Cours de C. HUGUET
"The Carew Murder Case"
pp. 21-22 (Norton): "Nearly a year later… before to Henry Jekyll"
Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of those stories that
almost dissociate themselves from their author and, although Charles Dickens
certainly remains the great mythologist of the nineteenth century, Stevenson
shares with him the privilege of having created a character (or is it two
characters?) refusing to be confined within the pages of a book and having
actually entered into the English language.1 As present-day readers of the novel,
we thus have considerable advantages over Stevenson's contemporaries when it
comes to assessing long-term implications of novelistic practices. But we also
necessarily miss much of the fun and excitement of a first-time reading
experience  the "Story of the Door" and "Search for Mr Hyde" overture
chapters inevitably fail to raise the same interrogations. Nor does "the Carew
Murder Case" create the same enthralling suspense, understandably; as a result,
to do justice to Stevenson's craftsmanship in this striking episode one needs to
keep in mind the primary level of reading and analyse first the storyteller's
zestful exploitation of textual strategies that are the hallmark of most Victorian
thrillers. Because Stevenson himself defined his new novel not only as "a fine
bogey tale" but also as an allegory, critical focus may then shift to the novelist's
working up of motifs and ideas, both personal and topical, allowing the desired
balance of entertainment and edification to be reached. Nevertheless, like many
a quintessential Victorian, Stevenson could still remain profoundly ambiguous;
his engineering of the execution of one "good" gentleman by another "wicked"
one is a case in point and may ultimately be examined as a finely ironical
illustration of the hidden depths the unsavoury/unsaid diktat rarely fails to
produce in nineteenth-century fiction.
(I. A Victorian mystery-thriller)
Jekyll and Hyde may be seen as a superb mosaic of Victorian literary
conventions and devices; Stevenson was a man of his day, whose tastes and
techniques as artist were to a large extent characteristic of the notion of fiction
that was in the air since the mid-fifties. His natural inventiveness made
sensationalism particularly attractive to him. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, whom he
The device = an antonomasia (Greek: naming instead) = using a proper name to express an idea. "A Jekyll and
Hyde" is someone who seems to have two different characters, one good and one bad.
discovered at the age of fifteen, would always be a "very good read," he
acknowledged in a letter to her written in the last years of his life. Although the
sensation novel had dominated the 1860s, it was still immensely popular two
decades later, and Stevenson, along with writers like Thomas Hardy, availed
himself unsparingly of some of its specific ingredients, notably the nervetingling brew of mystery and violent crime of a characteristically gruesome
nature, perpetrated in lurid "blood-and-thunder" scenes. In order to turn a
helpless old man into "a body," a "it," Stevenson chooses to have him savagely
assaulted and clubbed to death rather than neatly shot dead on the spot, for
instance, thus revealing his inherited allegiance to sensation-seeking literature.
And with a view to making Hyde's display of cruelty more blood-curdling if
possible, he appeals to the reader's imagination through the senses of sight and
hearing combined: "the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon
the roadway."(l. 35)
This typically Victorian addiction to strong emotions needs to be placed
against the background of contemporary popular drama too. Melodrama was a
flourishing genre throughout the nineteenth century, and Stevenson's fascination
with popular theatricals of all kinds has been well documented. The very title of
his novel, "Strange Case of…" looks towards melodramatic extravagance of
emotion and clearly manifests, more largely, Stevenson's awareness of the
rhetorical concept of "Admiratio," that is the excitement created by whatever is
exceptional. The reading contract established by the self-advertising title-page
adjective remains valid throughout the murder episode. Hyperbolic adjectives
and adverbs are rife ("singular" l. 2; "notable" l. 3; "incredibly" l. 41; "is it
possible?" l. 60). In the deadly encounter, extremes are pitted the one against the
other  the villain has to be an arch-villain, a master criminal, and the
victimised gentleman a paragon of virtue. The text generously distributes
markers of intensity: "very" ("very small gentleman; very pretty manner; very
much surprised; very tough and heavy wood" ll. 15, 18, 32, 42-3); "great" ("a
great flame of anger" l. 29). The moon itself is conveniently full; as for the
walking-stick, it is made of "rare" wood. Comparisons between before and after
are ostentatiously drawn to enhance the exceptional nature of the occurrences
("rendered all the more notable; never had she felt more at peace" ll. 2, 11-12).
Stylistic emphasis mirrors the characters' predicament, Hyde's crime supposedly
constituting an uncontrolled exaggeration of Jekyll's "wild" disposition.
The remarkable theatricality of the "scene at the window," as Stevenson
names it in his "A Chapter on Dreams," should also be assessed in the light of
the novelist's taste for melodrama. The episode is neatly divided into three "acts"
(preparation for the tragedy/ unwinding/ aftermath), with a loud curtain-fall inbetween the last two acts: "At the horror of these sights and sounds, the maid
fainted." (ll. 37-8) The preference given to the visual (the murder scene itself is
mere dumb-show, the thud of blows being the only noise to be heard) enhances
the rhythmic sophistication / staginess of the narrator's commentary, due in
particular to the contrasted final iamb and trochee as well as to the histrionic
alliteration in [s] and rhyming effect in [ei]. Such lines inevitably remind the
reader of melodramatic stage-diction. The text skilfully exploits stage-levels too,
the maid's garret window standing for the upstage part of the show-room, thus
heralding in an interesting change from the eye-level perspective of Hyde so far
adopted. Stevenson's attentive eye to scenography allows the décor to be made
the most of, with a significant dialectics of indoor/outdoor action , from the
maid's room to the open streets, back to Utterson's chambers, through the streets
again and into a police station cell.
Stevenson "loved to speak in a circle of stage-fire," to use Ruskin's
celebrated comment on Dickens. He readily acknowledged his debt to pictorial
art too: to reach a climax, the text should offer a powerful tableau for
contemplation, and the reader certainly gets good value in fright thanks to the
striking body language (ll. 27, 31-2). In his essay "A Gossip of Romance,"
Stevenson voices his liking for plastic poses most clearly: "the characters fall
from time to time into some attitude to each other or to nature, which stamps the
story home like an illustration." The reader's sense of vicarious experience is
further enhanced by the optical pleasure to be derived from the bird's-eye view
adopted. Kept at a safe distance from the scene, the servant-girl and the reader
are invited to stare at the execution of Carew with the same sense of temporary
visual power that the Victorians used to gain through the medium of the home
stereoscope or the panorama (a large painted representation producing a
compelling illusion of three-dimensionality, including lighting effects and false
perspectives, to be contemplated in a darkened room). Stevenson pays
considerable attention to his fear-producing colour-scheme in this night scene:
Carew's hoary hair (l. 14) and gold watch offer a sharp contrast to literal and
metaphorical blood-red Hyde ("a great flame of anger," ll. 29-30; "the gory
splintered cane" l. 45). The text unashamedly capitalises on chiaroscuro effects,
with a mythically-charged light source ("the moon shone on his face," l. 21) for
an appeal to the horror-struck reader's imagination.
Such attentive stage-setting of the nightmare also obviously looks back to
the Gothic genre, which comes as no surprise in an age characterised by a
"Gothic Revival," in architecture especially. Stevenson's gothicisation of his
story is not original; the maze of dark lanes, the defenceless maid in an all-male
world, the menacing grotesque fiend are recognisable Gothic bric-a-brac. Hyde
owes much to Dickens's evil dwarf Quilp, in The Old Curiosity Shop. The text
similarly transmutes reality by asserting the interdependence of the domestic and
the abnormal, allowing perfectly identifiable feelings (professional ambition) to
coexist along with "insensate" ones. (l. 44) Proximity is a key element in a scene
which is not just a matter of taking crime as its subject, but of showing it acted
out in, and threatening, seemingly ordinary surroundings, hence the amount of
realistic notations: the maid's timetable l. 5, the detail of the box under the
window in the cramped room l. 9, Mr Utterson's habit of breakfasting in bed l.
In this context of transmutation of reality, the careful build-up of suspense
is mere routine. The text teasingly allows tension to mount  the victim's
leisurely approach, the fatal encounter and its consequences, "the day after" are
necessary steps in the creation of this enigma of the sphinx. All certainties have
to be blurred and it is important that the servant-girl should be close enough to
take in all the dreadful details of the scene (it ensures a sense of the alien among
us), and far enough not to overhear the conversation, leaving the reader no
option but to cling to pure conjecture: "from his pointing, it sometimes appeared
as if he were only inquiring his way; but…" ll. 20-21. The narrative makes a
show of cautiousness, to the point of fussiness: indefinite verbs and phrases crop
up ("seem; appear; something; as of…" ll. 18-23). Stevenson emerges here as
the proud, self-confident master of "few and/but startling details," effortlessly
guiding his spell-bound reader from the gradual revelation of Hyde's personality
and identity in the early chapters to the next necessary stage in the concatenation
of events: the disclosure and confirmation of the disturbing relationship between
Jekyll and his "protégé." Utterson functions as a central cog in the machinery of
suspense, since his name is found on the envelope, he identifies the body and,
above all, tantalisingly recognises the cane. After histrionically programming
itself as thrilling matter ("The Carew Murder Case"), the episode spins out the
palette of human reactions, from idle musing to passing curiosity, surprise and
unbearable horror, to come to a dramatic close and a solemn cliff-hanger l. 68.
Stevenson develops a powerful rhetoric of suspense throughout, making the
most of linguistic delay mechanisms such as hypotaxis (large amount of
subordinate clauses: ll. 5ff or 41ff, for instance).
As is often the case in mystery-thrillers in the Charles Dickens – Wilkie
Collins vein, the detective police are allowed on the spot only to add to the
general confusion at first. They are in particular conventionally endowed with a
subsidiary status and a subordinate role, the main villain-finder remaining
Utterson the lawyer, a clear reminiscence of the Dickensian legalistic sleuth.
The aesthetic pleasure in detection is created in a straightforward way; to shift
from plot to plotting, Stevenson drags in all the main ingredients of the detective
story genre  a morally reliable eye-witness, a necessary amount of props as
evidence (the corpus delicti to prove that the servant-girl has not been dreaming
the scene, like Stevenson), the walking-stick. Stevenson does not depart either
from another habitual novelistic practice which consists in introducing decoys,
lures, in order to waylay the reader-as-sleuth. "A maid living alone in a house
not far from the river" (l. 4) does not inaugurate some Jack-the-Ripper horrormystery after all. As for the reassuring lapse of time (l. 1) and the absence of
stifling smog, they create inverted pathetic fallacy. If the artist wishes the reader
to play the game of h(y)de-and-seek along with him and Mr Seek, the narrative
must evince acceptance of the appropriate mood, including the right jargon (that
is, a generic sociolect like "case, victim, murderer, the man"). The detective
story genre is a constrained form of discourse, having its own codified laws, and
the reader might be tempted to grumble over Stevenson's creaky machinery in
places: why should Sir Danvers Carew post a letter to his lawyer in the dead of
night? What on earth was he doing in this back street? Stevenson makes a
strained use of Utterson as go-between  why should Jekyll need him to start
with, being a DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) and LLD (Doctor of Laws) himself?
And the link between Hyde and the maid's non-entity of a master reads like a
far-fetched coincidence.
However, the reader easily overlooks such lame planning thanks to the
convincing narrative strategy throughout. The opening of chapter 4 offers a
striking example of the multi-narrational method  a montage, a palimpsest of
subjective voices (Wilkie Collins's trademark) imparting depth, ensuring
dramatic intensity as well as making for an effect of naturalness and
authenticity, paradoxically enough. While borrowing loud journalese ("singular
ferocity" l. 2) from absent reporters, the narrator also delegates power to the girl
(ll. 10ff conflate indirect and free indirect speech). Narrative authority also
mutely passes on to a member of the police force ("he had] been told the
circumstances," ll. 51-2) and even allows bold mise en abyme (l. 63: "he briefly
narrated what the maid had seen" and said). These iterative and complementary
narratives obviously pave the way for Jekyll's corroboration of events in his "full
statement of the case," their other main function being to protract the lawsuit
analogy, one of the trade secrets of detective fiction. Events have to be neatly
reconstructed from different angles, with clockwork precision, if the mystery
story is to grab its client at all. The inner chronology of the book enables
unlimited freedom with the linearity of events, as the elliptic chrononym l. 1
("18–"), the analeptic pluperfect l. 5 ("had gone upstairs to bed") or the proleptic
present tense l. 8 ("it seems") well show.
For all these reasons, there is no denying the enduring strength of the
novel as "a magnificent bit of sensationalism," to use Stevenson's wife's own
words, although the concept was a sore point with both the husband and his
wife. Torn between his impulsive desire to produce a forceful shocker or
"crawler," and his reluctance to put only one more low, vulgar "penny dreadful"
upon the Christmas mass-market, Stevenson apologetically rewrote his little
book in order to allegorise it. The murder of Carew, which he had probably
dreamed as a perfect bit of "catch-penny" fiction provides an adequate
illustration of the enlarged scope of the tale.
(II. From bogey tale to allegory)
If the Stevensons had the moral lesson in mind when they talked of
allegorising the horror story, literary critics see allegory as a mode of
expression, a form of analogy, not a mode of thought. An allegory is a sustained
metaphor, "a metaphorical narrative, running parallel with a conceptual one but
deferring to it" (Northrop Frye). Stevenson indeed starts with the immaterial fact
of the duality of man's nature and translates it into concrete, coherent imagery.
More generally speaking, the Stevensons were disregarding literary
distinctions (between the allegory and the parable, in particular) and merely
thinking in terms of the Victorian docere delectando doctrine (to teach while
pleasing). Stevenson burnt his first draft, rewrote and polished his story in an
attempt to promote it to the rank of cautionary tale. In this light what does the
concrete murder of Carew signify? Hyde is clearly to be accepted as an allegory
of impending death, but judging from textual semiotic density, several analogies
come to mind as well, the foremost one being the apocalyptic theme.
1) "that damned old business of the war in the members" = the biblical
wrestle with oneself.
Both the narrator's and Utterson's solemn stance pleads in favour of such a
reading. "The deed had been done" (a heavy-handed polyptoton: use of words
having the same root) anticipates Utterson's "solemn, grave" reaction (ll. 52, 54
= a choric commentary on the action).
= to be understood as a personal, compulsive stance: Stevenson inherited a
generous share of the Protestant imaginative tradition. His Bible culture = the
Old Testament outlook + Scottish devil literature and double stories. Stevenson
= heavily marked by the Calvinistic outlook on man = negativistic:
corruptibility, predestination to damnation. Hyde must out with a vengeance,
after two months of a life of great "severity."
 The reality of evil = breaking the cane / breaking the sixth commandment
("Thou shalt not kill," Exodus 20:13) = usurping God's role as master of man's
destiny. Hyde = a backslider, an apostate, a Cain-like outcast set apart from the
common herd from then on: "gone"(l. 40). He is the type of the monster (like
Macbeth he has murdered sleep: the servant-girl 's rest = spoilt, l. 39).
 the war in heaven/the struggle in the streets of a God-forsaken world (no
fog ll. 6-7: fog, smoke, clouds signal God's presence). Claustrophobic recreation
of Hades. London (Edinburgh?) as a type of Babylon, the Great Whore.
 Jekyll's Faustian bid for freedom: he has literally drunk the cup of
pleasure = an attempt to modify the divine scheme. The two halves of the cane =
a true "symbol" of the split self = Lucifer's rebellion. He turns into a sneaky,
cowardly creature. Importance of the onomastic ll. 65 ("name") and 68: Henry
Jekyll = Old Harry (the Devil) = Edward Hyde. Chiasmic equation HJ / EH.
 biblical imagery of the mark of the Beast/of God. The beast = literally
materialised, as in Revelation: ll. 29-30 and 34. Related imagery of
imprisonment ("My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring," Jekyll will
later explain). Hyde has Hellish energy; breaking the bonds = going beyond the
acceptable (ll. 28-29: negative terms). See also the dedicatory poem. Correlative
isotopy of cruelty and ferocity: "hailing" l. 35 = demonic version of God's
plague. The cane = infernal rod (sign of divine power).
 biblical concept of martyrdom: ll. 34-35, 41. Trampling = apostasy in
Matthew 7:6. Carew's mangled body = sacrificial body of Christ. Symbolical
topography within/without (see Revelation 22: 14-15).
(Transition:) But man's "apehood' is no longer an unambiguous analogy since
the 1850s.
2) The post-darwinian context
= collapse of man's status as God's creature. Biological determinism. Animal
imagery: simile l. 34: man's brutish nature, atavistic traits. Anatomy as destiny:
Mr Hyde seeks us. A Tempest archetypal opposition between nature and nurture
(dwarfish Hyde = a Caliban-like creature).
Hyde= a post-Frankenstein science fiction figure (biochemistry substituted for
electricity), reflecting contemporary preoccupations: Utterson "quails" at the
name l. 65. The new wrathful God, like HG Wells's Invisible Man (1897), is
starting the Reign of Terror. And Jekyll has started anatomically "reverting,"
like Wells's humanised animals in The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896: both
Wells texts = heavily influenced by Stevenson's tale).
The Victorian motif of imperilled Englishness: Hyde = a type of the foreigner,
the barbarian, a race apart: threat of "reverse colonisation" = the boomerang
effects of imperialism, of contact with undeveloped mankind = Darwin's field of
Carew failing to shrink from Hyde, like everybody else: he is not "fit to
survive". He lacks the "kill or be killed" attitude originated with Herbert Spencer
in 1851, now associated with Darwin.
Parallel issue of Jekyll's perverted mission as a scientist, like Dr Moreau ten
years later. Introspection has run amok: Oscar Wilde's Lord Henry famously
speaks of "vivisection of oneself" = here chemical self-exploration with Hyde as
the materialisation of Jekyll's wasted "talents" and idle speculations. The
servant-girl stands for the orderly world Jekyll is giving up and that Hyde may
not enter.
(Conclusion and transition):
The allegorical pattern is multi-dimensional. "Exemplarity" of the tale in
Stevenson's contemporaries' eyes (the text was quoted in pulpits). Yet inner
tensions and disjunctions: the narrator's empathetic horror does not sound any
more convincing than Jekyll's "confession". Stevenson's "Brownies" had no
conscience, he admitted, and needed to be locked, like Hyde.
(III. The Hyde-like elements in chapter 4)
Duality is just too simple a pattern when applied to human nature. The
interweaving of voices prevents the emergence of a definitive, morally secure
narrator. In the murder scene, perspective shifts to the point of endangering
control of meaning.
1) Disjunctive narrative ventriloquism:
a) the servant-girl's perspective
Clear-cut contrast between the male narrator's debunking / the girl's emotional,
hysterical account (she looks forward to Jekyll's own whimpering housemaid as
a recognisable type). Eg: "Never (+ narrator's deflationary, ironical stagedirection "with streaming tears") never…" This form of repetition = a diacope =
a sign of the girl's natural propensity for melodrama. She "apes" her betters
(fainting was a middle- and upper-class privilege). Her necessary intervention as
eye-witness is ironically justified: "musing" (after a twelve-hour long drudgery):
"It seems (a tongue-in-cheek introductory tag) she was romantically given, for
she sat down upon her box" (= one more deflationary detail) ll. 7-8. Parody of
the "balcony-scene:" this modern version of Juliet has no "followers," no
"suitors," is a perfect servant and is rewarded for her "proper" behaviour by a
gruesome spectacle.
ll. 13-40 = her perspective, until the police officially take up the case. The
narrator slyly reproduces the girl's often comically clumsy idiolect (ll. 16-17:
speech/eyes), her self-righteous, stuffy clichés (ll. 22-24). The palimpsest of
voices (the girl's unsophisticated voice / the gentlemanly voice) = conspicuously
denuded. Eg : "very pretty manner, indeed, carrying on like a madman" = her
simple, crude words (ll. 18, 19, 31) / "conceived a dislike, ill-contained
impatience, ape-like fury" (ll. 26, 28, 34) = clearly the narrator's latinate style.
The reader is free to guess the hidden excitement in this polite girl's bosom:
being the focus of attention all of a sudden, being allowed, above all, to call
one's superior (a gentleman) a madman, a "particularly small and particularly
wicked" one, lines following the excerpt) = an uncommon treat.
The girl's other function = to expose the double standard (2 standards by which
to judge people) prevailing among all classes. It is important to remember that
Hyde = properly dressed in a well-fitting gentleman's outfit, and is no CharlieChaplin grotesque figure yet. Satire of Victorian routine alignment of physical
ugliness with evil. Hyde's black, hairy hands = a conventional lustful attribute.
b) the narrator does not identify with Utterson either,
despite social affinities. But Utterson = a Dickensian caricature of the dry,
successful bachelor of a lawyer: "shot out a solemn lip" (l. 52) = graphically
eloquent; this is Gaunt Street. His speech = occupational: "I shall say nothing"
(l. 52: the modal has judicial gravity). "Have the kindness to wait" (ll. 53-54) =
dignified rhetoric in an embarrassing situation (caught in bed enjoying his
breakfast in his nightdress).
The split between the narrative voice and Utterson's = a derisive evocation of the
man's narrow world. His legalistic view of humanity and limited imagination =
challenged in chapter 4 and ultimately defeated. The murder of Carew should
confound and shatter his self-complacency. Making a diagnosis based on
observation = ridiculously inappropriate here.
c) the narrator also shifts out to the policeman's narrow viewpoint. l. 53: "It may
be serious" = l. 62: "This will make a deal of noise": humorously echoing choric
comments. In the same way as the little girl's relatives made money out of her
misfortune in the previous chapters, this policeman's conscience is soon stifled
by his "professional ambition." "His eye lighted up" (l. 61), "you can help us
(me) to the man" ll. 62-63 = a humorous indictment of self-interest, of the cash
Grim humour in the echo "the bones were audibly shattered" (l. 36)/ "this will
make a deal of noise", or in the contrast with the solemn "I am sorry to say" l.
d) the narrator allows "the world," (= public opinion) to intervene too.
"London" l. 1 = a metonymy. An implicit narrative instance = Victorian
sensation-seeking newspapers , the ancestors of our tabloids. The murder =
sensational news: the greater the man, the more exciting the headline: another
proof of the Victorian mercenary spirit. ll. 2-3 = devastatingly ironical.
Investigative journalism, like this very story (mise en abyme) = pandering to,
exacerbating, the lurid tastes of the low-minded reader (remember the rising
literacy rates since Forster's Education Act of 1870).
2) Half-avowed groundbreaking implications of the tale:
a) religious:
Carnivalisation of the encounter between a handsome old gentleman and a
dwarfish bogeyman. The clubbing to death = a grotesque Punch and Judy ritual:
"stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane" l. 30. = a profanation of the aweinspiring crime, murder. Derisive Hell imagery: the shift between the bestial and
the angelic = an impasse: necessary self-examination and restraint, dismissal of
fin-de-siècle hedonism lead to this = worse, = extended pharisaim.
The meeting between a great man and a small, shady character = possibly a
sacrilegious parody of the Jesus–Zacchaeus episode in Luke 19.
Hyde is also a second and more interesting fallen Adam (= "first man"): no First
Cause except Jekyll whose offshoot he is. As new Adam, he has the advantage
of an absent consience: he has eaten of the tree of life directly.
b) moral:
The story should have come out at Christmas = the usual time for "Carol
philosophy" to be swallowed uncomplainingly (reference to Dickens's Christmas
numbers, especially his A Christmas Carol). Carew = a parody of reformed
Scrooge, a derisive Mr Popular Sentiment. Debunking of Victorian values
(content, innocence, pious philanthropy) to allow the reader-as-accomplice to
share vicariously the lust-murderer's sheer joy, his intoxicating sadistic
pleasures. Trampling and mauling a defenceless old man = reminiscent of
Thackeray's famously controversial statement: "Have you ever entered a firstclass railway carriage, where an old gentleman sat alone in a sweet sleep,
daintily murdered him, taken his pocket-book, and got out at the next station?"
(1862). Hyde = Prometheus Unbound: rejuvenating energy (ll. 34-37 = mimetic
So, this is not wanton killing after all: narcissistic Carew fails to recognise
himself in the mirror. Hyde as legible reflection, as public conscience, under the
civilised varnish: Carew is not "inquiring his way" (l. 20) but annoying Hyde
with his "civilities" (Jekyll's later statement). He is being provocative and
assuming equality. Hyde never "sought" him out.
Correlative issue of Utterson's lethal role = given a sharp turn in chapter 4. Illnamed Gabriel John fails to keep his word and help "poor Hyde". He exposes
him. The scene of violence by clubbing = duplicated, the weapon of destruction
symbolically passing into Utterson's hands.
c) social:
Carew= an MP = a synecdoche for a broader status = the Establishment, the
Victorian ethic of work and success.
Moral and social sacrilege (a child, then an old man). Carew was an
afterthought: former Mr Lemstone was a far less interesting martyr-figure.
Stevenson's perfect gentleman ironically ends up in the middle of a shady
London alley near the river (= close to the East End slums: hence, a socially
indexed locus, like Hyde's digs at Soho), his blood soiling a stick "in the
neighbouring gutter" (ll. 44-45), his purse and watch (powerful status symbols)
turned useless = a blow to the Victorian cult of bourgeois respectability =
Stevenson's Bohemian streak resurfacing subversively. The Jekyll-and-Hyde
syndrome = an adequate expression of "the Victorian paradox," a challenge to
institutional hierarchy. Hyde is the new master of the world, like the Invisible
Man, a wolf in sheep's clothing. Bourgeois house fronts ("Home, sweet home") /
labyrinthine back streets of society: the underworld, class-divided, incoherent
cityscape. Ironically enough, the cane's original function (a harmless walkingstick for a present) = perverted. Jekyll letting Hyde out = a startling revelation of
"hidden" forces at work: current obsessive fear of any uncontrolled class
conflict. Carew = the metaphor of the "body politic" taken literally. Hyde is one
of "the other Victorians," a man of small stature subverting the "great
expectations" motif (money inherited by the right sort of person). Chapter 4 = a
hyperbolic reworking of Thackeray's ironical advice in The Newcomes: "If your
neighbour's foot obstructs you, stamp on it" (social Darwinism).
3) Stevenson's fantasy of aberration
A Hyde-figure = a necessary scapegoat, allowing the untamed, the unregulated
to be absorbed and ritualistically annihilated. Chapter 4 puts in place and
subverts a perceptual grid imposing a division between the normative and the
deviant, increasingly seen as a pathological type ("like a madman" l. 31). The
girl's opinion reflects a crucial tendency within Victorian culture. Attitudes to
loss of self-control = medico-moral policing: the word "case" applies both to the
medical and the detective world. (Conan Doyle's fiction = of course the best
example of the affiliation between medicine and social policing). Victorian
literature = replete with Hyde-like, degenerated, hounded figures: they represent
the dangerously pathological. Hyde = an anatomical curiosity (dwarfish, apish).
Deformity is a signifier of alienation, the condition of the outcast, and
Stevenson's indirect expression of deviancy. GM Hopkins (a Jesuit priest)
understood as much: "my Hyde is worse." Chapter 4 = a conventional
displacement of meaning, possibly an indirect evocation of homosexual sadism.
The text is conveniently reticent obviously, and plays down many of its
implications (hence the girl's three-hour-long fainting fit) = authorial strategy =
Stevenson's response to British squeamishness and philistinism.
The Carew murder episode superbly illustrates the far-reaching,
multifaceted complexities of Stevenson's little "Gothic gnome." Like Matthew
Arnold famously describing himself as "Wandering between two worlds, one
dead, / The other powerless to be born" ("Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse,"
1861), Stevenson took up the pen to confront a Miltonic challenge  trying to
give expression to a "nameless situation" (Jekyll in a letter to Utterson), and an
unnameable one. In chapter 4 Utterson significantly refrains from breaking open
the seal that would allow the revelation of the mystery: the morally unacceptable
murder of Sir Danvers Carew duly ushers in the retributive pattern. But like
Daniel decoding the scrawl on the Babylonian wall (Jekyll's biblical allusion in
his full statement), the reader senses and fully enjoys Stevenson's dangerous
flirtation with parody as a relevant literary category in this otherwise technically
conventional murder scene.