What are some quotes about the physical decription of Dr. Jekyll in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is physically described as "a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a stylish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Robert Louis Stevenson's intention in creating the character of Dr. Jekyll was to design him as a foil to the villainous Mr. Hyde, his alter-ego. In order to emphasize the grotesque villainy of the latter, it was necessary for him first to set out the virtues of the former. As such, Dr. Jekyll is described in an early chapter of the book ("Dr. Jekyll Was Quite At Ease" as being

a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a stylish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness.

In contrast to the later descriptions of Mr. Hyde, this is extremely brief as far as a physical description goes. We are not told what Dr. Jekyll's hair or eyes were like in terms of their color; it is not even particularly clear what Stevenson means in suggesting that he was large and well-made. However, in many ways, that is the point. Dr. Jekyll is a completely unremarkable man. He is the sort of man whose particularities are so few as to pass unnoticed; the overriding impression he gives is one of being well-bred and amenable, and capable of being kind to others. The most remarkable thing about him seems to be that he is still smooth in the face despite his years, which perhaps suggests that he has not led a stressful life, and that he is "stylish," so presumably he is well dressed and likes to keep up with current trends in terms of his clothing.

Taken all in all, however, there is nothing at all about Dr. Jekyll that would suggest to anyone that, on the other side of the kind and capable coin, a dark monster lurked.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the chapter of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde titled “Dr. Jekyll Was Quite at Ease,” the story’s anonymous narrator offers a brief physical description of Jekyll that stands in stark contrast to the earlier descriptions provided of Mr. Hyde.  It is in this chapter that Dr. Jekyll is introduced to the reader rather than serving as a narrative device in those earlier discussions of Hyde.  The lawyer Utterson is remaining late following a small dinner party hosted by Dr. Jekyll.  Jekyll, the narrator points out, has asked Utterson to remain behind after the other guests have departed for the night, and the doctor’s request, it is suggested, is a common occurrence, as the “dry lawyer’s” advice is frequently sought.  It is during this scene at the opening of this chapter where Stevenson’s narrator provides a brief description of Dr. Jekyll, describing “a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness — you could see by his looks that he cherished for Mr. Utterson a sincere and warm affection.”

This is the description of Dr. Jekyll provided by Stevenson.  The description of Dr. Jekyll’s alter-ego, Mr. Hyde, is considerably different.  Early in the novella, Enfield is discussing with Utterson a peculiar event involving an unpleasant encounter with a stranger who had “calmly trampled” over a young girl and “left her screaming on the ground.”  Enfield’s description of this stranger will provide the prelude to the mystery to follow:

“It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. . . He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running.”

And, referring to a doctor brought into the fracas involving the stranger’s cavalier treatment of this child, Enfield continues,

“Well, sir, he [the doctor] was like the rest of us; every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbones turn sick and white with the desire to kill him.”

Finally, describing the scene in which the stranger, Mr. Hyde, was surrounded by angry women, Enfield states, “I never saw a circle of such hateful faces; and there was the man in the middle, with a kind of black, sneering coolness — frightened too, I could see that — but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan.”

Stevenson provides, in Dr. Jekyll, the pillar of the community, a rather bland personage that is contrasted with the personification of evil embodied by the malicious Mr. Hyde.  In answering a question as to the description Stevenson provides of Dr. Jekyll, therefore, it is perhaps not unreasonable to include the full measure of that individual by including a description of Hyde.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Normally, we are given descriptions of characters when they are first introduced to us in the novel in which they appear. One of the interesting aspects about this excellent story, however, is that, although we hear about Dr. Jekyll, we do not meet him in person until Chapter Three, when Mr. Utterson goes to one of his dinner parties. It is in this chapter that you will find the following useful description regarding Dr. Jekyll's physical appearance:

...a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness...

We are told in addition that he has a "large, handsome face" that only grows pale when Mr. Hyde is mentioned, accompanied by a "blackness about his eyes." So, although his eyes do have something slightly suspicious about them, apart from this one drawback, he is otherwise presented as a very agreable, handsome and charming man who wins the respect and confidence of those around him with ease.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial