and brought him back to the girl, who was then being helped by her family.
That Enfield had made himself scared suggests the strangeness of the house in the street. The man's trampling of a girl—and refusal even to stop after doing it—immediately establishes him as exaggeratedly cruel or evil.
Themes
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Innocence and Violence Theme Icon
To Enfield, the strangest part of the incident was the way the man looked. It was so powerful and hateful that it caused him to sweat. Everyone involved seemed to be affected in the same way. Even the doctor, who had been called to aid the child, was visibly enraged at the sight of this man and looked like he wanted to kill him.
This short description turns this violent event into something strange and unnatural. The sudden rage of the doctor, the unexplainable appearance of evil, all point to a character with some superhuman quality—both of causing evil, and of inspiring others to hatred.
Themes
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Innocence and Violence Theme Icon
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But instead of using violence, they threatened the man, promising to undo him if didn’t disappear. The man replied calmly that a gentleman never wishes to make a scene, and then went into the bleak-looking house and got a check for a hundred pounds. Not only that but he offered to stay with the injured girl and her family until the banks opened so he could cash it for them. When they saw the name on the check, they recognized the man as a celebrated gentleman, though Mr. Enfield in his story does not reveal the man's name to Utterson.
The hypocrisy of the gentleman is one of the most fearful aspects of this crime. The polite, educated way that he speaks contrasts intensely with his savage and pointless attack, and his use of such a renowned name on the check he offers to hush up the event raises questions about his connections or what other evil he might be up to. Also note how Enfield's first instinct is to be secretive about the man's name.
Themes
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon
Innocence and Violence Theme Icon
Mr. Enfield can see that Mr. Utterson is affected by the story too. He continues, troubled by how the man can be so obviously damnable but also celebrated for doing good things with his money. Utterson asks if the man lives at this house but Enfield claims his address is in a square in another area. Enfield admits he didn’t ask the man about the house, because he makes it a rule not to ask questions about things that seem suspicious. Utterson thinks this is a good rule.
Utterson and Enfield have obviously become highly anxious while talking about the mysterious attacker but, in what will become a pattern for the men connected with Dr. Jekyll, they swallow their fears and opinions. Repression and silence are rife in the world Stevenson has created here, creating a mass of unsaid things.
Themes
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon
Innocence and Violence Theme Icon
Bachelorhood and Friendship Theme Icon
Mr. Enfield says he took a look about the house and noticed that it had no other entrance and nobody seemed to go in or out except, occasionally, for the man, but that the house's chimney is always smoking. Mr. Utterson asks to know the gentleman’s name, and Mr. Enfield doesn’t think much harm can come of telling it. It’s Mr. Hyde.
Giving a name and a residence to the monstrous, inhuman character that we saw trampling the girl in Enfield’s account changes the nature of the threat he represents. Normality and monstrosity do not sit well together.
Themes
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Utterson asks what Mr. Hyde looks like, but Enfield can hardly describe it. He says that the man has a detestable appearance but for no visible reason he can see. This isn’t a fault of his memory, for he can remember the figure of the man exactly. Mr. Utterson is deep in thought. He admits that the story is not foreign to him, and he knows of the man in question. Mr. Enfield feels bad for telling the story now, but the friends shake hands and part.
Hyde’s appearance is not that of a normal man – in fact it seems, somehow, hardly human. The evil tone of his features cannot be attributed to one detail or scowl but something general and intangible. The gentlemen’s inability to really talk about their fear of Hyde also gives him a larger-than-life power.
Themes
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon