Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by: Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Hastie Lanyon

“I have had a shock,” he said, “and I shall never recover. It is a question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it. I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away.”

When Mr. Utterson meets Lanyon for dinner, Lanyon appears shockingly worse since they last met. He looks so bad, Utterson is convinced he will die soon. Lanyon explains that he’s had an experience that has changed him forever, altering his perspective on life and weakening his will to live. Lanyon’s words underscore a major theme in the novel: The human desire for mastery comes with a price.

“I wish to see or hear no more of Dr. Jekyll,” he said in a loud, unsteady voice. “I am quite done with that person; and I beg that you will spare me any allusion to one whom I regard as dead.”

When Utterson questions Dr. Lanyon about Jekyll, Dr. Lanyon tries to stop him. Lanyon’s voice is uncontrolled, demonstrating how shaken he is. The reader, just like Utterson, is shocked, since the last time Utterson saw Lanyon, Lanyon was vibrant and social. Lanyon’s character has gone from friendly to agitated, the cause a mystery to Utterson. His desperate closing words about Dr. Jekyll’s demise add to the ominous effect of reality beginning to disintegrate.

“Upon the reading of this letter, I made sure my colleague was insane; but till that was proved beyond the possibility of doubt, I felt bound to do as he requested.”

Lanyon is explaining to Utterson why he decided to carry out Jekyll’s requests, even though Lanyon didn’t consider him a close friend. In the lines above, it is clear that Lanyon is doing it more out of curiosity than loyalty as he is convinced Jekyll is insane and wants to know why. Unlike Poole, who carefully avoids the dark side of life, Lanyon is pulled in.

“What he told me in the next hour, I cannot bring my mind to set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard, and my soul sickened at it; and yet now when that sight has faded from my eyes, I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer. My life is shaken to its roots; sleep has left me; the deadliest terror sits by me at all hours of the day and night; and I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous.”

In one of Dr. Lanyon’s last quotes in the novel, it is clear that Dr. Lanyon would like to repress the supernatural event he witnessed when Jekyll turned into Hyde. As a scientist in the Victorian era, Dr. Lanyon cannot reconcile what he has understood with his rational mind with his sense of morality, and therefore regards Dr. Jekyll as dead.

“O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll!”

Dr. Lanyon’s words and recollection serve as the climax of the story. The question of Dr. Jekyll’s relationship to Mr. Hyde is resolved, and Mr. Utterson’s investigation is complete. Lanyon cannot reconcile to himself what he has seen and dies shortly after. Through Lanyon’s description, we see that Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde is like a man coming back to life, suggesting that each time Jekyll transforms, his other side truly dies.