Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
One night, Stevenson’s wife was disturbed by the movements and sounds of her sleeping husband; he seemed to be having a nightmare. She woke him. He was indeed having a nightmare, but he complained, on being awakened, that he had not come to the end of what was proving to be a fascinating tale. That morning, he rapidly wrote down the story that he had dreamed, adding an ending. When he read the tale to his wife, she was dissatisfied; she thought that it was simply a “crawler” (standard gothic horror tale) and that he should develop the moral issues inherent in the tale. He argued with her vigorously but in the end accepted her view and burned the first draft. The tale still had a strong enough hold on him, however, that he composed the second draft (the version that was published) in only three days.
Released to the public, the tale captured the public imagination and has not let go to this day. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made Robert Louis Stevenson a household name, and it made Stevenson’s fortune. In less than a year, “Jekyll and Hyde” was an English colloquialism. In 1887, when Stevenson went to the United States, it was his notoriety from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that induced Charles Scribner’s Sons to offer him a lucrative contract. That contract gave him his first taste of financial independence.
The story that produced such wide-ranging effects begins very quietly with a...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Richard Enfield and his cousin, Gabriel John Utterson, are strolling according to their usual Sunday custom when they come upon an empty building on a familiar street. Enfield remarks that some time previously he had seen an ill-tempered man knock down and trample a small child at the doorway of the deserted building. He and other indignant bystanders had forced the stranger, who gave his name as Hyde, to pay a sum of money for the child’s welfare. Enfield remembers Hyde with deep loathing.
Utterson has reasons to be interested in Hyde. He is a lawyer, and he drew up the strange will of Dr. Henry Jekyll. This will stipulates that in the event of Jekyll’s death, all of his wealth will go to a man named Edward Hyde. Utterson now seeks out Hyde, the man whom Enfield had described, to discover if he is the same person who had been named heir to Jekyll’s fortune.
Utterson finds Hyde, who is suspicious of Utterson’s interest and shuts his door in his face. Utterson next questions Jekyll, who refuses to discuss the matter and insists that in the event of his death the will must be executed as written. Utterson fears that Hyde is an extortionist who is after Jekyll’s money and will eventually murder the doctor.
About one year later, Hyde is wanted for the senseless murder of a kindly old gentleman named Sir Danvers Carew. Jekyll presents the lawyer and the police with a letter signed by Hyde, in which the murderer declares his intention of fleeing England forever. The letter ends with Hyde’s apology to Jekyll for having abused his friendship.
About this time, Dr. Hastie Lanyon, who had been for years a great friend of Jekyll, becomes ill and dies. A letter addressed to Utterson is found among his papers. When Utterson opens this missive, he discovers that it contains an inner envelope that is sealed and bears the directive that it is not to be opened until after Jekyll’s death. Utterson suspects that this mysterious sealed letter is also somehow connected with the evil Hyde.
One Sunday, Enfield and Utterson are again walking in the street where Enfield had seen Hyde abusing the child. They now realize that the deserted building holds a side entrance to a laboratory that is connected to Jekyll’s home. As they look up at the house, they see Jekyll sitting at a window, looking disconsolate. Then his expression seems to change, and his face takes on a grimace of horror or pain. Suddenly, he closes the window. Utterson and Enfield walk on, too overcome by what they had witnessed to be able to...
(The entire section is 1046 words.)