|A FORTNIGHT later, by excellent good fortune, the doctor gave one of his pleasant dinners to some five or six old cronies, all intelligent, reputable men and all judges of good wine; and Mr Utterson so contrived that he remained behind after the others had departed. This was no new arrangement, but a thing that had befallen many scores of times. Where Utterson was liked, he was liked well. Hosts loved to detain the dry lawyer, when the light-hearted and the loose-tongued had already their foot on the threshold; they liked to sit a while in his unobtrusive company, practising for solitude, sobering their minds in the man’s rich silence after the expense and strain of gaiety. To this rule, Dr Jekyll was no exception; and as he now sat on the opposite side of the fire—a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness—you could see by his looks that he cherished for Mr Utterson a sincere and warm affection.||1|
|“I have been wanting to speak to you, Jekyll,” began the latter. “You know that will of yours?”||2|
|A close observer might have gathered that the topic was distasteful, but the doctor carried it off gaily. “My poor Utterson,” said he, “you are unfortunate in such a client. I never saw a man so distressed as you were by my will; unless it were that hide-bound pedant, Lanyon, at what he called my scientific heresies. Oh, I know he’s a good fellow—you needn’t frown—an excellent fellow, and I always mean to see more of him; but a hide-bound pedant for all that; an ignorant, blatant pedant. I was never more disappointed in any man than Lanyon.”||3|
|“You know I never approved of it,” pursued Utterson, ruthlessly disregarding the fresh topic.||4|
|“My will? Yes, certainly, I know that,” said the doctor, a trifle sharply. “You have told me so.”||5|
|“Well, I tell you so again,” continued the lawyer. “I have been learning something of young Hyde.”||6|
|The large handsome face of Dr Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes. “I do not care to hear more,” said he. “This is a matter I thought we had agreed to drop.”||7|
|“What I heard was abominable,” said Utterson.||8|
|“It can make no change. You do not understand my position,” returned the doctor, with a certain incoherency of manner. “I am painfully situated, Utterson; my position is a very strange—a very strange one. It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking.”|
My analysis of Chapter Three of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde will take the form of bullet point and questions. This format helps you to respond in your own voice to the text. And will also show how many different responses can be generated through a close reading of an extract.
How far do we believe the title of the chapter? Is Dr Jekyll performing being ‘quite at ease’ rather than being genuinely relaxed? Is the ‘ease’ a form of veil or smokescreen conjured up by Jekyll( hiding Hyde within) in order to allay the
Consider also the irony of ‘by excellent good fortune’. Does this again hint at the artificiality of the arrangement? Does it reveal Jekyll’s awareness that Hyde is leading him astray and that he must mollify the suspicions of Utterson? Does the constructed nature of the dinner also reveal the connivance of Jekyll even when he is not being Hyde? Or is Hyde using Jekyll as a form of protection? Almost as if he is wearing Jekyll and secretly being Hyde? Think about ideas around ventriloquism and performance. How far is all identity a construction?
How far do we trust the careless counting of the generic ‘cronies’? Does this suggest that the identity of the cronies is irrelevant with the notable exception of Utterson? I wonder at the verb ‘contrived’ as it suggests that Utterson is in charge, yet the contrivance of the event itself suggests that it is Jekyll who is really manipulating the event. ( With his ‘ Hyde’ self, looking through his eyes….hence their ‘slyish cast’ perhaps? )
The ‘kindness’ that Jekyll feels for his friend Utterson, is surely a threat to Hyde? The affection seems genuine and ‘warm’ and perhaps the ‘slyish cast’ within Jekyll represents his other side, his Hyde self which loathes Jekyll’s associations with gentlemen(the not-Hydes!)
I am also interested in the idea of Hyde’s secret possession of Jekyll. It might feel as if the Hyde self is colonising the Jekyll self so that the outer man( the Jekyll self ) is like a necessary suit worn by Hyde to give him the freedom to roam. The ‘slyish cast’ of Jekyll might thus suggest that Hyde is peeping out of Jekyll’s eyes, watching the world safely, enjoying his malign and privileged privacy. It is certainly true that Hyde’s speech, aside from a few scattered oaths, sounds exactly like Jekyll. The whole question of self as performance becomes more and more important as the narrative progresses.
Notice how Jekyll attempts to use Lanyon as a diversion, even a conversational ‘sacrifice’ in order to put Utterson off the scent of Hyde. This emphasises the connivance and contrivance of Jekyll as underlines his already fallen status. Utterson’s dogmatic, tenacious pursuit of Jekyll in terms of the will and links to his fortune, reveals the lawyer’s developed curiosity and moral outrage at the association that exists between Hyde and his friend. This scene is dramatic as it shows the shift in power between Jekyll’s constructed performance of social normality and Utterson’s relentless attempt to extract the truth about Hyde and therefore ‘save’ the reputation and soul of his friend.
Utterson’ verdict on Hyde is forthright and clearly shows his moral position. He pronounces Hyde’s behaviour as ‘abominable’ and unsettles Jekyll so that the latter becomes victim to a certain ‘incoherency of manner’. Think of this scene as being transformed by Utterson into a courtroom, where Jekyll is suddenly made aware that he is on trial for his secret relationship with Hyde. The more Utterson pursues the slippery, evasive Jekyll, the more Jekyll obfuscates and seems deceitful. It may even seem as if under scrutiny, the facade or shell of ‘Jekyll’ falls away and we are really listening to Hyde. Notice the enigmatic irony of Jekyll’s admission about Hyde, that ”It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking.”
How far is this true in terms of the novel’s dark secret? Think about the irony surrounding the name of the novel’s detective, Utterson. Is the whole narrative an exploration of the deadly fascination with otherness, which by its very nature remains illegible or obscure? Literally unutterable? Necessarily unutterable because of the threat to the Victorian respectability and belief systems?
Finally, think of the context of this chapter. It is followed by the chapter describing the murder of Danvers Carew about a year after the events of chapter three. (See my discussion here.) Once the smokescreen or veil lifts on the reality of Hyde’s behaviour, we see the full realisation of Hyde’s predilection for violence. It hardly seems likely that Hyde has been ‘good’ for a year; we suspect he has been more careful, possibly confining his excursions to areas like Soho where criminality and sexual assignation are the norms. The explosion of interest in Hyde’s behaviour only occurs when he kills a member of the Upper-class. Once such a transgression occurs, then the world suddenly wants to know about the identity of Hyde, hastening Jekyll’s suicide and that of his double.
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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