Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde By Robert Louis Stevenson Summary and Analysis Chapter 4 - The Carew Murder Case

Summary

This Chapter begins almost a year later and recounts the details of the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, a well-known and highly respected London gentleman. Carew was murdered near midnight on a foggy, full-moon night in October, and his murder was witnessed by a maid who worked and lived in a house not far from the Thames. That night, she went upstairs to bed about eleven o'clock and, because the night was so mysteriously romantic, she sat gazing out of her bedroom window for a time, "in a dream of musing." Never, she tells the police, had she felt happier and more at peace with the world.

Ironically, her mood of languid revery is broken, for as she gazes down beneath her window, she recognizes the "small" figure of Mr. Hyde, a man who had once visited her master and for whom she had immediately taken an instant dislike. From her window that October night, the woman saw the detestable Mr. Hyde meet "an aged and beautiful gentleman with white hair"; then suddenly, after a few words, Mr. Hyde lifted his heavy walking stick and clubbed the old gentleman to death. Indeed, the blows which he struck were so thunderous that "bones were audibly shattered," and then, "with ape-like fury," Hyde trampled the old gentleman underfoot. At the horror of what she saw, the maid suddenly fainted.

When the police arrive on the scene, they find no identification on the body, and they are puzzled that neither the victim's gold watch nor his wallet was taken. The only bit of evidence they discover concerning the man's identity is a sealed envelope addressed to Mr. Utterson. Thus, they call Utterson, and he is able to identify the corpse. The police are visibly stunned. "This will make a deal of noise," they comment, meaning that the case will draw a lot of publicity because Sir Danvers was such a well-known figure in London society and politics.

When Utterson is shown the murder weapon, he recognizes it immediately. It is the battered half of a walking cane which he gave Dr. Jekyll many years ago. He reflects for a moment and then tells the police officer to come with him; he can lead them to the murderer's quarters.

On the way to Hyde's apartment, the narrator describes in much detail the "chocolate-colored wreaths" of fog that they drive through on their way to "the dismal quarter" where Hyde lives. This district, says the narrator, seems "like a district of some city in a nightmare." Yet this is where Edward Hyde, heir to Jekyll's quarter of a million pounds, lives.

The woman who answers their knock tells them that Hyde is not at home; in fact, last night was the first night that he had been home in nearly two months; "his habits were very irregular." When Utterson introduces the officer as being from Scotland Yard, he is sure that the old silver-haired woman seems almost to relish the prospect of Hyde's being in trouble. They search Hyde's apartment and immediately see that Hyde left in a hurry. Clothes are thrown here and there, drawers are pulled out, and on the hearth is a pile of grey ashes.

The inspector stirs the embers and finds half of a checkbook. Behind a door, he also discovers the other half of the murder weapon, the heavy walking stick.

Delighted with what he has found, the inspector and Utterson visit Hyde's bank and ascertain that Hyde's account contains several thousand pounds. The officer is sure that Hyde can be captured now because "money's life to the man." All he has to do now, he says, is post handbills with Hyde's picture and a description of the man. However, this proves to be an almost impossible task because Hyde has no family, and seemingly, he was never photographed. Moreover, of those who have seen him, no one has seen him more than two times. The only thing that everyone agrees on is that Hyde carries "a haunting sense of unexpressed deformity."

Analysis

Since a year has elapsed since the last Chapter, we can never know what Hyde has been doing, what atrocities he has committed and what degradations he has stooped to. Apparently, they have been many and numerous because he has moved from being a creature who tramples on a child in the first Chapter to this Chapter, where he commits an unprovoked murder. In other words, Hyde's capacity for evil is increasing.

The crime, a murder of a distinguished, well-known social and political figure, is committed by the light of the full moon. Here, Stevenson is using the full moon so that from a practical point-of-view, the upstairs maid can clearly see and describe the encounter between Hyde and Sir Danvers, but also, the full moon, in terms of superstition, is the time when evil beings, often in the shape of deformed men or werewolves, commit their most heinous acts.

The crime seems to be without motivation. Yet Stevenson is careful to describe Hyde's reaction to Sir Danvers. Sir Danvers is described as "an aged and beautiful gentleman with white hair." He also seemed to "breathe . . . an innocent and old-world kindness of disposition"; in addition, he was also noble and high-minded. If, therefore, Hyde represents pure evil, he would naturally detest meeting such a "good" gentleman, one who is the direct opposite of Hyde's loathsome self. And in murdering the innocent and noble Sir Danvers, Hyde is described as having an "ape-like fury," one who is maddened with rage to the point of committing the most unspeakable horror against innocence. It is as though Hyde was not content to simply murder the distinguished man — he had to completely destroy him; he even mangled the dead body so that the bones were audibly shattered and even then, he was not yet content — he had to trample upon his victim. It is as though the goodness of Sir Danvers brings out the most intense evil in Hyde.

Utterson is unexpectedly drawn into the case since Sir Danvers was another of his distinguished clients, again suggesting the ultimate importance and influence of Utterson. This seeming coincidence then allows Utterson to be in on the investigation of Sir Danvers' death and to report accurately all of the findings.

When the body is definitely identified as being that of Sir Danvers, Inspector Newcomen of Scotland Yard is immediately appalled, suggesting, therefore, the public fame connected with the murdered man. Thus, this is not just a murder, but the murder of a renowned man of government, and his murder affects the entire nation more than would, say, the murder of a common citizen; the murder of a high public official directly interferes with the smooth and safe operation of the government.

When Utterson takes the inspector to Hyde's address, he, of course, takes him to the address in Soho, not to Dr. Jekyll's "back door." There, they are met by Hyde's housekeeper, a woman with an "evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy." This type of housekeeper would be appropriate for Hyde since she would be closed-mouthed about Hyde's evil doings, but even this evil housekeeper seems to take delight in the fact that Hyde has gotten into trouble. Again, apparently Hyde's propensity for evil has increased over the past year.

When the inspector has the murderer idenfified and discovers that the murderer has several thousands of pounds (in today's monetary spending capacity, this would be more than fifty thousand dollars), he is sure that he will be able to apprehend the criminal. Yet, as he wants to prepare a description of Hyde and publish a photo of him, he can find only a few people who can describe him, but no photograph of Hyde exists. It is as though Hyde doesn't exist — as indeed he doesn't, except in terms of Dr. Jekyll.

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