The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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What suspense and tension is created in chapter 7, "Incident at the Window," of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The chapter opens uneasily, with both Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield sharing their repulsion at Mr. Hyde and hoping they will never see him again.

Mr. Utterson is also worried about Mr. Jekyll:

I am uneasy about poor Jekyll; and even outside, I feel as if the presence of a friend might do him good.

They see him from his window and have a pleasant conversation with him until he slams the window down after his face shows:

suddenly abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below.

The men react to this strangely as they walk away:

They were both pale; and there was an answering horror in their eyes.

All of this makes us as readers wonder what is going on, which naturally builds tension and suspense. Why does Dr. Jekyll turn from being friendly to suddenly slamming the window shut? Why does his face show terror and despair? Why do both of the men visiting him have horror in their eyes? All of these actions seem frightening and odd, and so we keep turning the pages to discover what will happen and what this terror is all about.

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Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The chapter tells how Enfield and Utterson pass Dr. Jekyll’s house on a walk. Looking up, Utterson sees Jekyll at his open window, and the two men talk briefly. Suddenly, Jekyll thrusts the window closed, his face transformed by “abject terror and despair.” Utterson is horrified.

The suspense is created, of course, by the mystery of what causes Jekyll to react in such a way. At the beginning of the chapter, Utterson and Enfield remark on how happy they are that they had seen the last of Mr. Hyde. The events of this chapter, however, suggest that this might not be the case after all. The reader is left thinking, "What else could cause Jekyll to be so afraid, except the return of Mr. Hyde?"

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Suspense and tension are created in this very brief chapter as a result of Mr. Enfield and Mr. Utterson chancing to see Dr. Jekyll at his window as they go for their walk. The pair invites the doctor outside to walk with them, because he looks so ill and feels so low, but he replies that it would be "quite impossible" and that he does not "dare." Why on earth would a short walk be "impossible" or something that he must not "dare" to do?  Certainly this oddity creates some suspense.  

Enfield and Utterson offer to remain below and talk with Dr. Jekyll from there, as he claims he cannot invite them up. Dr. Jekyll is made happy by this suggestion. In the next moment, however, "the smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below." Jekyll immediately slams the window shut. It is clear, then, that something really awful is happening with Jekyll, something he cannot control. One moment, he is happy to converse; the next, he looks terrified. This is not normal, and it creates a good deal of suspense for the reader and tension as a result.

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