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The reader gets his first glimpse of the laboratory in the fifth chapter, "The Incident of the Letter." Mr. Utterson describes it as a "dingy, windowless structure" and the theatre "gaunt and silent" (Stevenson 23). There are tables with chemical equipment, crates and straw on the floor and the place is dimly lit. At the further end of the theatre is the door to the doctor's office, covered in a red, woolen-like material. Through this is his office which contains a full-length mirror, a desk, and "fitted round with glass presses" (Stevenson 23). There are three dusty windows in the office fitted with iron bars and a fireplace on one side
Our introduction to Dr. Jekyll's laboratory seems somewhat off-handed, and only concerns a description of its exterior. However, it reveals quite a bit and begins to set the mood for the entire story.
In chapter one, Mr. Enfield, a lawyer, tells his client, Mr. Utterson, a story, one that Mr. Enfield was reminded of by the sight of the laboratory's door. As the story goes, he once observed a small, ugly man who seemed somewhat deformed, exit that door. This man bumped into a little girl and trampled her without any regard for her whatsoever. When passers-by stopped him and demanded that he compensate the child's family with a sum of 100 pounds, he disappeared back into the house and returned shortly with a check made out by one Dr. Jekyll. Thus, Mr. Enfield reached the conclusion that this man must be blackmailing Dr. Jekyll (who is known to live elsewhere) and now refers to the house as the "Black Mail House." He assumes that this ugly, evil-looking man must have information about some indiscretion in Dr. Jekyll's youth that he is holding over him in exchange for money.
Further, he says that he asked no questions of Dr. Jekyll in the wake of this scene because "the more it looks like Queer Street, the less [he] ask[s]." Queer Street, as the footnote tells us, is an "Imaginary street where people in difficulties are supposed to reside." Therefore, the building which houses the laboratory has, to respectable folk, become synonymous with a place where unrespectable or disreputable people live. It is associated with criminal and malicious activity.
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