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Free Study Guide-Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson-Synopsis
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 3: Dr. Jekyll was Quite at Ease

Summary

Two weeks later, Dr. Jekyll has some friends for dinner. After dinner, when the other guests have departed, Utterson remains, as he often done on previous occasions. Jekyll has a warm and sincere regard for his friend.

Utterson talks about Dr. Jekyll's will. Though the topic is distasteful to Jekyll, he hides his displeasure and jokingly sympathizes with Mr. Utterson for having a client like himself. He tells him the last time he saw a man so distressed was when Lanyon took offense at his experiments. Lanyon is a good man, he says, but a "hide-bound pedant."

Utterson tries to persuade Jekyll to change his will, but Jekyll turns pale and asks that they drop the topic. When Utterson further presses him, Jekyll says that he cannot make any changes. "My position is a strange one," he says, and "cannot be mended by talking." Utterson asks Jekyll to confide in him and offers his help. Jekyll expresses his gratitude and says that he trusts him more than "any man alive," but that he cannot discuss the matter. Then, to put his friend at ease, he says that he can get rid of Hyde anytime. He again asks Utterson to drop the matter.


Utterson is silent a moment, then reluctantly agrees. Jekyll then says that he "has a very great interest in poor Hyde" and asks that, should anything happen to himself, Utterson will ensure that Hyde is provided for. Utterson says that he cannot pretend that he will ever like Hyde, but promises to carry out Jekyll's wish.

Notes

Jekyll, by "excellent good fortune," soon gives a party, to which Utterson is invited. This line is ironic, of course, but it is necessary that the reader meet Jekyll and see him as a normal and pleasant person in outward appearance. The reader further sees how welcome Utterson is as a guest and how close a friend of Dr. Jekyll he is.

In contrast to the small, unpleasant-looking, and young Hyde, Jekyll is a "large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty," obviously kind, sincere, and intelligent. This suggests that Hyde is only a small and not completely established part of himself. Jekyll's insistence that he can get rid of Hyde at anytime is, in retrospect chilling, for although, as the reader will learn, his initial goal in creating Hyde is to get rid of the evil in himself, Hyde will eventually take over.

Utterson again shows himself to be greatly concerned for his friend. Though, under normal circumstances, he is quiet and reserved in his friends' company, he breaks character here and presses Jekyll on the issue of the will. Not only is this unlike him, it runs against the grain of Victorian propriety. Even though Jekyll is Utterson's friend, client, and confidant, such matters would not normally be discussed.

The tone of their conversation indicates that there are deep emotions below the surface. Dr. Jekyll feels much more then he is prepared to talk about. There is clearly a strong tension between him and Lanyon, and what starts out as a lighthearted attempt to change the subject reveals a deep rift. Lanyon considers his experiments "scientific heresies," and Jekyll, in turn, has "never [been] more disappointed in any man than Lanyon." Jekyll's experiments, of course, are really at the heart of the matter. They are, however, introduced here merely as a false scent, and Utterson brushes aside this topic in a dry lawyer's manner in order to discuss what is really concerning him -- the will.

As they speak, Jekyll becomes increasingly more upset and volatile and Utterson increasingly more persistent. The scene really tells the reader nothing, since neither man is prepared to talk frankly, although both feel that they are talking about something very important and not getting through to the other. Utterson is trapped into doing something that his professional judgment abhors. This makes his position much more interesting to the reader, since the reader can see his dilemma. Stevenson will not reveal the full meaning of Jekyll's plea for justice in regard to Hyde until much later. Jekyll, of course, is not pleading for Hyde, another person, but for himself. He is afraid that he may get trapped in the identity of Hyde. Thus, the title of the chapter is ironic; Jekyll is not at ease at all, and neither is Utterson or the reader.

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