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...
(The entire section is 1046 words.)
The old friends of respectable Dr. Henry Jekyll are confused by his new will. His heir is Edward Hyde, a man of bad temper and worse behavior. Dr. Jekyll's research is bringing him great distress, and his friends try to learn the reason for this and for his bond to the despicable Mr. Hyde.
(The entire section is 54 words.)
Part 1 Summary
The story opens with Dr. Jekyll's friend and solicitor, Gabriel John Utterson, and Utterson' s distant kinsman, Mr. Enfield, taking a walk one Sunday. They find themselves passing a "certain sinister block of building" in the London district of Soho that "bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence." After stopping in front of a "blistered and distained" door on this block, Mr. Enfield recalls that one evening at three he was returning home through that section of the city when he saw a man run into a little girl. He notes that "the man trampled calmly over the child's body and left her screaming on the ground." Immediately, Enfield apprehended the man and brought him back to the child and to the group that was gathering around her. Enfield admits that the suspect "was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me." The rest of the crowd responded similarly. After ascertaining that the child was not severely harmed, Enfield directed the man to pay the family compensatory damages. The man then withdrew behind the same door at which Utterson and Enfield now find themselves and returned with a signed check. Both Utterson and Enfield comment on the mysterious air about the house. Enfield admits that he sometimes sees the man, whose name is Hyde, coming in and out of the door and that there is "something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable." He...
(The entire section is 577 words.)
Part 2 Summary
A year later, a maid sees from her window Mr. Hyde club an older man to death. After the police find a sealed envelope at the scene addressed to Utterson, they bring it to him the next morning. Later, Utterson identifies the body as Sir Danvers Carew. Utterson also recognizes the stick the murderer used as belonging to Jekyll. When Utterson and the police go to Hyde's residence, they discover the other half of the broken stick in his ransacked rooms. The next afternoon, Utterson finds Jekyll "looking deathly sick," and with a "feverish manner." Jekyll insists he is done with Hyde, who will never be heard of again, as evidenced by a letter he claims Hyde has written. Utterson has Mr. Guest, his head clerk and an expert at handwriting analysis, compare the letter from Hyde to one from Jekyll. When Guest finds "a rather singular resemblance" between the two, Utterson concludes that Jekyll forged the note to protect Hyde.
The police investigate Hyde's past and discover "tales [that] came out of the man's cruelty, at once so callous and violent; of his vile life, of his strange associates, of the hatred that seemed to have surrounded his career." Now that the "evil influence" had been withdrawn, Jekyll enjoys "a new life." He comes out of his seclusion and renews his relations with his friends, charities, and his church. "His face seemed to open and brighten, as if with an inward consciousness of service; and for more than two months, the doctor was at peace."...
(The entire section is 359 words.)
Part 3 Summary
One evening Poole arrives at Utterson's home and tells the lawyer that Jekyll has been shut up in his room all week. Poole is certain that there has been "foul play." When the two return to Jekyll's home and try to get him to come out of his room, Jekyll, in a changed voice, refuses. Poole tells Utterson that all week the person in the room has been begging for "some sort of medicine." Utterson breaks down the door and finds the dying Hyde "sorely contorted and still twitching." Jekyll is nowhere to be found. Utterson finds a note from Jekyll asking him to read Lanyon's letter as well as his own confession.
Lanyon's letter relates that one evening, he received a note from Jekyll exclaiming, "my life, my honour, my reason, are all at your mercy; if you fail me tonight, I am lost." Following Jekyll's instructions, Lanyon brought back to his home the contents of a drawer taken from Jekyll's study. The drawer contained a white powder, a vial of some chemical, and a book of entries recording a series of experiments. Lanyon then admitted a dwarfish man wearing clothes much too large for him, who mixed the powder and the contents of the vial. The man suggested that Lanyon watch him, for "a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame and power shall be laid open to you, here." Lanyon agreed, commenting, "I have gone too far in the way of inexplicable services to pause before I see the end." After the man drank the potion, he transformed into Jekyll. What...
(The entire section is 449 words.)