Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One evening, Utterson receives a surprise visit from Poole. Seeing that the servant looks ill, Utterson asks what the matter is, and Poole confesses that he is worried about Dr. Jekyll. He has secluded himself in his study and his behavior is making Poole very afraid. Utterson asks him to be more specific but Poole continues to be vague, saying that he can’t bear the feeling anymore. Utterson notices that Poole's manner is completely changed and that he hardly looks up from the ground.
The silence and repression of Jekyll’s society has extended to all members of his circle and now even Poole is unable to speak about his fears. The pressure of this repression takes its toll on the characters. Poole seems to have internalized the secrets of his master and looks visibly worn out and even ill.
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Utterson kindly pushes Poole for an answer and Poole replies that he believes some kind of “foul play” is to blame. The implications of this phrase make Utterson suddenly concerned. Poole requests that Utterson follow him to see what he means and is relieved when Utterson follows without question.
Poole is a prime example here of a character repressing his suspicions for fear of the consequences. The phrase “foul play” is a euphemism, covering up all kinds of possibilities with its mild, sporting connotations.
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Utterson follows Poole through the moonlit, windy nighttime air to the square. The moon, the wind and the desertion of the streets fill Utterson with a sense of foreboding. Now outside Jekyll’s laboratory, Poole dabs his brow with a handkerchief. Despite the chill, Poole’s anxiety has caused him to break into a sweat. As they enter the dissecting room, Poole says a prayer.
It is a famous pattern in Gothic horror that particular elements of the landscape and atmosphere serve to forebode the changing fate of the characters. Here, the blustery night and the familiar haunted street of Jekyll’s laboratory enough to prompt fear and suspense.
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They enter the hall, which is lit by a huge fire, and is full of terrified faces – all the servants have gathered and are huddling in fear. As they spot Mr. Utterson, they exclaim in relief to see their old acquaintance. Utterson is shocked to find them all away from their posts, but Poole explains that they are all afraid. The maid starts to cry, causing the servants to look hurriedly at the door of the study behind where their master is hiding. Poole fiercely scolds the maid.
This is a remarkable sight, in such a conventional society, where Utterson has always found the servants in the same positions. Now all of a sudden, the servants have become real people to him, but his denial makes him overlook their fear and concern himself more with their breach of duty in leaving their stations.
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Poole leads Utterson with a candle to the garden, in between the main building and Jekyll’s laboratory. He urges Utterson to stay quiet. He also warns him, that should Dr. Jekyll invite him inside, he must refuse. Utterson is filled with anxiety. As they approach Dr. Jekyll’s study, Poole steps up the stairs and gives a loud knock on the door, announcing Mr. Utterson. Dr. Jekyll responds briskly that he cannot see anyone.
Poole gives instructions to Utterson but he still doesn’t explain what kind of change he has found in his master. He leads Utterson and builds his suspense just like we are being led blindly through the story. Stevenson often uses his characters in this way, to guide the revelation of truths for their fellow characters.
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Utterson notices that Jekyll’s voice is changed, and Poole comments that it is not merely changed but a different person altogether. He believes that his master was “made away with” eight days ago. Utterson has not dared to think such a thing. He sees no reason why, if such a thing were true, the man who murdered Jekyll would then stay in Jekyll’s study. Poole explains that the man has been shut away in the study and has been crying out for medicines, throwing out orders for various concoctions.
The possibilities of what caused Jekyll’s changed voice and changed behavior are many, and Poole grasps for a reasonable explanation. Poole’s language is vague, leaving Utterson’s imagination to go through all the possibilities of the phrase “made away with”.
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Poole has been supplying him with ingredients from the pharmacy but each time, he has been unsatisfied with the results of the drugs. Poole shows Utterson an example of one of these notes, in which the man on behalf of Dr. Jekyll complains to the pharmacist that the substance recently purchased from the pharmacy is impure. Utterson wonders why Poole has opened this letter and Poole explains that it had very much offended the pharmacist and had been thrown back at him.
Though the activities of Hyde have been unnaturally grotesque, the presence of medicines, instruments of science and chemicals around the story has given a background of reason and legitimacy. Now that these chemicals are being found “impure”, the supernatural side begins to reign.
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Utterson sees that the handwriting is identical to Dr. Jekyll’s, and Poole says they need not even look at that evidence—he says he has seen the murderer with his own eyes, outside the operating theatre, rummaging around, and that the man then scurried off when he saw Poole approach. Poole doesn’t see any other explanation than that Hyde has murdered Jekyll, but Utterson entertains the idea that Jekyll is overcome with a strange disease, which makes him weary of even his most familiar friends and has changed him physically too.
Utterson and Poole attempt to explain Jekyll’s change in terms they can understand. They are left with few options though and evidence is scarce. Poole’s explanation leads only to murder and Utterson’s leads to madness. Poole’s explanation however at least touches on the anguish that Jekyll has gone through, whereas Utterson seems to be avoiding this idea fearfully.
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Utterson speaks with hope, but Poole is certain – even in their brief encounter, he saw that this person was of completely different stature from Jekyll. He implores Utterson to believe that he would know his own master if he saw him. Utterson promises to find out, despite the evidence to the contrary. They decide that they will both enter together. Poole chooses an axe for himself and gives Utterson a poker.
Poole is another one of the characters who is trying to desperately hang on to reason and rationally explain what is going on. It does not occur to him that the nature of the world could surprise him.
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Utterson makes clear to Poole that they are about to put themselves in grave danger. Because of this, Utterson wants them to be honest with each other. He knows they are both hiding their suspicions. Poole admits that he did recognize the man he saw—it was Mr. Hyde. He explains that Mr. Hyde is the only person other than Jekyll who enters the laboratory and adds Hyde has always given him an unmistakable, though unexplainable, a cold horrible feeling. Poole knows that this description is not the usual kind of evidence, but that he trusts his senses. Utterson admits that he knows exactly what Poole means, and has been convinced that Jekyll has been murdered by something evil.
Here Utterson breaks the silence and admits the condition that has been affecting his society: denial. He asks Poole to be honest with him and the pair expose their suspicions to each other. The relief that they both feel in the common knowledge that Hyde is the mysterious man that they’ve been referring to is enough to bond them in a common cause.
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Utterson calls in Bradshaw, a footman of Jekyll's, and asks him to stand on guard outside the lab, while he and Poole attempt an ambush. They wait, listening to the nearby footfalls of their suspect. Poole says that this pacing is constant. It only stops when they have another delivery from the chemist. He asks Utterson if it sounds like Jekyll’s footfall. Utterson realizes that it does not. Poole also says that he once heard "the creature" weeping, a sound so tragic that it made him want to cry too.
Utterson and Poole prepare themselves to face a traditional criminal. The pair delay breaking in, and instead wait and listen to the repetitive sound of Jekyll’s footsteps. They torture themselves by waiting and listening in this way, but they prefer suspense to a revelation of something they can’t cope with.
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Utterson now shouts out to Jekyll that he demands to see him, and that he will enter by force if he has to. The changed voice pleads mercy. Utterson hears that the voice is Hyde's and orders Poole to break down the door. Poole strikes with his axe. It takes him five hefty strikes to get through. They are greeted by a strangely peaceful sight, an empty study, neatly arranged, but in the middle of it is the body of a man, still twitching from something. Utterson turns the body over—it is Hyde, but dressed in Jekyll’s larger clothes. Utterson realizes that Hyde has killed himself.
By following Utterson’s perspective in this account and only being privy to the extent of his knowledge, we see how he judges what he sees before he has any evidence for that judgment. He sees the body of Hyde on the floor, convulsing, and he assumes that Hyde has committed suicide. He always follows reason, but there is a suggestion that, in reality, perhaps he focuses on reason in order to avoid facing the stranger clues before him.
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They now go looking for Jekyll’s body. They search the entire laboratory building, but find nothing. Poole thinks that Jekyll’s body must instead be buried somewhere. Utterson entertains the idea that Jekyll may have somehow escaped, but finds the door locked and the key broken on the floor.
This is a perfect example of the characters scrambling for a reasonable explanation. But each new reasonable suggestion turns out not to be correct, and reason itself comes to seem insufficient.
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As they continue to search for Jekyll, they find leftover substances from unfinished experiments, which Poole recognizes as the same chemical substance that he was made to order from the chemist’s. Suddenly, a teakettle boils over and shifts their attention to the fireplace, where a tea set sits and beside it one of Jekyll’s religious books, annotated with “startling blasphemies”.
The set-up of each scene is designed very carefully by Stevenson for maximum symbolic effect. Here, the traditional innocence of a tea set and a fireplace adds to the violent contrast already in play between objects of religion and science that populate Jekyll’s room.
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They examine Jekyll’s desk and find a letter addressed to Utterson. Inside are several documents, including another will, much like the previous one but this time with Utterson’s name in place of Hyde’s. Utterson is astonished that Hyde has not destroyed this document. He finds another document, with that day's date, written in Jekyll’s handwriting. Surely, Utterson thinks, this means that Jekyll is still alive. He now doubts that Hyde committed suicide, and thinks instead that Jekyll must have killed him. Poole asks Utterson why he hesitates in reading the document, and Utterson says he is scared though he doesn’t know why.
The truth of the mystery lies behind layers of documents, seals and conditions that pass the responsibility from one man to another. Now Utterson holds these explanations in his hands, at liberty to find out their confession, but he hesitates. His fear is typical of the fear of the society Stevenson describes. The truth is a scary thing and Utterson instinctively shies away from it.
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Utterson reads the letter. Jekyll writes that if Utterson is reading these words it means that he, Jekyll, has disappeared somehow. Jekyll writes that now is the time for Utterson to read the letter that Lanyon gave him as well as Jekyll's own confession. Utterson finds the confession among the papers in Jekyll's letter, and instructs Poole not to tell anyone about any of this. He decides to go home to read Lanyon's letter and Jekyll's confession, and promises Poole that he will be back before midnight.
We have heard several times the threat that a document must only be read in the event of someone’s death or disappearance – this unread information has been lurking behind everything and now it is finally being revealed. In this moment of revelation, though, Utterson turns once again to secret-keeping, going to a private place to read the contents of the letters, and in so doing allowing himself to control the information and perhaps protect his friend's reputation.
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