Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon
Innocence and Violence Theme Icon
Bachelorhood and Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon

Much of the suspense associated with the mysteries of the novel are suspenseful solely because they are deliberately kept secret or repressed by the characters. The novel's secrets come out in spits and spurts. Enfield shares his story with Utterson, but he is only persuaded to share Hyde’s name at the end. Utterson, upon hearing Hyde's name, does not reveal that he has heard it before, in Jekyll's will. From that point on, most of the story’s revelations are made not through conversation between characters but rather through a sequence of letters and documents, addressed, sealed and enclosed in safes, so that they need to be put together like a puzzle at the end. The dependence on these sheets of paper for the unraveling of the mystery creates a sense of silence and isolation about each character, and leaves the reader not really sure how much we have been allowed in to the intimacies of their minds. Each man seems to be isolated from every other, and there is a sense that this masculine world has been hushed by the need to maintain social reputation. The men avoid gossip, seem almost to avoid speaking completely about anything of substance, and while many of the men describe themselves as friends, their relationships are most defined by the things they keep secret from each other. There are many occasions in which one man will start to talk and then silence himself and keep the remainder, often the most important or personal detail, to himself. The weight of unsaid information is heavy.

Jekyll's actions suggest the possible outcome of such self-repression. He ultimately feels compelled to find a secret outlet for the urges he cannot share—Mr. Hyde. Through Mr. Hyde, Jekyll believes he can maintain his reputation while enjoying his darker urges, but Hyde's takeover of Jekyll suggests that repression only strengthens that which is repressed, puts it under higher pressure so that it explodes.

Reputation, Secrecy and Repression ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Reputation, Secrecy and Repression appears in each chapter of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Quotes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Below you will find the important quotes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde related to the theme of Reputation, Secrecy and Repression.
Chapter 1 Quotes

"I feel very strongly about putting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment. You start a question, and it's like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others…”

Related Characters: Mr. Enfield (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first chapter of the novel, Mr. Enfield proceeds to tell Mr. Utterson about his impressions of a mysterious, violent man named Mr. Hyde. Enfield has had some limited interactions with Mr. Hyde, but he's very reluctant to talk about them--indeed, he protests to Utterson that to answer questions about Hyde is a "slippery slope." Enfield would prefer to ignore Mr. Hyde and Hyde's violent behavior altogether.

Right away, Stevenson suggests that Enfield and Utterson are repressed and reserved--in short, they're stereotypical Victorian gentlemen. Rather than root out evil and violence in their society, they'd prefer to sweep it under the rug. This theme of repression and secrecy is crucial to the novel, as Stevenson draws an important connection between Dr. Jekyll's own repressed evil and Jekyll's friends' willingness to repress their knowledge of Jekyll's evil. In such a way, Stevenson could be said to criticize the repressive Victorian society that allows evil to survive as long as it's just out of sight.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

"Poor Harry Jekyll," he thought, "my mind misgives me he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace…”

Related Characters: Mr. Gabriel Utterson (speaker), Dr. Jekyll
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Utterson has known Dr. Jekyll for many years, and he's even aware that when Jekyll was a younger man, he he used to get in trouble. Utterson wonders if Jekyll's current behavior (unpredictable and untrustworthy) might have something to do with the sins of his youth.

Notably, Utterson claims that sin has no "statue of limitations"--in other words, the sins of Jekylll's past will stay with him forever. Over the course of the novel, Utterson's words will prove correct: Hyde is the very embodiment of Jekyll's dark, secret nature, proof that all human beings contain deep, sinful secrets which they try, and fail, to repress.

Chapter 3 Quotes

The large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes. "I do not care to hear more," said he. "This is a matter I thought we had agreed to drop."

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Gabriel Utterson
Related Symbols: The Appearance of Evil
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Mr. Utterson brings up Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll. Instead of talking about the matter, Jekyll replies that he refuses to discuss Hyde in any capacity. Utterson is surprised by Jekyll's reaction, since Utterson is one of Jekyll's oldest friends.

Jekyll's behavior--i.e., his refusal to discuss his secrets--is indicative of the repressive, stuffy atmosphere of Jekyll's society: Victorian society in general, but particular his circle of bachelor friends and acquaintances. Like his friends, Jekyll refuses to disclose his sins, or even to allude to them. And yet even here, when Jekyll hasn't ingested any of the potion that transforms him into Hyde, Utterson can see some "blackness" in Jekyll. It's as if Jekyll's secret, sinful nature is struggling desperately to get out, affecting even his physical appearance.

Chapter 5 Quotes

"I cannot say that I care what becomes of Hyde; I am quite done with him. I was thinking of my own character, which this hateful business has rather exposed."

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker), Mr. Hyde
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Dr. Jekyll insists that he is "done" with Mr. Hyde. Although Utterson doesn't know it at the time, Jekyll is saying that he'll never drink his potion again--from now on, he'll keep the "Mr. Hyde side" of his personality concealed. Jekyll makes a subtle pun on the word "exposed." Unbeknownst to Utterson, Jekyll's experience in Hyde's shoes has, quite literally, exposed Jekyll's moral character: it has literalized the secret wickedness that's been hiding in Jekyll's soul for years.

Jekyll's comments raise an interesting question: is Jekyll morally responsible for Hyde's actions? It's important to remember that Dr. Jekyll's personality encompasses Mr. Hyde: even now, as Dr. Jekyll speaks to Utterson, Hyde is within him. So even though Jekyll claims that he's done with Hyde, we'll come to see that Jekyll can never be truly "done." Jekyll will always have a secret dark side--the only question is whether or not Jekyll will be able to keep this side of his soul under control, or whether it will take over his more "civilized" self.

Chapter 6 Quotes

The death of Sir Danvers was, to his way of thinking, more than paid for by the disappearance of Mr. Hyde. Now that that evil influence had been withdrawn, a new life began for Dr. Jekyll. He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar guest and entertainer…

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

After the death of Sir Danvers, Dr. Jekyll begins to change his ways. Instead of being unreliable and constantly secluded, he becomes outgoing and social once more (unbeknownst to Utterson, Jekyll has become social again because he's not transformed into Hyde half the time).

Jekyll is operating under the naive belief that he can control Hyde forever, or just quit him "cold turkey." Jekyll is so confident that the good, rational part of his soul is in control that he surrounds himself with friends and well-wishers again as if nothing happened. In reality, Mr. Hyde hasn't gone away at all--on the contrary, Hyde is lurking just below the surface, waiting for the right time to strike. As we've heard, sin has no statute of limitations--once Mr. Hyde, always Mr. Hyde.

"I have had a shock," he said, "and I shall never recover. It is a question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it. I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away."

Related Characters: Dr. Hastie Lanyon (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Utterson speaks with Dr. Lanyon. Lanyon has had a horrible shock, and senses that he is going to die very soon (suspend your disbelief, okay?). Lanyon seems unafraid of death--in fact, he implies that he's glad to be at the end of his life, since he's come upon some important and disturbing information recently.

What Lanyon doesn't say (and what we don't know yet) is that he's discovered Dr. Jekyll's secret: Jekyll is Mr. Hyde. Lanyon has accidentally stumbled upon the secret that Jekyll was hiding, and now that he's aware of the truth, he can't bear to live any longer. Lanyon's observation about "knowing all" reinforces the novel's themes of repression and secrecy, suggesting that human happiness hinges on our ignorance of the world around us, and of ourselves. Inside each one of us lurks a Mr. Hyde--once we become aware of such a thing (as Lanyon must be), it becomes difficult to go on living normally, or living at all. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

The middle one of the three windows was half-way open; and sitting close beside it, taking the air with an infinite sadness of mien, like some disconsolate prisoner, Utterson saw Dr. Jekyll.

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Gabriel Utterson
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Utterson notices Dr. Jekyll sitting in his laboratory. Jekyll seems sad, almost like a prisoner, although Utterson isn't yet aware of the truth. In reality, Dr. Jekyll has become something like a prisoner: after months of drinking his potion, he's unable to control when and where Mr. Hyde rears his ugly head, and as a result, he's forced to sit indoors, lest Mr. Hyde be seen and arrested for his crimes.

The image of Jekyll trapped inside a prison-like building is evocative of the changing relationship between Jekyll and Hyde. At first, Hyde was the prisoner, trapped within the "prison" of Dr. Jekyll's good nature and proper manners. But now, Jekyll is the prisoner, a slave to his own sinful drives. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

"O, sir," cried Poole, "do you think I do not know my master after twenty years? Do you think I do not know where his head comes to in the cabinet door, where I saw him every morning of my life? No, sir, that thing in the mask was never Dr. Jekyll--God knows what it was, but it was never Dr. Jekyll; and it is the belief of my heart that there was murder done."

Related Characters: Poole (speaker), Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Poole, Dr. Jekyll's old, faithful servant, insists that the figure locked in Dr. Jekyll's study isn't actually Dr. Jekyll at all. Poole has known Jekyll for 20 years, and can clearly tell that the Jekyll he knows is no longer present in the house. Poole's solution to the mystery of Jekyll's disappearance is that someone has murdered Jekyll and taken his place. But as we'll soon discover, the truth is far more disturbing. In reality, Jekyll's own hidden nature has consumed him: he has meddled with science and been punished for his experimentation with an awful curse. Mr. Hyde has finally triumphed over Jekyll: in other words, the evil side of Jekyll's soul has dominated the good.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“Think of me at this hour, in a strange place, labouring under a blackness of distress that no fancy can exaggerate, and yet well aware that, if you will but punctually serve me, my troubles will roll away like a story that is told. Serve me, my dear Lanyon and save

Your friend, H.J.”

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

In this long letter, Dr. Jekyll--who, we'll see, has been transformed into Mr. Hyde unexpectedly--begs his old friend Dr. Lanyon to go into his house, obtain some chemicals and test tubes, and bring them to Mr. Hyde so that Hyde can have a way of transforming back into Jekyll and avoiding arrest.

It's important to note that Dr. Jekyll himself doesn't say anything about why he needs Lanyon to follow his instructions--instead of explaining himself, he invokes his long, close friendship with Lanyon. Furthermore, Lanyon complies with Jekyll's wishes, recognizing that their friendship is more than enough reason to obey. Jekyll's letter is important because it clarifies the relationship between good, evil, and trust. As Lanyon has said (see quotes above), the truth is often too horrible to bear--therefore, there are times when truth must be concealed or repressed, as we often see with the characters of this novel. It's precisely because the truth must be concealed that friendship and trust are so important--because Lanyon has been friends with Jekyll for a long time, he goes along with Jekyll's requests, no questions asked.

"Lanyon, you remember your vows: what follows is under the seal of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors--behold!"

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Mr. Hyde meets up with Dr. Lanyon and drinks the potion that Dr. Jekyll has sent Lanyon to deliver. As Hyde drinks the potion, he urges Lanyon to "behold" his transformation from Hyde back to Jekyll.

Jekyll's interaction with Lanyon in this passage reflects the differences in their approaches to science. Lanyon, we sense, has always refused to experiment with "transcendental medicine" (something Stevenson never really explains, except that it's scary and radical) because he finds it evil. Jekyll, on the other hand, has been more willing to take risks with science--as a result, he's been brave enough to stumble upon the secret of Mr. Hyde. Jekyll's behavior in this scene confirms his status as a tragic hero--a figure whose rather arrogant desire for knowledge and greatness has led him to great pain and suffering, almost as if he's being punished by the gods for reaching above his station. Jekyll has made a great scientific discovery, but at a great price--he's sacrificed his self-control and fallen into a state of uncontrollable sin.

What he told me in the next hour, I cannot bring my mind to
set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard, and my soul
sickened at it; and yet now when that sight has faded from my
eyes, I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer.

Related Characters: Dr. Hastie Lanyon (speaker), Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Lanyon has just witnessed Mr. Hyde drink a potion and transform into Dr. Jekyll. Now that Dr. Jekyll has regained his true form, he tells Lanyon about the scientific discovery he's made: a discovery that allows him to turn into Mr. Hyde. Lanyon writes that he can't bring himself to write what Jekyll tells him next--presumably, Lanyon is going to hear about Dr. Jekyll's "career" as Mr. Hyde.

It's strange that even after Dr. Lanyon has seen first-hand evidence of the success of Dr. Jekyll's scientific discoveries, he continues to feel "sickened" by Jekyll. One could say that while Dr. Jekyll is the better scientist, Dr. Lanyon is the better human being. Lanyon instinctively avoids scientific discoveries that lead to evil, while Dr. Jekyll bravely (and recklessly) pursues his scientific research, leading him to transform into Mr. Hyde.

Chapter 10 Quotes

I am careless; this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns another than myself. Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

At the very end of the novel, Dr. Jekyll senses that he is losing control of his spirit. He transforms into Mr. Hyde more and more frequently and unexpectedly--eventually, Jekyll predicts, he'll be Mr. Hyde all the time. In a way, Jekyll writes, his life is coming to an end: he'll still live as Mr. Hyde, but his life as Dr. Jekyll is ending forever.

As we look back on the totality of Dr. Jekyll's life, we see that Dr. Jekyll meddled with evil and lost. Jekyll believed that he was pure and good enough to keep his evil under strict control. In reality, however, nobody is good enough to control their own evil nature. By flirting with violence and cruelty, Jekyll unleashed a force so powerful that by the end, it dominated his existence. Stevenson portrays evil (through Mr. Hyde) as an unquenchable appetite; an indestructible, constantly growing force of nature.

In all, the passage suggests that Stevenson's novel is a cautionary tale. Dr. Jekyll has meddled with forbidden, sinful knowledge, and gotten his comeuppance for doing so.