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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson
Summary

Chapter 10: “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”

Summary Chapter 10: “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”

[As] the first edge of my penitence wore off … a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering.

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Analysis

At this point all the mysteries of the novel unravel, as we encounter a second account of the same events that have been unfolding throughout the novel. Only this time, instead of seeing them from the point of view of Utterson, we see them from the point of view of Jekyll—and, by extension, that of Hyde. This shift in point of view makes a great difference indeed. All the events that seemed puzzling or inexplicable before are suddenly explained: Jekyll’s confession makes clear the will that left everything to Hyde; it tells of the events leading up to the brutal murder of Carew; it clarifies the mystery of the similarity between Jekyll’s and Hyde’s handwritings; it -elucidates why Jekyll seemed to improve dramatically after Carew’s murder, and why he abruptly went into a decline and was forced into seclusion. We know, finally, the details behind Hyde’s midnight visit to Lanyon and Jekyll’s bizarre disappearance from the window while talking to Enfield and Utterson; so, too, is Jekyll’s final -disappearance explained. It is as if there have been two parallel narratives throughout the novel, and we have, until now, been given access only to one. With Jekyll’s confession, however, everything falls into place.

Jekyll’s meditations on the dual nature of man, which prompt his forays into the experiments that bring forth Hyde, point to the novel’s central question about the nature of the relationship between the good and evil portions of the human soul. As the embodiment of the dark side of man, Hyde is driven by passion and heedless of moral constraints. Yet it is important to note that while Hyde exists as distilled evil, Jekyll remains a mixture of good and evil. Jekyll repeatedly claims that his goal was to liberate his light half from his darker impulses, yet the opposite seems to happen. His dark side is given flesh, while his better half is not. Moreover, his dark side grows ever stronger as the novel continues, until the old, half-good and half-evil Jekyll ceases to exist.

Hyde is smaller than Jekyll, and younger, which leads Jekyll to surmise that his evil part is smaller and less developed than his good part. Yet Hyde’s physical strength might suggest the opposite—that the evil side possesses a superior power and vigor. Jekyll’s initial delight whenever he becomes Hyde seems to support this viewpoint, as does the fact that, no matter how appalling the crimes Hyde commits, Jekyll never feels guilty enough to refrain from making the transformation again as soon as he feels the urge. “Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde,” Jekyll writes, “but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience. It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty.” But such statements seem little more than an absurd attempt at self-justification. For it is Jekyll who brings Hyde into being, clearly knowing that he embodies pure evil. Jekyll therefore bears responsibility for Hyde’s actions. Indeed, his willingness to convince himself otherwise suggests, again, that the darker half of the man has the upper hand, even when he is Jekyll and not Hyde.

With these pieces of evidence, Stevenson suggests the immensity of humanity’s dark impulses, which conscience can barely hold in check. In the end, then, although he portrays Utterson and Enfield as somewhat absurd in their denial of evil, Stevenson also may sympathize with their determination to repress their dark sides completely. Evil may be so strong that such strategies offer the only possibility for order and morality in society. The alternative—actively exploring the darkness—leads one into the trap that closes permanently on the hapless Jekyll, whose conscientious, civilized self proves no match for the violence unleashed in the person of Hyde.

Interestingly, even in this confessional chapter, certain details of the story’s horrors remain obscure. Jekyll refuses to give any description of his youthful sins, and he does not actually elaborate on any of the “depravity”— except the murder of Carew—in which Hyde engages. As with other silences in the book, this absence of explanation may point to the clash between rational articulation and the irrationality of profound evil. Perhaps these deeds are so depraved that they defy all attempts at true explanation, or perhaps Stevenson fears that to describe them explicitly would be to destroy their eerie power.

But in this chapter in particular, the silence may also indicate not a failure of words but, as in other instances, a refusal to use them. Earlier in the novel, reserved and decorous men such as Enfield and Utterson, wanting to deny the darker elements of humanity, make such a refusal. Here, however, one can hardly ascribe the silences to a character’s denial of evil, since the letter that constitutes this chapter comes from Jekyll himself. The absence of description may owe not to any repression within the novel itself but to the repressive tendencies of the world in which Stevenson wrote. Rigid Victorian norms would not have allowed him to elaborate upon Jekyll's and Hyde's crimes if they were tremendously gruesome; Stevenson thus discusses them in a vague (and thus acceptable) mannter.