Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde By Robert Louis Stevenson Summary and Analysis Chapter 7 - Incident at the Window

Summary

Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield are taking one of their customary Sunday strolls and, by chance, their path takes them past "that door," the door that they agreed never to speak of again. They pause now and look at it. Enfield thinks that Mr. Hyde will never be heard of again, and Utterson is quick to agree. He then asks Enfield if he ever told his old friend that he actually saw Hyde, and, furthermore, that when he saw the man, he was filled with a fierce feeling of revulsion. Enfield remarks that it's impossible to see Hyde and not feel nauseated.

Utterson suggests that they step into the courtyard for a look at the windows, and as they do, he reveals his uneasiness about Dr. Jekyll's health. Ominously, he says that perhaps just "the presence of a friend" outside, in the court, might strengthen the poor man.

The two men survey the windows of Jekyll's quarters, and their eyes are drawn to one window in particular. It is half-open and sitting close beside it, looking like a prisoner in solitary confinement, is Dr. Jekyll. Unhesitatingly, Utterson calls out to the doctor, "Jekyll, I trust you are better."

Jekyll's reply is dreary: He feels low, very low, and fears that he "will not last long, thank God." Trying to cheer his old friend, Utterson urges Jekyll to get out — "whip up the circulation" — and he invites Jekyll to join him and Enfield.

Jekyll sighs. He says that Utterson is a good man for suggesting a stroll together, but he cannot join them; he dare not. Yet, he stresses that he is very glad to see Utterson, and he would like to invite the two men up, but "the place is really not fit." Utterson suggests then that they converse where they are, and the suggestion causes Jekyll to turn and smile at them. But suddenly his features convulse and freeze in an expression of "abject terror and despair." The narrator tells us that the change in Jekyll's expression was so instantaneous and so horrible that it "froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below."

Jekyll's window is jerked down so viciously that, without a word, Utterson and Enfield turn and leave the courtyard. They do not speak to one another until they reach a neighboring thoroughfare, where there are "still some stirrings of life." Both men are so pale that when they look at one another, there is "an answering horror in their eyes."

Utterson speaks softly, "God forgive us, God forgive us." Enfield nods, and the two men walk on once more in silence.

Analysis

Chapter 7 is obviously the shortest Chapter in the novel, only about two pages long, but it contains a key scene: During the walk that Utterson and Enfield take, they find themselves before that same door which prompted Enfield to relate the story of his encounter with Hyde in Chapter 1. Likewise, here are the three windows that were half-open in Jekyll's laboratory, described in Chapter 5. Now the reader is fully aware of the significance of the front of Jekyll's house with its great facade and its elegant interior, as contrasted to the back entrance (Hyde's entrance), with its dilapidated structure.

Some readers and students feel cheated that Stevenson does not fully reveal what Utterson saw at the window in Jekyll's face just before Jekyll slams the window down and disappears. We must only assume that suddenly Jekyll takes on some of Hyde's traits, and that now both Utterson and Enfield have had a glimpse of the duality of man, of the evil that resides in the soul of man. But whereas Lanyon was a man who could not tolerate such an insight, Utterson and Enfield both belong to a different world. Enfield is "that man about town" who has theoretically seen many sorts of things, and Utterson, from the first pages, is a man who is not quick to judge his fellow man. Yet each of these men, upon seeing something in Dr. Jekyll's face, feel "abject terror and despair" and what they see freezes "the very blood of the two gentlemen."

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