Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Dr. Henry Jekyll
Dr. Henry Jekyll, a well-known London physician who was born into a wealthy family. He is a large man, fifty years old, with a smooth face with something of a sly cast to it. His primary personality characteristic is that although he appears grave and serious in public, he has always felt an inner gaiety that he conceals. Although he does not characterize himself as a hypocrite, he calls himself a double-dealer, insisting that both sides of his dual self are in earnest. Jekyll says that he is no more himself when he labors in the light of day at the furtherance of knowledge and the relief of suffering than he is at night when he lays aside restraint and plunges into what he calls shameful behavior. Realizing that, like himself, all human beings are dual in nature, he seeks a chemical method of separating these dual personalities in order to allow one side to seek pleasure without guilt and the other side to remain steadfast and not be tempted by the pleasure-seeking half. He discovers that once the two personalities are separated, the pleasure-seeking side dominates and the socially responsible side cannot control it. In Freudian psychoanalysis, Dr. Jekyll is the superego, that part of the human personality that represents social order.
Edward Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s evil side. Richard Enfield says there is something wrong with his appearance, something detestable that is hard to explain....
(The entire section is 618 words.)
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The principal character is Dr. Jekyll (Stevenson pronounced it JEE°kil), although Hyde could be seen as a separate and perhaps equally important character. A vital aspect of the story that dramatizations usually overlook (as well as the fact that there is very little sexual material in the text) is that Jekyll knows that he is unleashing the immoral element of his personality — he is not simply experimenting in order to advance science; He is attempting, with success, to find a way to enjoy unwholesome urges without his identity being recognized. So, tramping down a child and even committing a murder (two of Hyde's more violent acts) are not completely unconscious deeds performed by some other "person."
Mr. Utterson, a lawyer who figures prominently in most of the tale, is typically upright (the setting is Victorian London) and loyal as a friend and companion. This virtue helps to cause the horror of the later discovery of Jekyll's demonic experiment to be more intense. The reader tends to share Utterson's revulsion and sympathy. The other characters, most notably Dr. Lanyon, are tangential and yet help to advance the relatively linear plot.
In the end, however, it is probably Hyde that the reader recalls most vividly. Although he is seen only on occasion in the text, his frightful appearance (well described by the author), his awful crimes, and his unexpectedly literate language (emanating, of course, from Jekyll) create a truly memorable...
(The entire section is 244 words.)
Themes and Characters
The viewpoint character, Mr. Utterson, is introduced to us as a lawyer, who is frequently "the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of down-going men." He remains constant throughout the story. He is clearly the character with whom the author hoped the reader would identify. He is austere in his own appetites and simultaneously possesses enough sense of privacy to allow others to go to the devil in their own ways. Yet he has enough charity (or what passes for it) to look after their affairs when they are ruined.
The reader can intuit from the character of Mr. Utterson, and from the fact that there is not a speaking role for anyone of lower social status than a lawyer's assistant or a butler, nor for any woman in the entire story, that the author may have led a circumspect life. Stevenson may have written no dialogue for people unlike himself because he may not have conversed with them enough to be able to write dialogue for such characters. For a world traveler, he was strangely inexperienced with people. He knew his limitations as an author, and generally did not exceed them.
"Know thyself" is one theme of this story, and it becomes clear that some who think they know themselves have much to learn, either about their own hidden qualities or about the merits of standing by someone when you have stood aside while he ruined his life.
This story is an illustration of what Carl Gustav Jung later...
(The entire section is 320 words.)
Jekyll transforms both his physical and his moral self into Edward Hyde, a diabolical man who wallows in his wickedness. Stevenson forces readers to gain information about Hyde through the other characters in the novel, which adds to his air of mystery. Enfield insists that there is "something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable." He relates the problem many have who encounter him—an inability to get a clear vision of him: "I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why ... He gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point ... I can't describe him." Stevenson records the "haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders."
Utterson expresses his inability to relate an exact description of him when he comments that Hyde "was pale and dwarfish ... [and] gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation." The lawyer notes that when he met Hyde, the latter had "a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice ... Not all of these together could explain the ... unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him." In his final estimation, Hyde seemed "hardly human" and marked with "Satan's signature."
Jekyll has a mixed response to his alter ego. When he drinks the potion and transforms into Hyde he at first admits, "I...
(The entire section is 569 words.)
Dr. Henry Jekyll
As he does with the character of Edward Hyde, Stevenson surrounds Dr. Jekyll with an air of mystery, suggesting that even his closest friends did not have a clear picture of the man. Readers learn from Jekyll's confession at the end of the book that he was troubled by what he discovered in himself— "those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man's dual nature." He explains that throughout his life he was "inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellowmen, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future." Utterson considers him to be "a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty" who enjoys his relations with his friends and spends his time devoted to his charities and his religion. However Jekyll admits to recognizing in himself a "certain impatient gaiety of disposition" and a failure to conquer his "aversions to the dryness of a life of study." Since he found it difficult to reconcile his baser urges with his "imperious desire to carry [his] head high and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public," he suppressed his "undignified" pleasures "with an almost morbid sense of shame." Thus he committed himself "to a profound duplicity of life."
This duplicity continually troubled Jekyll. He explains, "I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Dr. Hastie Lanyon
Early in the novel, when Jekyll's behavior confounds him, Utterson seeks advice from his "genial" friend Dr. Lanyon—a "healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman" with "a boisterous and decided manner." Lanyon and Utterson are Jekyll's two oldest friends. Later in the novel, however, Lanyon's appearance and disposition change as noted by Utterson, who finds his friend seriously ill with "some deep-seated terror of the mind." The shock of facing Hyde's true identity disables him and eventually leads to his death.
Jekyll as Hyde considers Lanyon "bound to the most narrow and material views ... [denying] the virtue of transcendental medicine." Hyde also criticizes him for not taking Jekyll's work seriously. Yet when Hyde suggests that Lanyon should watch what happens when Hyde drinks the potion so "a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame and power shall be laid open to you, here," Lanyon agrees. His curiosity emerges in his response: "I have gone too far in the way of inexplicable services to pause before I see the end." "The moral turpitude" Hyde unveils to him, though, "sickens" his soul.
Saposnik determines Lanyon's refusal to be involved in his friend's scientific inquiries to stem from his cowardice rather than his lack of conviction. Saposnik argues that Lanyon abandons Jekyll "because he was afraid of the temptation to which he finally succumbed," the offer Hyde made to show him "a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame...
(The entire section is 288 words.)
Gabriel John Utterson
Utterson is Jekyll's "dry" lawyer and friend. Stevenson characterizes him as having "a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile." He is "cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse," "backward in sentiment" "dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable." In his discourse with others, "something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk ... but more often and loudly in the acts of his life." "He was austere with himself, but he had an approved tolerance for others," as evidenced through his patience with Jekyll in all of his dealings with him. Utterson admits, "I incline to Cain's heresy ... I let my brother go to the devil in his own way."
Foreshadowing his future relationship with Jekyll, Stevenson writes, "in this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of downgoing men." Though staid and serious, he found his friends and acquaintances "liked to sit a while in his unobtrusive company, practicing for solitude, sobering their minds in the man's rich silence after the expense and strain of gaiety."
Sanderson notes Stevenson's effective use of juxtaposition as he counters the novel's "sharply focused images of violence," with Utterson's character, which Sanderson describes as "equally economical and graphic." Sanderson considers Utterson "unsmiling, unsentimental, austere, but tolerant of the peccadilloes of...
(The entire section is 361 words.)
Utterson's distant kinsman and a "well-known man about town." He is similar in temperament to Utterson. The two men enjoy Sunday walks, putting "the greatest store by these excursions, count[ing] them the chief jewel of each week." They "not only set aside occasions of pleasure, but even resisted the calls of business, that they might enjoy them uninterrupted." Enfield first alerts Utterson to the existence of Hyde.
In his book on Stevenson, Irving S. Saposnik finds Enfield "a strange, yet appropriate complement to his distant kinsman." This "well-known man about town" has a habit of "coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o'clock of a black winter morning." Thus, according to Saposnik, he represents the “‘other Victorian side of Utterson's sobriety.'"
Utterson's trustworthy head clerk. "There was no man from whom he kept fewer secrets." Since Guest was also a great student and critic of handwriting, Utterson takes him examples of Jekyll's and Hyde's handwriting, which the clerk finds bears "a rather singular resemblance" to each other.
Poole is Jekyll's servant, who provides information to Utterson about his master. Poole exhibits loyalty and concern about Jekyll's welfare.
(The entire section is 200 words.)