Yet, despite Utterson’s straitlaced and unimaginative perspective on the mystery, the eerie aura of the situation reaches such intensity as to effect even this reserved gentleman. Earlier, Utterson has dreams in which London is transformed into a nightmare landscape through which Hyde stalks, committing violence against innocents. The image of the city as a place of hidden terrors recurs, but this time Utterson is awake and driving with the police to Hyde’s rooms in the early morning. A fog has gripped London, and it swirls and eddies through the gloomy neighborhoods, making them seem “like a district of some city in a nightmare.” As in all of his portrayals of London, Stevenson lavishes his descriptive skill on the passage, rendering the depicted landscape as a nest of hidden wickedness. Here, he describes the “great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven … here it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be a glow of a rich, lurid brown … and here … a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths.” It is important to note, however, that Stevenson attributes these poetic descriptions to Utterson. The words may seem out of character for the rather unimaginative lawyer, but one could also interpret them as testifying to the power of Hyde’s horror. Perhaps the disturbing nature of Hyde’s behavior and his residence bring out a darker side in Utterson himself, one in touch with the supernatural terrors lurking behind the facade of the everyday world.
The above passage offers an excellent example of Stevenson’s ability to use evocative language to establish a sense of the uncanny in a narrative that is otherwise dry and forthright. Much of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a brisk, businesslike, and factual way, like a police report on a strange affair rather than a novel. This tone derives from the personality of Mr. Utterson but also seems to arise from the text itself. The original title, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and chapter headings such as “Incident of the Letter” and “Incident at the Window” contribute to this reserved, dispassionate tone, as if detectives themselves have been titling each report for a ledger. But in passages like the one above, Stevenson injects rich, evocative descriptions into the narrative. This richer language performs a duty that Stevenson’s placid characterization of Utterson does not; more important, it creates a link between the language of the text and the actions of the characters. The author thus not only hints at a darker side within Utterson but also at a darker side within the text itself, which typically keeps up appearances as a logical and linear narrative but periodically sinks into decadent flourishes. Utterson and the text, then, become metaphors for humanity in general, and for society at large, both of which may appear logically oriented and straightforward but, in fact, contain darker undercurrents.