“He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary-looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can’t describe him. And it’s not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment.”

This quotation appears in Chapter 1, “Story of the Door,” when Enfield relates to Utterson how he watched Hyde trample a little girl underfoot. Utterson asks his friend to describe Hyde’s appearance, but Enfield, as the quote indicates, proves unable to formulate a clear portrait. He asserts that Hyde is deformed, ugly, and inspires an immediate revulsion, yet he cannot say why.

Enfield’s lack of eloquence sets a pattern for the novel, as no one—from Utterson himself to witnesses describing Hyde to the police—can come up with an exact description of the man. Most people merely conclude that he appears ugly and deformed in some indefinable way. These failures of articulation create an impression of Hyde as an uncanny figure, someone whose deformity is truly intangible, mysterious, perceptible only with some sort of sixth sense for which no vocabulary exists. It is almost as if language itself fails when it tries to come to grips with Hyde; he is beyond words, just as he is beyond morality and conscience. As a supernatural creation, he does not quite belong in the world; correspondingly, he evades the conceptual faculties of normal human beings.