Discuss the Role Utterson Plays in the Novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
The book “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” was written during the Victorian era in Britain so many of the themes and characters are based on society in these times. Such as, men should appear respectable and to do this they repress many of their desires and enjoyments. This links strongly to Utterson as he has repressed many things about his character. For example, in the book it says “drank gin when he was alone, to mortify the taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years.” This is linked to the themes of duality of man and repressed desires as he would enjoy himself by drinking wine and going to the theatre, but this wouldn’t make him look as respectable to the public so he supresses these desires.
In the book, Utterson comes across as a very serious man; however he is trustworthy and definitely likeable as it says “cold, scanty, and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable.” This description implies that he looks quite boring and finds it hard to express emotion which is quite ironic as his job as a lawyer as it involves dealing with lots of people. Also, as he is a lawyer, it proves that he is quite trustworthy and professional as he must deal with important papers and many of his friends and acquaintances feel comfortable with sharing some of the secret with him. This links to the theme of secrecy throughout the novel. One reason why people trust him so much might be that he does not feel the need to ask questions and pry into people’s business, however later in the book, he does play detective around Dr Jekyll’s life as he is worried about his friend and is suspicious of Edward Hyde. As he is a lawyer, this makes his role in the book quite important as he will be linked to many different people through his job. He also treats everyone equally and does not judge anyone. I know this as it says “he had an approved tolerance of others.” This is then later contrasted in the book, when he first meets Edward Hyde as he almost immediately takes a disliking to the man as it says “the hitherto disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr Utterson regarded him.” This shows that the original statement of “he had an approved tolerance of others” is false as he regards Hyde with a sense of hatred. This could also be because Hyde is pure evil and detestable to everyone that sees him.
Utterson is linked to all of the important characters in this book as he is the lawyer and friend to most of them. He seems to only talk to those that are a higher class or more respectable which he has known since childhood or his family that also seem to be upper class. This shows that he isn’t very sociable with new people and is comfortable with his old friendships with Dr Jekyll and Dr Lanyon. Also, servants seem to respect and obey him and Poole, Jekyll’s butler seems to trust him with important issues to do with his master as in the chapter “The Last Night” Poole goes to Utterson with his worries about Jekyll. I know that Poole respects and trusts Lanyon as he says “I don’t like it, sir- I wish I may die if I like it. Mr Utterson, sir, I’m afraid.” As Poole, repeats the word “sir” when he talks to Utterson which shows that he is professional when talking to Utterson and understands Uttersons importance in society, however, he must trust and know Utterson well as he would not tell a stranger his fears about his master. As many people trust Utterson, it allows him to be involved in many aspects of this novel and know mostly about what happens whilst he is not around.
Utterson’s role in the Novel is a very important one, as in the paragraph above it explains how many people trust Utterson and this allows him to know about a lot of the events that happen, if he is involved or not. Even though he does not tend to pry, many people still talk to him about the events around Hyde and Jekyll. This makes Utterson a good narrator of the book as by writing it in his view it gives the reader knowledge about most of the events in the book, whilst still allowing Stevenson to build a sense of mystery around Hyde. It also gives the reader the opportunity to share the characters fear and confusion and see different people’s reaction to Hyde. Utterson also takes up the role of detective in the novel as he helps to solve the Carew murder case and investigates Hyde after his worries grow about him and Jekyll. I know this as it says “’If he be Mr Hyde,’ he had thought, ‘I shall be Mr Seek.’” This shows that he is suspicious of Hyde and his intentions and will contradict his original decision not to pry into people’s business. This also shows that he cares for Jekyll and does not wish any harm to come to him. I also think that Utterson’s role in the novel was to represent the men in the Victorian era and how they had to repress their desires and live the way they were expected to instead of how they would like to.
Overall I think the way Stevenson used Utterson to tell the story was very effective as it increases how scary the book is as Utterson was involved enough for there to be a story but not involved enough to give everything away. I also think that it was effective how he did it from Lanyon’s and Jekyll’s points of view as it allowed Stevenson to fill in the blanks on some of the events and who Edward Hyde actually is. It also allowed Stevenson to show how Jekyll and Lanyon were also feeling. This was good as throughout the book, it did not talk much about how Jekyll was reacting to Hyde or how much he began to struggle with controlling Hyde. It also gave us a bit of information about where Hyde came from and what happened before the book.