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Free Study Guide-Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson-Synopsis
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CHAPTER 1: Story of the Door


Mr. Utterson, a lawyer, and his cousin, Mr. Richard Enfield, go for a walk as they usually do on Sundays. On a familiar street, they come near an empty building, which has an ugly door with no bell or knocker.

Enfield points to the door and says that there is a story attached to it. One "black" winter's night, as he was walking home alone on that street, he saw an ugly and strange man knock down a little girl and then walk away, heedless of her screams. Enfield chased down the man and brought him back to where the little girl was. By then, the family of the girl had collected there. Their doctor soon arrives and determines that the child is not hurt. Enfield noticed that everyone there seemed to take an instant disliking to the man which went beyond their mere outrage at his behavior.

The doctor and Enfield threatened to publicize the incident and, to avoid a scandal, the man agreed to pay the child's family to settle the matter. He then led the family to that door, took out a key, went inside, and returned with ten pounds in gold and a check for ninety pounds. The check was signed with the name of a respectable man, whom Enfield cannot mention.

When Enfield expressed his disbelief that the check was genuine, the man agreed to stay with them until the banks opened in the morning. The next day, Enfield himself submitted the check, which turned out to be valid.

Enfield believes that the man was engaged in blackmail and that there might be more to the story as well. When Utterson asks him if he has ever spoken about the incident with the gentleman on whose account the check was drawn, Enfield says that he has not. He speculates that someone must live in the house, although he cannot be sure. It does not appear to have any other door. There are three windows overlooking the first floor, but none below, and they are always shut. Nobody comes and goes into the house except this man.

Utterson asks for the name of the ill-tempered man. Enfield tells him that his name is Hyde and that there is something displeasing and detestable about his appearance, but that he cannot easily describe him.

Utterson then inquires whether Enfield is certain that Hyde has a key. He reveals that he is asking because he already knows the name of the other man. Enfield is upset that Utterson did not say anything earlier, but affirms that the man indeed has a key and that he saw him use it less than a week earlier. When Utterson sighs deeply, Enfield says that he should not have spoken about the incident. They both agree never to refer to it again.


The opening chapter of the novel is set in a street in London, just near the door of the house in which Hyde lives. Although it is in a dingy neighborhood, the street is a respectable and cheerful one. The house where Hyde appears to live, however, is dirty and neglected. It is out of place and something of a mystery. Its windows are shut, but clean, and, the only person who ever seems to enter or leave it is Hyde, and he only rarely. Thus, Stevenson creates an atmosphere which is out of the ordinary in order to begin his story.

The reader is introduced to two characters in this chapter, Utterson and Enfield. Since they are to witness a future crucial scene, it is necessary to ascertain their views and credibility at an early stage. Utterson is an austere, generally undemonstrative man who has tremendous self-control. He loves good wine and enjoys it at parties. But when he is alone, he restricts himself to gin rather than expensive wine. Utterson has nothing to do with other people's private affairs and treats and behaves with everyone in the same manner. His young cousin Enfield, in contrast, is a "well-known man about town, outgoing and curious." Despite their differences, the two are good friends, and it is their usual practice to go for a walk together on Sundays.

Enfield tells Utterson about the incident that took place near the house. Hyde had trampled a little girl of about eight or ten and then walked away, unconcerned about the agony he had caused. When the bystanders forced him to pay for the child's welfare, he entered the house and emerged with ten pounds in gold and a check drawn on the account of respectable man. Enfield relates this story briefly and precisely, yet the reader sees that it is a confidence between two men not given to confidences.

The dialogue is skillfully handled to give the reader a further insight into the characters of Utterson and Enfield. Though the two men are of different outward temperaments, they share certain characteristics. Both are perceptive. Enfield notices many details about Hyde's house, which an average passerby might not have. He even remembers the name of Hyde, whom he has met only once. Utterson, in turn, questions Enfield in detail about Hyde, trying to learn more about Hyde's character. Enfield, despite his curiosity about Hyde and the gentleman he appears to be blackmailing, is reluctant to enter into moral judgment. He prefers to mind his own business rather than talk about someone in a discrediting manner. Utterson too, is reluctant to judge, though, he is shrewder and more reserved than his cousin. He knows that the house is owned by Jekyll, but he keeps this information to himself.

It is certain that Enfield does not know about Dr. Jekyll's friendship with Utterson. Utterson's interest in Jekyll's affairs shows how much he is concerned about his friend's reputation. His vow of silence with Enfield indicates how he wishes to protect his friend's reputation.

The exchange of information between the two contributes to the element of mystery in the novel. The reader is given scraps of information and a hint about Hyde's evil. Stevenson establishes that something terrible is going on, but leaves the details to reader's imagination. The reader wonders why and how the strange man whom people loathe at first sight could give a check signed by a respectable man. The reader also wonders who this respectable man actually is. In the next chapter, it will be revealed, of course, that it is Dr. Jekyll, and that Utterson's interest in the story is motivated by fear for Jekyll, who is his friend. Although almost every modern reader will know that Jekyll is Hyde, Stevenson presents the story at first as a conventional mystery. It is not until the second to last chapter that the reader learns Hyde's true identity, and it is only in the last chapter that the whole story of Jekyll's experimentation with the drug that transforms him into Hyde is revealed.

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Free Study Guide-Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson-Summary


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