In the first chapter, Enfield and Utterson pause on their walk to examine the door to Hyde’s house, and the narrative offers up some stark visual imagery:
[...] a certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. It [...] bore in every feature the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. [...] Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had tried his knife on the moldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages.
In his description of Hyde’s building, Stevenson goes to great lengths to depict a rundown, dilapidated house surrounded by figures of poverty and iniquity. The pointed lack of care for the house over time, despite its apparent occupation, stands out in particular. “For close on a generation,” its tenants or owners have allowed it to go unrepaired and have permitted interlopers and criminals to linger and deface the building.
The immediate effect of this imagery is a sense of dread and illicit danger. Hyde’s house is the visual manifestation of all that Victorian England would like to cordon off and hide (poverty, moral decay, and urban chaos).
En route to Mr. Hyde’s secret house in Soho, a neighborhood known at this time for its criminality, Mr. Utterson observes an early morning fog settling over the district early on in Chapter 4, describing this mist with vivid imagery:
A great chocolate covered pall lowered over heaven [...] as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr. Utterson beheld a marvelous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the back end of evening; there it would be the glow of a rich, lurid brown [...]. The dismal quarter of Soho [...] seemed, in the lawyer’s eyes, like a district of some city in a nightmare.
Here, Stevenson meaningfully evokes an atmosphere of gloom, fear, and confusion as Utterson moves closer and closer to Hyde. Stevenson’s depiction of this morning in London is dreamlike, frightening, and classically Gothic. The fog plunges the city into darkness, even early in the day, making otherwise recognizable neighborhoods impossible to identify. That this mist’s appearance coincides with Utterson’s trip to Hyde’s house lends a sense of tension to the narrative. In order to enter Hyde’s home, Utterson must make the descent with the police officer into deeper and deeper physical and spiritual darkness, blind to what could be playing out around them.
The rich visual imagery in this paragraph also references the symbolic role of fog or mist in the text as the marker of hidden or forbidden knowledge. This thick fog mirrors the mist of Utterson’s dream earlier in the text, in which he traverses a labyrinth before meeting with Hyde himself. It also recalls the fog that falls after Carew’s murder, as Hyde takes refuge once again in Jekyll. The fog’s presence denotes this neighborhood as a center or hub of secret and illicit activity.