Who is the narrator of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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The novel is told in third-person omniscient narration, though events are often seen from the point of view of Mr. Utterson.

We know the narration is omniscient because from time to time the narrator provides information Mr. Utterson either doesn't know or which he wouldn't think to tell. Very often...

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The novel is told in third-person omniscient narration, though events are often seen from the point of view of Mr. Utterson.

We know the narration is omniscient because from time to time the narrator provides information Mr. Utterson either doesn't know or which he wouldn't think to tell. Very often it is as if the narrator is following Mr. Utterson around with a video camera, recording what he is doing, but also providing background information in voice over to help everything make sense to us.

An example of seeing the story as if the omniscient narrator is filming Mr. Utterson is the following:

Mr. Utterson came home to his bachelor house in sombre spirits and sat down to dinner without relish. ... as soon as the cloth was taken away, he took up a candle and went into his business-room. There he opened his safe, took from the most private part of it a document endorsed on the envelope as Dr. Jekyll's Will, and sat down with a clouded brow to study its contents.

The passage above is not told from Mr. Utterson's point of view because he could not see and describe his own clouded brow. Instead, the narrator is describing for us what is going on.

However, in other places in the novel, the action is told from Mr. Utterson's point of view, as if he is the one holding the camera and filming Mr. Hyde:

The lawyer, looking forth from the entry, could soon see what manner of man he had to deal with. He was small and very plainly dressed, and the look of him, even at that distance, went somehow strongly against the watcher's inclination. But he made straight for the door, crossing the roadway to save time; and as he came, he drew a key from his pocket like one approaching home.

In other places, the omniscient narrator fills in background information for us. Here he tells us about Mr. Utterson's tendency to stick with his oldest friends. He also informs us that Mr.Utterson is a modest man:

It is the mark of a modest man to accept his friendly circle ready-made from the hands of opportunity; and that was the lawyer's way. His friends were those of his own blood or those whom he had known the longest ...

We are hearing this information directly from the narrator. We are not learning it through dialogue between characters or through the thoughts of a character in the story.

Stevenson goes back and forth between omniscient narration and point-of-view narration, primarily through Utterson. He uses narration in various ways that best serve the unfolding of his plot.

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This novella has a third person omniscient narrator. This means that the narrator is not a participant in the story's events and does not use the first person pronoun "I." Omniscient means that the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters, rather than none of them (which is called objective) or one of them (which is called limited omniscient). For example, the narrator tells us that Mr. Utterson

had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.

If the narrator were not of the omniscient variety, he would not be able to report on Mr. Utterson's private thoughts, such as these. Likewise, when the narrator reports on the conversation between Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield, he says that Mr. Enfield "fell into a vein of musing." Again, these are private thoughts, unspoken, to which an objective third person narrator would not have access. Further, when Mr. Utterson goes to speak with Dr. Lanyon about Dr. Jekyll, the narrator says that Dr. Lanyon's

geniality . . . was somewhat theatrical to the eye; but it reposed on genuine feeling. For these two were old friends . . . , both thorough respectors of themselves and of each other, and what does not always follow, men who thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.

Whatever can be observed with the eye—that Dr. Lanyon's geniality is theatrical, for instance—can be reported by any narrator; however, the information that he respects himself and Mr. Utterson and that he enjoys Mr. Utterson's company can be reported only by an omniscient narrator.

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The narrator of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an anonymous third person limited narrator who directs how the story will be told, beginning in Chapter 1 where thenarrator says:

"Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse..."

This narrator tells the story through the experience, thoughts, feelings, actions, motives of Mr. Utterson, which is why a story about Jekyll and Hyde starts out with a description of Mr. Utterson. Since the narrator is limited and not omniscient, (1) Stevenson always orients the story from Utterson's point of view and (2) Stevenson was free to expand his narratorial options by having three different people, therefore three different voices, take over the narration at various points in the story.

The first place in which another narratorial voice takes over the story is in Chapter 1 in which Mr. Enfield, Utterson's distant cousin and confidant, introduces Mr. Hyde by telling Utterson about a most peculiar incident that he was involved in that centered on Hyde. So in this instance, Stevenson employs the literary technique of an embedded narrator: a third person narrator telling about a character narrating a story to another character, a technique Joseph Conrad also used in Heart of Darkness.

In Chapters 9 and 10, Stevenson employs another technique to vary the narratorial voice although the narrator remains the same third person limited narrator, as is confirmed in Chapter 8: " Mr. Utterson was sitting by his fireside one evening after dinner,...." In chapters 9 and 10, Stevenson employs two letters, one from Dr. Lanyon to Mr. Utterson and one from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Utterson, to continue the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is called an epistolary (letter) technique.

So, while the narrator is an invovled ("Never (she used to say, with streaming tears, when she narrated that experience), never had she felt...") though objective third person limited (one point of view through one character) narrator, the narratorial voice varies through embedded narration (Mr. Enfield) and two instances of epistolary narration in which Dr. Lanyon speaks (Chapter 9) and then Dr. Jekyll speaks (Chapter 10).

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