Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Summary — Chapter 6: “Remarkable Incident of Dr. Lanyon”
As time passes, with no sign of Hyde’s reappearance, Jekyll becomes healthier-looking and more sociable, devoting himself to charity. To Utterson, it appears that the removal of Hyde’s evil influence has had a tremendously positive effect on Jekyll. After two months of this placid lifestyle, Jekyll holds a dinner party, which both Utterson and Lanyon attend, and the three talk together as old friends. But a few days later, when Utterson calls on Jekyll, Poole reports that his master is receiving no visitors.
This scenario repeats itself for a week, so Utterson goes to visit Lanyon, hoping to learn why Jekyll has refused any company. He finds Lanyon in very poor health, pale and sickly, with a frightened look in his eyes. Lanyon explains that he has had a great shock and expects to die in a few weeks. “[L]ife has been pleasant,” he says. “I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it.” Then he adds, “I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away.” When Utterson mentions that Jekyll also seems ill, Lanyon violently demands that they talk of anything but Jekyll. He promises that after his death, Utterson may learn the truth about everything, but for now he will not discuss it. Afterward, at home, Utterson writes to Jekyll, talking about being turned away from Jekyll’s house and inquiring as to what caused the break between him and Lanyon. Soon Jekyll’s written reply arrives, explaining that while he still cares for Lanyon, he understands why the doctor says they must not meet. As for Jekyll himself, he pledges his continued affection for Utterson but adds that from now on he will be maintaining a strict seclusion, seeing no one. He says that he is suffering a punishment that he cannot name.
Lanyon dies a few weeks later, fulfilling his prophecy. After the funeral, Utterson takes from his safe a letter that Lanyon meant for him to read after he died. Inside, Utterson finds only another envelope, marked to remain sealed until Jekyll also has died. Out of professional principle, Utterson overcomes his curiosity and puts the envelope away for safekeeping. As weeks pass, he calls on Jekyll less and less frequently, and the butler continues to refuse him entry.
Summary — Chapter 7: “Incident at the Window”
The following Sunday, Utterson and Enfield are taking their regular stroll. Passing the door where Enfield once saw Hyde enter to retrieve Jekyll’s check, Enfield remarks on the murder case. He notes that the story that began with the trampling has reached an end, as London will never again see Mr. Hyde. Enfield mentions that in the intervening weeks he has learned that the run-down laboratory they pass is physically connected to Jekyll’s house, and they both stop to peer into the house’s windows, with Utterson noting his concern for Jekyll’s health. To their surprise, the two men find Jekyll at the window, enjoying the fresh air. Jekyll complains that he feels “very low,” and Utterson suggests that he join them for a walk, to help his circulation. Jekyll refuses, saying that he cannot go out. Then, just as they resume polite conversation, a look of terror seizes his face, and he quickly shuts the window and vanishes. Utterson and Enfield depart in shocked silence.
Analysis — Chapters 6–7
By this point in the story, it becomes clear that the mystery of Jekyll’s relationship to Hyde has proven too much for Utterson’s rational approach and search for logical explanations. The uncanny aspects of Hyde’s appearance, behavior, and ability to disappear should suffice to indicate the fantastical air of the situation. At this point, however, the strange tragedy surrounding Lanyon roots the mystery in distinctly supernatural territory. Until this point, Lanyon’s main significance to the story has been his function as a representative of reason. He dismisses Jekyll’s experiments as “unscientific balderdash” and embodies the rational man of science, in distinct opposition to superstition and fantasy. Ironically, all of Lanyon’s earlier sentiments seem to have given way to a cryptic, unexplained horror. Lanyon’s deterioration mirrors the gradual erosion of logic in the face of the supernatural in the novel.
This erosion is accompanied by a further breakdown of language. As we see earlier, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde seems to present language—a rational, logical mode of perceiving and containing the world—as existing in opposition to the fanciful or fantastical. For example, Stevenson refrains from describing Hyde’s crimes or Jekyll’s youthful debaucheries in detail, as if such explanations might reduce the haunting effect of these wicked actions. Correspondingly, just as language might break down and defuse an aura of the uncanny, the uncanny can prompt a breakdown in language. Hyde’s ugliness instigates one such loss of words. As we have seen, when Enfield and Utterson see Hyde’s face, they prove unable to describe what exactly makes Hyde so ugly and frightening.
But the novel is permeated by other silences as well, more akin to refusals than failures to speak: Lanyon refuses to describe to Utterson what he has seen; Jekyll declines to discuss his relationship with Hyde; after witnessing Jekyll’s strange disappearance from the window, Utterson and Enfield say almost nothing about it; and Utterson carries out an informal investigation of Hyde and Jekyll but never mentions his suspicions to anyone. This second set of silences derives not so much from being involuntarily awestruck by the uncanny, but rather points to an acknowledgment of a situation that exceeds the boundaries of logic, yet with an unwillingness to pursue it further or express it openly. Such unwillingness seems to stem, in turn, from a concern for reputation and public morality. Significantly, both Jekyll and Lanyon leave written records of what they have seen and done but insist that these records not be opened until after their deaths. In other words, the truth can be exposed only after the death of the person whose reputation it might ruin. Stevenson may suggest that such refusals to discuss the grittier side of life mirror a similar tendency in Victorian society at large.
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