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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 6: Remarkable Incident of Dr. Lanyon

Summary

The search for Hyde goes on. Thousands of pounds are offered in reward to anyone who has information on the whereabouts of Hyde. Strange tales start to emerge about his past misdeeds, but nobody knows where he presently is. Mr. Utterson gradually recovers from the shock and sorrow of Sir Danvers' murder. With Hyde gone, Dr. Jekyll recovers his health and happiness and leads an even more admirable and distinguished life than before. For more than two months, he is at peace.

Utterson visits Dr. Jekyll almost daily. On January 8th, he attends a dinner party at which Dr. Lanyon is present, and Jekyll seems overjoyed to be in the company of his old friends. Four days later, however, Utterson is turned away at the door by Poole, who says that Dr. Jekyll has gone into seclusion and is seeing no one. After being turned away several times, he goes to see Dr. Lanyon.

When he meets Lanyon, he is shocked to discover that he looks old, ill, and near death. Lanyon tells Utterson that he has had a shock from which he will never recover and that he is a doomed man, soon to die. He speaks mysteriously of having knowledge that has ruined life for him: "I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more than glad to get away."


Utterson says that Dr. Jekyll is also ill and inquires whether Lanyon has seen him. Lanyon holds up a trembling hand and says that he does not wish speak of that man, whom he regards as dead. Utterson tries to appease Lanyon, but to no avail. He says that after he is dead, Utterson may perhaps learn the truth of the situation, but, for now, he cannot speak of it, and he asks Utterson to either change the subject or leave.

Utterson writes a letter to Dr. Jekyll complaining about the treatment he has received and asking as to the reasons for his rift with Lanyon. The next day he receives a dark, strange, and sad answer from Jekyll, saying that the break with Lanyon is unfortunate but necessary, and that, henceforth, he will lead a life of seclusion, as he has committed terrible sins and is undergoing tremendous suffering for them. He asks Utterson to allow him to go his "own dark way" and respect his silence.

Dr. Lanyon soon dies. The night after the funeral, Utterson retires to his study and opens an envelope addressed to him under Lanyon's seal. He pauses before opening the envelope, fearing that, having just buried one friend, he is about to lose another, but then breaks the seal. Inside there is an enclosure. Upon its cover, in Lanyon's hand, is a note stating that it is not to be opened until the death or disappearance of Dr. Jekyll. He is shocked at the word "disappearance," which has once again been linked with Jekyll's name. For a moment, he wishes to open and read it immediately, but his professional ethics prevents him from doing so. He puts it away in the innermost corner of his private safe.

Utterson is concerned for Jekyll and goes to visit him, but the narrator suggests that perhaps he was no longer as eager to see his friend as before, and, indeed, might almost have been relieved to speak with Poole on the steps rather than enter "that house of voluntary bondage." Poole informs Utterson that Dr. Jekyll has confined himself to the laboratory, even sleeping there sometimes, and that he is disturbed and silent. Hearing the same thing each time he returns, Utterson soon reduces the frequency of his visits.

Notes

Dr. Lanyon might have first seemed an insignificant character, but his reactions now turn out to be very important. The sudden seclusion of Jekyll has warned the reader that something is wrong, and now the change in Lanyon is even more dramatic and foreboding. His violent, seemingly irrational response to Utterson's inquiries after Jekyll prepare the reader for some major change in Jekyll's behavior. The previous stress on their intimacy now becomes clear, for their estrangement indicates how terribly Lanyon is shocked and how far Jekyll has apparently gone. Lanyon's language might have been written off as that of a madman, had Stevenson not previously established the calm professional circles in which the three friends move. It is unlikely for them to talk rubbish or overdramatize, so the reader feels sure that something very serious has happened to Jekyll.

Utterson's professional and personal integrity now matters very much. His attempts to reconcile Lanyon with Jekyll is touching -- "We three are very old friends, Lanyon; we shall not live to make others," he says. He is loyal to both men, and his fear for Jekyll is balanced by his sense of duty to Lanyon. Thus, though he is initially afraid to open Lanyon's letter, worrying that it will contain some infallible indictment of Jekyll, he does so anyway, as it would be disloyal to Lanyon not to. When he opens the letter, he finds another envelope, with the instructions that it not be opened except in the case of the death or disappearance of Jekyll. The temptation to know how Hyde is connected with Lanyon's death, as well as Jekyll's aberrations, would have been too much for any average man to resist. However, Utterson is not an average man, and he reluctantly puts away the document. This act, in addition to highlighting Utterson's character, also allows Stevenson to prolong the mystery a bit longer. The reader and Utterson both can only watch helplessly as Jekyll descends into his old bad habits and strange behavior.

In terms of the larger story, the two-month period during which Jekyll is at peace represents the time during which he tries to keep Hyde at bay and repent of his ill-deeds following the murder. In a sense, Hyde is gone, and his "disappearance" allows Jekyll to regain some sense of himself. When Hyde reemerges, Jekyll throws himself into seclusion. At this point, the reader does not know what it is that has affected Lanyon so terribly. This will be revealed in chapter nine, where Utterson learns that Lanyon had discovered that Jekyll was Hyde.

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