Summary: Chapter 2: Search for Mr. Hyde

Utterson, prompted by his conversation with Enfield, goes home to study a will that he drew up for his close friend Dr. Jekyll. It states that in the event of the death or disappearance of Jekyll, all of his property should be given over immediately to a Mr. Edward Hyde. This strange will had long troubled Utterson, but now that he has heard something of Hyde’s behavior, he becomes more upset and feels convinced that Hyde has some peculiar power over Jekyll. Seeking to unravel the mystery, he pays a visit to Dr. Lanyon, a friend of Jekyll’s. But Lanyon has never heard of Hyde and has fallen out of communication with Jekyll as a result of a professional dispute. Lanyon refers to Jekyll’s most recent line of research as “unscientific balderdash.”

Later that night, Utterson is haunted by nightmares in which a faceless man runs down a small child and in which the same terrifying, faceless figure stands beside Jekyll’s bed and commands him to rise. Soon, Utterson begins to spend time around the run-down building where Enfield saw Hyde enter, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Hyde. Hyde, a small young man, finally appears, and Utterson approaches him. Utterson introduces himself as a friend of Henry Jekyll. Hyde, keeping his head down, returns his greetings. He asks Hyde to show him his face, so that he will know him if he sees him again; Hyde complies, and, like Enfield before him, Utterson feels appalled and horrified yet cannot pinpoint exactly what makes Hyde so ugly. Hyde then offers Utterson his address, which the lawyer interprets as a sign that Hyde eagerly anticipates the death of Jekyll and the execution of his will.

After this encounter, Utterson pays a visit to Jekyll. At this point, we learn what Utterson himself has known all along: namely, that the run-down building that Hyde frequents is actually a laboratory attached to Jekyll’s well-kept townhouse, which faces outward on a parallel street. Utterson is admitted into Jekyll’s home by Jekyll’s butler, Mr. Poole, but Jekyll is not at home. Poole tells Utterson that Hyde has a key to the laboratory and that all the servants have orders to obey Hyde. The lawyer heads home, worrying about his friend. He assumes Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll, perhaps for some wrongdoings that Jekyll committed in his youth.

Summary: Chapter 3: Dr. Jekyll Was Quite at Ease

Two weeks later, Jekyll throws a well-attended dinner party. Utterson stays late so that the two men can speak privately. Utterson mentions the will, and Jekyll begins to make a joke about it, but he turns pale when Utterson tells him that he has been “learning something of young Hyde.” Jekyll explains that the situation with Hyde is exceptional and cannot be solved by talking. He also insists that “the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde.” But Jekyll emphasizes the great interest he currently takes in Hyde and his desire to continue to provide for him. He makes Utterson promise that he will carry out his will and testament.

Analysis: Chapters 2 & 3

Utterson behaves here like an amateur detective, as he does throughout the rest of the novel. However, unlike most detectives, he faces a gulf between what seems to be the factual evidence of the case and the supernatural reality behind it. This gulf is apparent in Utterson’s reading of the will, for instance. On the face of it, Jekyll’s stipulation that all his property be handed over to Hyde and his later horror at the thought of Utterson “learning something of young Hyde” seem to point squarely at blackmail of some sort. Of course, Utterson never imagines the situation that lies behind these behaviors. Similarly, the will’s reference to “death or disappearance” (emphasis added) makes Utterson immediately think of the possibility of murder. The idea that Jekyll could literally transform himself into another and thereby disappear simply does not occur to Utterson, as it would not occur to any rational person. Utterson’s failure to detect the truth does not demonstrate any failure in logic.

Read important quotes about the rational vs. the irrational.

However, Stevenson does contrive to have his hardheaded lawyer access the dark supernatural undercurrents at work in the case of Jekyll and Hyde—if only in a limited way. Stevenson enlightens Utterson through the use of the dream sequence. In Utterson’s dreams, the faceless figure of Hyde stalks through the city: “if at any time [Utterson] dozed over,” the author writes, “it was but to see [Hyde] glide more stealthily through sleeping houses, or move the more swiftly … through wider labyrinths of lamp-lighted city, and at every street corner crush a child and leave her screaming.” In Utterson’s dreams, then, Hyde appears ubiquitous, permeating the city with his dark nature and his crimes. This idea of Hyde as a universal presence suggests that this faceless figure, crushing children and standing by Jekyll’s bed, symbolizes all the secret sins that lurk beneath the surface of respectable London. This notion of hidden crimes recurs throughout the novel. It is significant that Stevenson never gives us any details of Jekyll’s indiscretions prior to his creation of Hyde, nor of Hyde’s wicked, dissipated habits. The crimes remain shrouded in mystery; to explain them in rational language would strip them of their supernatural and eerie quality.

Hyde’s ugliness prompts a similar loss of words. When Utterson finally converses with Hyde and sees his face, like Enfield, he proves unable to comprehend and delineate exactly what makes Hyde so ugly and frightening. Significantly, though, one of the words that the fumbling lawyer comes up with is “troglodyte,” a term referring to a prehistoric, manlike creature. Through this word, the text links the immoral Hyde to the notion of recidivism—a fall from civilization and a regression to a more primitive state. The imperialist age of Victorian England manifested a great fear of recidivism, particularly in its theories of racial science, in which theorists cautioned that lesser, savage peoples might swallow up the supposedly-superior white races.

Read more about the symbolism of Mr. Hyde’s physical appearance.

The description of Jekyll’s house introduces an element of clear symbolism. The doctor lives in a well-appointed home, described by Stevenson as having “a great air of wealth and comfort.” The building secretly connects to his laboratory, which faces out on another street and appears sinister and run-down. It is in the laboratory that Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde. Like the two secretly connected buildings, seemingly having nothing to do with each other but in fact easily traversed, the upstanding Jekyll and the corrupt Hyde appear separate but in fact share an unseen inner connection.

Read more about Jekyll’s house and laboratory as symbols.

These chapters also introduce us to the minor character of Dr. Lanyon, Jekyll’s former colleague. Lanyon’s labeling of Jekyll’s research as “unscientific balderdash” hints at the supernatural bent of the experiments, which contrasts powerfully with the prevailing scientific consensus of the Victorian world, in which rationalism and materialism held sway. In his reverence for the rational and logical, Lanyon emerges as the quintessential nineteenth-century scientist, automatically dismissing Jekyll’s mystical experiments. Later events prove that his dogmatic faith in a purely material science is more akin to superstition than Jekyll’s experiments.