“But he 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. “I incline to Cain’s heresy,” he used to say quaintly: “I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.”
Mr. Utterson is the first character the narrator introduces in the story. Utterson indulges misbehavior without judgment and doesn’t feel compelled to impose his values on others. Rather, his behavior is typical of the Victorian era dictum: Keep out of others’ affairs.
“If he be Mr. Hyde,” he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.”
In Chapter 2, we see that Utterson has a strong curiosity streak in his character. Where Enfield is satisfied with accepting things at face value, Utterson is driven by his curiosity to find out more about Hyde. Utterson is captivated by Enfield’s story about Hyde and is determined to find out more about him. Ironically, curiosity is what drives Jekyll too, but Jekyll’s curiosity leads to his downfall.
“There must be something else,” said the perplexed gentleman. “There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell? or is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent? The last, I think; for, O my poor old Harry Jekyll, if ever I read Satan’s signature upon a face, it is on that of your new friend.”
In Chapter 3, Utterson finally meets Hyde. Once again, words fail the characters when they try to explain what Hyde looks like. Utterson’s comments to Jekyll suggest that Hyde is more animal than man. Utterson characterizes Hyde’s looks as “troglodytic,” so primitive and animalistic that he seems prehistoric.
“And the lawyer, scared by the thought, brooded awhile on his own past, groping in all the corners of memory, least by chance some Jack-in-the-Box of an old iniquity should leap to light there. His past was fairly blameless; few men could read the rolls of their life with less apprehension; yet he was humbled to the dust by the many ill things he had done, and raised up again into a sober and fearful gratitude by the many he had come so near to doing yet avoided.”
After talking with Jekyll about his relationship to Hyde, Utterson begins to question his own past. As he begins to suspect Jekyll might have a sordid side, Utterson retreats into complacency that in contrast, his own past would hold up to judgment. Utterson’s preoccupation with his virtue highlights the Victorian era’s importance placed on respectability and morality.
“This is a very strange tale, Poole; this is rather a wild tale my man,” said Mr. Utterson, biting his finger. “Suppose it were as you suppose, supposing Dr. Jekyll to have been—well, murdered what could induce the murderer to stay? That won’t hold water; it doesn’t commend itself to reason.”
When Poole tells Utterson that he believes Jekyll has been murdered, and the murderer is currently in Jekyll’s room, Utterson struggles to believe him. He straightforwardly tells Poole his idea doesn’t show sound reasoning or stand up to logic. Like many characters in the story, Utterson tests everything by using his rational mind.