View Full Version : The first Chapter

Tony Shaw
05-24-2005, 06:07 PM
Setting the Scene<br><br>From as early as the first chapter “Story of the Door” Robert Louis Stevenson prepares the reader for the dark tale that follows in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is achieved through his carefully chosen descriptions of place, weather, season, time, character and the incident in the anecdote related by Mr Enfield. The overall effect of these descriptions builds up a sinister atmosphere that appropriately prepares us for the sinister character and action developed later in the novel.<br><br>The chapter follows the walk of two friends through a “dingy neighbourhood” (p10) down a street of open shop fronts which in contrast “shone out” (p10) with “an air of invitation” (p10). This technique shows us a good side to the seedy neighbourhood, reflecting the duality of the area as a portent of things to come within the figure of Jekyll. After this initial description of the eye pleasing street Stevenson then introduces the topic of the first chapter, the Door. He refers to the doors building as a “sinister block” (p10) that “thrust forward” (p10) into the street. The building is described as having “a blind forehead of discoloured wall” (p11) that was showing a “sordid negligence” (p11), the word choice of these phrases indicating some menacing form of malady or disfigurement both of which could be compared to Hyde’s appearance.<br><br>To further the feeling of impending darkness within the novel Stevenson has Mr Enfield relate a tale to Utterson about an encounter with the man associated with the door. Enfield describes the tale happening on a “black winter morning” (p11) encouraging the reader to feel the cold and dark setting. He describes the street as “empty as a church” (p11) not only to describe the lonely streets but also as an ironic reference to the sensibilities of the Victorian times and the lack of faith held by many as stated by Enfield. This can be linked back to the continuing theme of duality within Hyde. Enfield tells Utterson that he began to “long for the sight of a Policeman” (p11) due to his growing unease and discomfort of the night and at this point Stevenson decides to introduce Hyde for the first time.<br><br>Enfield recounts a collision between “a little man” (p11) (who is later revealed as Hyde) and a young girl. He tells how the Hyde “trampled calmly over the child’s body” (p11), the choice of combining the words ‘trampled’ with ‘calmly’ implies many unsavoury images about such an encounter, that maybe the man thought nothing of his actions which could be true of Hyde’s nature or perhaps even some element of clinical method to his trampling as would Hyde’s alter ego Dr Jekyll. Enfield goes on further to clarify by saying the man was like a “damned juggernaut” and describes the incident as “hellish to see” (p12) using other worldly suggestions of Hell and Juggernauts to distance Hyde from any form of normality and give his actions a supernatural appearance.<br><br>After the evocative description of the event Enfield gives chase to Hyde and eventually drags him back to the gathering crowd around the now screaming little girl. Hyde although “frightened” (p12) manages to keep the crowd at bay with a “black sneering coolness” (p12). The crowd’s reaction hints at a source of supernatural malice toward Hyde from the gathered onlookers. Enfield admits he had “taken a loathing” (p12) to Hyde and understood that the girls family had natural cause to feel the same. It was the Doctors reaction that struck Enfield. He saw that the doctor despite being described as “cut-and-dry” (p12) and quite emotionless “turned sick and white, in the desire to kill him” (p12) and found that this mirrored his revulsion toward Hyde. It shows how Hyde draws out the darkness within people causing them to experience darker sides of themselves.<br><br>The events of the incident are resolved with the crowd ‘forcing’ Hyde to compensate the family for his actions. It is important to note however that although Enfield knows the person who owns the chequebook Hyde uses he does not call the man to question. This reflects on the cultural belief of minding one’s own business which would be truth in Victorian times. This idea of secrecy is reinforced within the description of “Blackmail House” (p13) which is wrapped in secrecy with its shuttered windows and constantly locked doors.<br><br>It is clear that the first chapter of The strange case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde is wrapped tightly with foreshadowing events and sinister descriptions of both its places and characters all of which help build suspense as the reader prepares to venture into the dark streets of London. Overall the themes of duality and secrecy are served well to influence readers’ perceptions. One must wonder what impact the story must have had without prior knowledge that Jekyll is in fact Hyde.<br><br>