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

Dr. Jekyll is the protagonist of the novel. He is an intelligent, tall, and dignified man of late middle age. The people who know him respect him. He is a wealthy man and lives in comfort in a good house with loyal servants. On the surface, he is the epitome of the Victorian gentleman. But he has a dark side, and he harbors secret passions.

Seeing himself as a model, he becomes convinced that humans are composed of both good and evil parts, and he devises a drug to separate these components. By taking the drug, he is able to turn into Hyde, the evil part of himself. He is aghast at seeing first-hand this evil part of himself, but a part of him is delighted too. Under the guise of Hyde, he is able indulge in evil deeds and pleasures without fear of repercussions. He even sets up Hyde with a house and bank account, the better to protect his own reputation as Jekyll. There is a part of Jekyll that clearly enjoys the experiences that Hyde gives him. One day, however, he wakes to discover that he has changed into Hyde without taking the drug, and he realizes that Hyde is becoming stronger. From then on, he is engaged in a continual struggle with the evil part of his nature. For two months he avoids taking the drug, but at last the temptation is too great, and Hyde returns with a vengeance, killing Sir Danvers Carew that same night. Once again, Jekyll swears off the drug, but it is too late. The next time he becomes Hyde, it is due to a mere momentary weakening in moral attitude as he sits on a park bench. Now he must take the drug continually just to become Jekyll, and, when he runs out of it, he realizes that he has fought a losing battle with himself. But he does achieve a sort of victory over Hyde at the end. Realizing that he will soon turn into Hyde for the last time, he declares his life over -- anything that happens after that point on will not happen to him, as Jekyll will be truly dead to the world. Therefore, it will be Hyde and Hyde alone who will either have to face justice or find the courage to kill himself. It is a grim and tragic victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Mr. Hyde

Hyde is Jekyll's alter ego, a cruel and strange man totally devoid of morality and conscience. He is short and ugly and causes everyone he meets to be filled with revulsion. Utterson is unable to understand why Dr. Jekyll has willed his property to him, and he thus suspects that Dr. Jekyll is being blackmailed by Hyde.

Hyde, the evil part of Jekyll, has come into physical existence as the result of the drug that Dr. Jekyll has compounded and taken. At first, Hyde is a small, somewhat powerless being, who can spring into existence only at Jekyll's pleasure. Jekyll himself notes that Hyde's youth and small stature are the result of having little exercised the evil part of himself. The more Jekyll allows himself to experience life as Hyde, however, the more powerful Hyde becomes. Eventually, Hyde will be able to emerge without the aid of the drug at all.

He commits several offenses, the worst being the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. After that he is a hunted criminal. Hyde feels no remorse for the crimes he commits, nor does he have any feelings of compassion for his other half, Dr. Jekyll. While Jekyll looks upon Hyde with some sense of concern, to Hyde, Jekyll is a nuisance whose presence is tolerated only so far as he is a means of self-preservation. If Hyde were not being pursued by the police and in need of a safe identity, he would have no use for Jekyll at all.

Hyde acts primarily out of passion, not reason. After murdering Carew, he leaves half the murder weapon in the street by Carew's body and the other half at his residence. This acts as evidence against him and causes nearly all of London to be on the lookout for him. At the same time, Hyde has a keener instinct of self- preservation than does Dr. Jekyll and a keener sense of life. For this reason, it is difficult for Jekyll to get rid of Hyde. In the end, however, Hyde causes his own destruction. Realizing that there is no more of the drug that can turn him into Jekyll and fearing capture, Hyde kills himself.

Mr. Utterson

Mr. Utterson is a successful lawyer and a close friend of Dr. Jekyll. He is methodical, rational, and somewhat mechanical, and his self- control is almost superhuman. He is sparing of speech, minds his own business, and has nothing to do with other people's personal affairs. He is purely a legal advisor, not a moral one. In exceptional circumstances, however, he does try to find out details about other persons, as in his search for Hyde. Despite his dry appearance, Utterson proves himself to be an honest and sincere friend who does everything to help Jekyll. He is so rational and pragmatic, however, that he cannot imagine that Jekyll might be guilty.

When Utterson is torn between personal feelings and professional ethics, the reader sees him as a sincere professional carrying out his duty meticulously. Despite his fears, he does not reveal to Guest any more than is absolutely necessary. Utterson is shocked and terrified to see Dr. Jekyll suddenly changing, but he does not discuss it with Enfield. Although he is curious to read the note that Dr. Lanyon has left, he sincerely follows the instructions of his dead client and puts it aside.

Utterson learns in the end, of course, that Jekyll and Hyde are one, but the reader never gets to discover what his reaction is. Rather Stevenson presents the documents that Utterson reads. It is likely, however, given Utterson's realistic nature, open mind, and good heart, that whatever revulsion he would have felt upon discovering that Jekyll was Hyde, he would have also had sympathy for the tragic end of his friend as well.

Dr. Lanyon

Dr. Lanyon is a wealthy and respected doctor and an old friend of Utterson and Jekyll. However, his relationship with Dr. Jekyll is strained because he does not favor the scientific research that Jekyll is doing. He does not like to interfere in other people's affairs, however, and, when Utterson tries to get information from him regarding Jekyll, he refuses to discuss the reasons for their falling out. Even when he discovers Jekyll's identity as Hyde, he protects his friend. The note he leaves Utterson is not to be read unless Jekyll disappears or dies.

Despite his noteworthy qualities, Lanyon is somewhat close- minded and unrealistic. When he discovers that Jekyll is Hyde, he is unable to bear the shock, either because he cannot accept that Jekyll could contain such evil or that such evil could exist in any man, including, perhaps, himself. In any case, he loses faith in life and humanity and soon dies.

Mr. Enfield

Enfield is Utterson's cousin. Unlike the reserved Utterson, Enfield is a "man about town." Despite their outward differences, the two gentlemen are friends, and both share a certain formality in behavior and respect for the privacy of others. Neither man is given to sharing confidences, yet Enfield finds the story of Hyde so strange that he does confide in Utterson regarding what he has witnessed. After discussing the story, both men agree not to refer to Hyde again. Later, when they witness the beginning of the transformation of Jekyll into Hyde, they are again both reluctant to discuss what they have seen. Like Utterson, Enfield is reluctant to pass judgment.

Enfield is a perceptive man too. He notices certain details of the house Hyde enters; for example, that the windows, though shut, are kept clean. He also remembers the details of the night that Hyde trampled the girl. In spite of being very observant, he does not gossip or talk about irrelevant matters. He does not reveal the name that was on the check that Hyde gave the girl's family. In short, he comes across as a reliable witness to events.

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


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