The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a Gothic novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886. It is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson investigating strange events between his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde.
The novel has made such an impact that it became part of the common language with the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” entering the vernacular to refer to people with an unpredictable dual nature: generally very good, but sometimes surprisingly evil.
Summary and Synopsis
Gabriel John Utterson and his cousin Richard Enfield arrive at the door of a large house on their usual weekly walk. Enfield tells Utterson that months ago he saw a sinister-looking man named Edward Hyde trample on a young woman after accidentally bumping into her. Enfield forced Hyde to pay £ 100 to avoid a scandal.
Hyde brought them to this door and provided them with a check signed by a reputable gentleman (it was later revealed to be Dr. Henry Jekyll, a friend and client of Utterson). He is concerned that Jekyll recently changed his will to make Hyde the sole beneficiary. Utterson fears that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll. When he tries to talk about Hyde with Jekyll, Jekyll turns pale and asks him to be left alone.
One night in October, a servant sees Hyde beat Sir Danvers Carew, another of Utterson’s clients, to death. Police contact Utterson, who drives officers to Hyde’s department. But he has disappeared, however they find half a broken walking stick (the other half has been left at the crime scene).
Utterson recognizes the cane as one he had given Jekyll. Utterson visits him and he shows him a note, supposedly written to Jekyll by Hyde, apologizing for the problems he has caused. However, Hyde’s handwriting is similar to Jekyll’s, leading Utterson to conclude that Jekyll forged the note to protect Hyde.
For two months, Jekyll returns to his old sociable attitude, but in early January, he begins to refuse visits. Dr. Hastie Lanyon, a mutual acquaintance of Jekyll and Utterson, dies surprisingly after receiving information related to Jekyll. Before his death, Lanyon gives Utterson a letter to open after Jekyll’s death or disappearance. In late February, during another walk with Enfield, Utterson begins a conversation with Jekyll at a window in his laboratory. Jekyll suddenly closes the window and disappears.
In early March, Jekyll’s butler, Mr. Poole, visits Utterson and says that Jekyll has been in his laboratory for weeks. Utterson and Poole enter the laboratory, where they find Hyde in Jekyll’s clothes and apparently killed by suicide. They find a letter from Jekyll to Utterson. Utterson reads Lanyon’s letter, then Jekyll’s. Lanyon’s letter reveals that his deterioration was the result of the shock of seeing Hyde drink a serum that made him Jekyll.
Jekyll’s letter explains that he had indulged in undeclared vices and feared he would be discovered. He found a way to transform himself and thus indulge his vices without fear of being detected. Jekyll’s transformed personality, Hyde, was evil, self-indulgent, and indifferent to no one but himself. Initially, Jekyll controlled the transformations with the serum, but one night in August, he unintentionally became Hyde in his sleep.
Jekyll decided to stop becoming Hyde. One night, she had a moment of weakness and drank the serum. Hyde, furious at having been caged for so long, killed Carew. Horrified, Jekyll tried more firmly to stop the transformations. Then, in early January, he unintentionally transformed while awake. Away from his laboratory and chased by the police as a murderer, Hyde needed help to avoid being captured.
He wrote to Lanyon (in Jekyll’s hand), asking his friend to bring chemicals from his laboratory. In Lanyon’s presence, Hyde mixed the chemicals, drank the serum, and transformed into Jekyll. The impact of the transformation instigated Lanyon’s decline and death. Meanwhile, Jekyll’s involuntary transformations increased in frequency and required increasing doses of serum to reverse. It was one of these transformations that caused Jekyll to close his window on Enfield and Utterson.
Eventually, one of the chemicals used in the serum ran out, and subsequent batches prepared from new stocks did not work. Jekyll speculated that one of the original ingredients must have some unknown impurity to make it work. Realizing that he would remain transformed as Hyde, Jekyll decided to write his “confession.” He ended the letter by writing: “I end the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll.” With these words, both the document and the novel come to an end.
Genre: Gothic novel
It is a combination of a gothic novel with a detective novel. Its main plot is permeated by the mystery and anguish that the protagonist suffers trying to decipher what is happening with Jekyll and Hyde, due to their strange relationship.
Her very strange and disturbing events also fit her into the subgenre of the detective story, as she follows the discovery of various crimes and the investigation that tries to find those responsible for those crimes.
- Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde: Dr. Jekyll is a “big, well-built man with a smooth face and fifty years with something of a cunning cast”, who occasionally feels that he is fighting between good and evil within himself, leading to the fight between their dual personalities of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. He has spent much of his life trying to suppress evil impulses that were not appropriate for a man like him. Jekyll has many friends and a kind personality, but like Hyde, he becomes mysterious and violent. As time passes, Hyde grows in power.
- Gabriel John Utterson: Lawyer and close friend of Jekyll and Lanyon for many years, is the main character in the story. Utterson is a measured and at all times emotionless bachelor, yet he seems credible, trustworthy, tolerant of the faults of others, and indeed genuinely likable.
- Richard Enfield: is a cousin of Utterson and is a well-known “man of the city”. The first time he sees Hyde is around three in the morning in an episode that is well documented when Hyde is stepping on a girl.
- Dr. Hastie Lanyon: Jekyll’s longtime friend, disagrees with Jekyll’s “scientific” concepts, which Lanyon describes as “too imaginative.” He is the first person to discover Hyde’s true identity.
The novel is often interpreted as an examination of the duality of human nature, generally expressed as an internal struggle between good and evil, with variations such as human against animal, civilization against barbarism, this tension being the impulse main for an essential internal struggle. Both sides collide a lot fighting to excel and the fact of not accepting this tension results in evil, or barbarism, or animal violence, that is projected on the others.