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Plot in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Plot Examples in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

Chapter Two

4

"but in the law of God there is no statute of limitations...."   (Chapter Two)

In British common law, the statute of limitations marks a period of time following a crime or disputed event during which the legal process must begin. Speaking in reference to Dr. Jekyll’s ill state as well as his wild past, Utterson concludes that Jekyll must be paying the price for some youthful crime. The crime and price are not legal in nature but rather psychological.

"superstitious prevision..."   (Chapter Two)

“Prevision” most nearly means “foresight.” As Utterson hears a set of footsteps which stir his intuition, it is clear that his “superstitious prevision” works more as a premonition or hunch. He knows he is onto something.

"“If he be Mr. Hyde,” he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.”..."   (Chapter Two)

In this internal utterance, we glimpse a rare spot of lighthearted fun and wordplay from Mr. Utterson. More importantly, this declaration sets the ensuing plot into motion. Whoever Mr. Hyde is, Mr. Utterson is committed to tracking him down and discovering his secrets.

"until the small hours of the morning began to grow large...."   (Chapter Two)

This passage offers an interesting play on an old phrase. The “small hours of the morning” refer to the hours just after midnight—1 a.m., 2 a.m., etc.—which, numerically speaking, “grow large” as dawn approaches. In the context of Utterson grappling with the mystery of Mr. Hyde, this phrase carries an additional connotation of looming, of growing terror, and of affairs expanding.

"nothing had come except by post; “and only circulars by that,”..."   (Chapter Five)

The noun “circular” refers to a type of postal mail, such as a pamphlet, that is delivered to a large quantity of people. That Poole assures Utterson that nothing other than junk mail has come raises several questions: How did Hyde deliver the letter if no one has come to Jekyll’s residence? Do Poole or Jekyll have any reason to lie about the letter’s origins? Through these questions, the mystery of Hyde and Jekyll’s relationship deepens and the tone grows more suspenseful.

"“there’s a rather singular resemblance; the two hands are in many points identical: only differently sloped.”..."   (Chapter Five)

The noted similarity in penmanship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde indicates a close relationship. At the least, one may have forged for the other—Jekyll for Hyde, as Utterson suspects—in an attempt to cover up some truth.

"“Henry Jekyll forge for a murderer!” And his blood ran cold in his veins...."   (Chapter Five)

Because Utterson has previously had a high opinion of Jekyll, the idea that Jekyll would write a letter to protect Hyde is chilling and unthinkable. At this point, Utterson is sure that Jekyll is still in contact with Hyde—that someone so respectable as Jekyll would aid the despicable Hyde fills Utterson with fear. The reader’s sense of foreboding terror increases alongside Utterson’s.

"the smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below...."   (Chapter Seven)

In a moment of startling transformation, Henry Jekyll’s attempts to put on a façade of conviviality crumble, revealing an expression of pure “terror and despair.” Jekyll’s process of unraveling descent has reached a new low. Utterson and Enfield are left speechless, sure only of the direness of Jekyll’s situation.

"let us make a clean breast...."   (Chapter Eight)

The expression “to make a clean breast,” which dates back to as early as the 18th century, means to confess fully. The breast refers to the location of the heart, whose secrets are revealed in such an act. Utterson suspects that he and Poole share a hypothesis about the identity of the figure within the room.

" that the wine was still untasted when he set it down to follow...."   (Chapter Eight)

Utterson makes particular note of the fact that Poole refuses to drink the wine he has been offered. It may be the case that Poole is too troubled and absorbed by the mysterious events surrounding Jekyll to take notice of the wine or that he wishes to keep a clear head as the investigations continue.

"and your sight shall be blasted by a prodigy to stagger the unbelief of Satan.”..."   (Chapter Nine)

Mr. Hyde offers Dr. Lanyon the choice to witness the drinking of the mixture or not. He gives the spectacle a sense of enormous scale, promising “new avenues to fame and power.” He goes on to cast it in religious language, referring to it as a “prodigy”—an extraordinary, inexplicable occurrence—that would shake even the most skeptical. Hyde’s heightened tone underscores the climactic nature of the moment.

"Doctor Lanyon’s Narrative..."   (Chapter Nine)

The story takes a distinct turn in its telling. With Dr. Lanyon and Mr. Hyde dead, and Dr. Jekyll gone, the events of the plot have run their course. Yet there are a number of loose ends. Stevenson structures the end of the story with two chapters of illuminating exposition: the first written by Dr. Lanyon, the second by Dr. Jekyll. Both chapters represent examples of a story-within-a-story structure, in which multiple layers of narrative are nested.

"there stood Henry Jekyll!..."   (Chapter Nine)

At this moment, the duality of Jekyll and Hyde is revealed: Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, two halves of the same whole who are constantly warring with one another. Though readers may have suspected the relationship before, only here—in a violent, grotesque litany of imagery—is their true connection confirmed. The implication of this revelation speaks to the good and evil present in every person: though people are capable of great cruelty, they are also capable of morality and respectability.

"flighty colleague..."   (Chapter Nine)

The adjective “flighty” means impulsive and irresponsible. With the mundane discovery of Jekyll’s various experimental ingredients—none of which seem out of the ordinary— Lanyon is becoming increasingly convinced that Jekyll is insane and unable to think rationally.

"The movement was thus wholly toward the worse...."   (Chapter Ten)

Jekyll’s original aim was to separate the good and evil portions of himself so that each could go their own way, unhindered by the other. Unfortunately, only the immoral Hyde is free of the virtue of Jekyll; Jekyll is still a mixture of restraint and impulsivity instead of wholly virtuous, indicating that the experiment has only succeeded in creating a person without Jekyll’s control.

" that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself...."   (Chapter Ten)

Though readers may have already realized it, here Jekyll confirms that the ugly Edward Hyde is the immoral version of himself. He symbolizes all the impulses Henry Jekyll has suppressed over his lifetime, and is accordingly ugly because of that.

"managed to compound a drug by which these powers should be dethroned from their supremacy..."   (Chapter Ten)

Here, Jekyll explains the method he used to transform his personality: he created a drug that removed his moral compass and upright character and allowed the “lower” parts of his personality—his traits that were frowned upon—to take control. Though they take a different physical form, these traits are still part of him.

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