Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde By Robert Louis Stevenson Summary and Analysis Chapter 2 - Search for Mr. Hyde

Summary

That evening, instead of coming home and ending the day with supper and "a volume of some dry divinity," Mr. Utterson (the lawyer) eats, and then he takes a candle and goes into his business room.

There, he opens a safe and takes out the will of Dr. Henry Jekyll. He ponders over it for a long time. The terms of the will stipulate that all of the doctor's possessions are "to pass into the hands of his friend and benefactor Edward Hyde" in case of — and this phrase, in particular, troubles Utterson — "Dr. Jekyll's 'disappearance or unexplained absence.'" Utterson realizes that, in essence, the will allows Edward Hyde to, in theory, "step into Dr. Jekyll's shoes . . . free from any burden or obligation." Utterson feels troubled and uneasy. The terms of the will offend his sense of propriety; he is "a lover of the sane and customary sides of life." Until now, Dr. Jekyll's will has seemed merely irregular and fanciful. Since Utterson's talk with Enfield, however, the name of Edward Hyde has taken on new and ominous connotations. Blowing out his candle, Utterson puts on his greatcoat and sets out for the home of a well-known London physician, Dr. Lanyon. Perhaps Lanyon can explain Dr. Jekyll's relationship to this fiendish Hyde person.

Dr. Lanyon is having a glass of wine when Utterson arrives, and he greets his old friend warmly; the two men have been close ever since they were in school and college together. They talk easily for awhile, and then Utterson remarks that Lanyon and he are probably "the two oldest friends that Henry Jekyll has." Lanyon replies that he himself hasn't seen much of Jekyll for ten years, ever since Jekyll "became too fanciful . . . wrong in mind." Utterson inquires about Edward Hyde, but Lanyon has never heard of the man. Thus, Utterson returns home, but he is uneasy; his dreams that night are more like nightmares, inhabited by Hyde's sense of evil and by a screaming, crushed child. Why, he frets, would Jekyll have such a man as Hyde as his beneficiary?

Utterson begins watching "the door" in the mornings, at noon, at night, and "at all hours of solitude." He must see this detestable man for himself. At last, Mr. Hyde appears. Utterson hears "odd, light footsteps drawing near," and when Hyde rounds the corner, Utterson steps up and, just as Hyde is inserting his key, Utterson asks, "Mr. Hyde, I think?"

Hyde shrinks back with a "hissing intake of breath." Then he collects his cool veneer: "That is my name. What do you want?" Utterson explains that he is an old friend of Dr. Jekyll's, and Hyde coldly tells him that Jekyll is away. Utterson asks to see Hyde's face clearly, and Hyde consents if Utterson will explain how he knew him. "We have common friends," Utterson says. Hyde is not convinced, and with a snarling, savage laugh, he accuses Utterson of lying. Then, with a sudden jerk, he unlocks the door and disappears inside.

The lawyer is stunned by Hyde's behavior. Enfield was right; Hyde does have a sense of "deformity . . . a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness." Utterson realizes that until now he has never felt such loathing; the man seemed "hardly human." He fears for the life of his old friend Dr. Jekyll because he feels sure that he has read "Satan's signature on the face of Edward Hyde."

Sadly, Utterson goes around the corner and knocks at the second house in the block. The door is opened by Poole, Dr. Jekyll's elderly servant, who takes the lawyer in to wait by the fire. Utterson surveys the room, "the pleasantest room in London." But the face of Hyde poisons his thoughts, and he is suddenly filled with nausea and uneasiness. Poole returns and says that Jekyll is out. Utterson questions him about Hyde's having a key to "the old dissecting room." Poole replies that nothing is amiss: "Mr. Hyde has a key." Furthermore, he says, "we have all orders to obey him."

After Utterson leaves, he is stunned; he is absolutely convinced that his old friend Jekyll "is in deep waters"; perhaps the doctor is being haunted by "the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace." His thoughts return again to Mr. Hyde; he is positive that Hyde has "secrets of his own — black secrets." He must warn Jekyll; he feels that if Hyde knew the contents of Jekyll's will, he would not hesitate to murder the good doctor.

Analysis

At the end of Chapter 1, Stevenson suggests that Utterson knows more about Enfield's story than he is willing to admit. Remember that one of Utterson's qualities is his ability to keep strict confidences and remain always an honorable gentleman, even when indiscretion (such as opening Lanyon's letter prematurely) seems wise.

Now, in Chapter 2, we are given Utterson's own private narration, in which we discover that he is not only a close friend to Dr. Henry Jekyll, but he is also the executor of Jekyll's will. Thus, when Utterson returns once again to Jekyll's strange will and finds that all of his property under any circumstance is to be left to Edward Hyde, we now realize why Utterson was so fascinated with Enfield's narration.

In the first Chapter, we were only distantly involved with Hyde. But now that we know that Hyde will be the sole inheritor of Dr. Jekyll's large estate, and as Utterson's fears increase, so do ours. In such a mystery story, the reader is expected to wonder about the possibility of Hyde's blackmailing Dr. Jekyll. Since we trust Utterson, who has a great fear for Jekyll, our own fears are also heightened.

When Utterson visits Hastie Lanyon, who was once Jekyll's closest friend (along with Utterson), and we hear that Lanyon has not seen Jekyll since Jekyll first advanced some very strange and "unscientific" theories, we then have our first hint that the mysterious Dr. Jekyll is involved in some sort of unacceptable or advanced medical practice — at least from the viewpoint of such a traditionalist as Lanyon. The exact nature of Jekyll's practice will not be revealed until the final Chapter.

The most important scene in this Chapter is Mr. Utterson's direct encounter with Edward Hyde. Note that even the staid Utterson will pun on Hyde's name: "If he be Mr. Hyde . . . I shall be Mr. Seek." And throughout the novel, the upright Mr. Utterson will seek to discover Mr. Hyde, who is the hidden, evil part of Dr. Jekyll. This Chapter begins the search because it was only with great effort and great diligence (standing watch by "the door" day and night until Hyde finally appeared) and at a sacrifice of his other duties, that Utterson was able to talk with Hyde. This must show both an affection for Jekyll and a fear of Hyde.

Beginning with the previous Chapter and at the end of this Chapter, when Utterson is so deeply troubled, he begins to suspect Hyde of all sorts of things. And since Utterson speaks for the readers, we also begin to suspect Hyde of many things. Among the possibilities that Mr. Utterson entertains is the possibility that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll. And before we know who Hyde really is, we suspect that he is doing all sorts of evil things: He might be a blackmailer, a forger, a potential murderer (and later, an actual murderer), a sadist, a man capable of committing any act of violence, a man of all sorts of unmentionable, unscrupulous conduct — in other words, a thoroughly evil man. In fact, Hyde is all of these, but what we never suspect is that he is also a part of Dr. Jekyll.

Mr. Utterson's opinion of Hyde conforms essentially to Enfield's view of Hyde. Utterson also sees him as "dwarfish," and he says that Hyde "gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation." For some unexplained reason, Utterson regards Hyde with a "hitherto unknown disgust, loathing, and fear." It is as though he is able "to read Satan's signature upon a face." Later that night, the thought of Hyde causes a "nausea and distaste of life."

If we now examine the actions of Hyde, we will see that in the first Chapter, he knocked a girl down without any twinge of guilt. He made no deliberate attempt to harm the girl — there was no deliberate maliciousness or cruelty. Stevenson uses the phrase "like a Juggernaut," a word which suggests that Hyde's action was one of complete indifference — not an evil-conceived, satanic act. In fact, Hyde stood by and took (or assumed) complete responsibility for his actions and made recompense fully commensurate with his cruel act.

Yet, however, his very presence and appearance arouse a sense of absolute evil in the beholder. In other words, Hyde is the type of person who evokes the worst in the beholder and causes the beholder to want to commit some type of horrible crime — even murder. Stevenson seems to be saying that Hyde is a part of all people, and the very sight of Hyde brings out the worst in us; therefore, we want to kill and reject that evil part of our nature, as Dr. Jekyll will attempt to do. As we will see later, the mere sight of Hyde and the realization of the evil he represents will kill Lanyon, and we must assume that before Utterson knows who Hyde really is, that the man has the most disturbing effect on Utterson's life of anything he has ever encountered. And remember that the first Chapter announced that Utterson was one who was given to tolerance; he was a person slow to judge other people for their vices. But just as Jekyll will find out that he cannot reject a part of himself, Stevenson seems to suggest that his readers, while being repulsed by Hyde, can never fully reject the Hyde aspect of their natures.

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