In order to perform a textual analysis of chapter 5 “Incident of the Letter” within Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde several issues need to be considered
In order to perform a textual analysis of chapter 5 “Incident of the Letter” within Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde several issues need to be considered. Such as the concept of discourse within the narration of the chapter, the theoretical/ analytical tools of figurative language and genre. Also the meanings of the chapter need to be discussed such as the structure and language use, the broader cultural and representational issues and the chapters relationship with the rest of the novel. And lastly what broader and thematic roles it plays.
Concept of Discourse
“Discourses are ways of speaking associated with particular institutions and the conventions and values of those institutions.” (Schirato and Yell, 2003, pg 61). Within chapter 5 there is evidence of at least three different discourses. The Homosexual discourse, the medical discourse and the legal discourse. The chapter is made up of two very distinct discourses. The first half has evidence of the medical discourse and the second half has the legal discourse. Throughout there are also hidden indications of the homosexual discourse.
The medical discourse is seen very early on for the chapter starts off with Utterson being led to Dr Jekyll’s medical lab by Poole where he conducted his experiments. On his way Utterson pays close attention to all he sees, noticing that the lab is set up for chemical experiments rather than anatomical. Once at his destination, Stevenson, through Utterson describes the layout of Jekyll’s lab and its contents. “Once crowded with eager students and now lying qaunt and silent; the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor, strew with crates and littered with packing straw…..It was large room, fitted round with glass presses….and a business table….the fire burned in the grate; a lamp was set lighted on the chimney shelf.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26).
Also throughout the chapter there are examples of medical jargon, such as the room being “known as the laboratory or the dissecting room.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). Other examples include surgeon, doctor or MP, chemical apparatus, doctor’s cabinet and acid. These are all typically used within the medical industry and follow the language rules, which are to be used when discussing issues within the medical discourse. There is also evidence of the medical body of knowledge within Dr Jekyll for he is seen to have the right utensils for practicing medicine. There are also references made of the institutions associated within the practice of medicine, which are there to protect them, which in this case is Utterson for he is Jekyll’s lawyer. “Carew was my client, but so are you.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). This then can be seen to link in with the legal discourse.
The second half is where the lawyer in Utterson emerges as he questions Jekyll and Poole. Mr. Guest, however, is quizzed in the lawyer’s domain of Utterson’s House. The language used becomes formal and of legal jargon as the chapter sees words such as client, trial, detection, dictated, advice, decision, document, police, judge and murder. He struggles with the Jekyll/Hyde relationship and letter for as Jekyll’s lawyer he doesn’t know what to do about Hyde and the letter. “Carew was my client, but so are you, and I want to know what I am doing.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). “I have a document here in his handwriting: it is between ourselves, for I scarce knew what to do about it.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29). For as a lawyer there is this conflict of interest because the law, which he knows of, says he should tell the police about the letter but because Jekyll is his client he has to do everything he can to protect him.
Utterson’s legal body of knowledge is evident in that as he learns more he is continually trying to piece everything together. “If it came to a trial, your name might appear.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27), “let me see the letter.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27), “Have you the envelope?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27), “And now one word more: it was Hyde who dictated the terms in your will about that disappearance?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27-28), “there was a letter handed in today: what was the messenger like?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28) and “I should like to hear your views on that.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29). This language used by Utterson is typical within the legal profession and follows the rules as mentioned before with the medical discourse.
With the third discourse of homosexuality, this can be seen in a few parts in the chapter and even though they are only slight indications they are more like hidden meanings within the chapter. This is so because during the Victorian Society when Stevenson wrote the novel, homosexuality was very much a taboo subject so in order for him to write about it, he had to write it in sort of a code. These coded meanings are seen within the chapter when Stevenson refers to Hyde having power over Jekyll and him dictating the terms in his will.
This suggests that maybe Hyde was blackmailing Jekyll, which would then immediately suggest homosexual liaisons. Another reference is when the “male homosexual body is also represented in the narrative” (Showalter, 1990, pg 113). This then is “suggestive of anality and anal intercourse.” (Showalter, 1990, pg 113). This is seen when there is reference to Jekyll’s house having two entrances, which “is the most vivid representation of the male body.” (Showalter, 1990, pg 113). This is then suggestive of homosexuality with reference to Hyde always entering in through the back lab door. Utterson suggests that is how the letter was delivered.
Also later in the chapter when Utterson needs advice on the letter “he shares an intimate evening with his clerk Mr. Guest, his own confidant: at least ‘there was not man from whom he kept fewer secrets.'” (Showalter, 1990, pg 110). This scene in the chapter shows that Utterson enjoys the company of other men. Also during that scene there is reference to the writer of the letter having “an odd hand” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29) and it being “differently sloped” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29). This suggests that the writer of the letter was left-handed which back during the Victorian Era was seen as meaning that the person was a homosexual. There were also other hints in that “the characters are all middle-aged bachelors who have no relationships with women except as servants. Furthermore, they are celibates whose major emotional contacts are with each other and with Henry Jekyll.” (Showalter, 1990, pg 108).
“Figurative language is language which uses figures of speech. Figures of speech being those devices used to change the usual order or sequence of words or depart from their literal meaning in order to enhance an image or idea in the reader’s mind.” (Cantrell, 2003, pg 1). Throughout chapter 5, figurative language has a fairly high presence considering the length. This presence is seen through the use of personification, metaphors and similes. These are used by Stevenson to add evocative description and to break the chapter up from the business-like tone.
The personification is used to describe Dr Jekyll’s lab to show how much it had changed since he started with Hyde and being ill. “Once crowded with eager students and now lying gaunt and silent”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). And then further down “a flight of stairs mounted to a door.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). Also personification is used to describe the type of decision Utterson had to make. “it was at least a ticklish decision.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28). Stevenson also uses two very well known metaphors, one to describe the condition Jekyll was in “looking deadly sick.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). The other to describe Utterson’s fear when the idea of Jekyll forging for Hyde came out. “And his blood ran cold in his veins.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 30).
Further on personification plays a part when Stevenson gives the reader evocative descriptions of the city of London. “the fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles, and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28). He also incorporates two other devices as well. A simile “where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28) and a metaphor “with a sound as of a mighty wind”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28). And later also in describing Utterson’s house, “But the room was gay with firelight. In the bottle the acids were long ago resolved; the imperial dye had softened with time, as the colour grows richer in stained windows.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28).
And Dr Jekyll’s Lab, “the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw…..It was a large room, fitted round with glass presses, furnished, among other things, with a cheval-glass and a business table, and looking out upon the court by three dusty windows barred with iron. The fire burned in the grate; a lamp was set lighted on the chimney shelf.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26). These descriptive devices are used so that the reader can actually picture the city or Dr Jekyll’s lab.
Stevenson also personifies Utterson’s profession as a lawyer “it is an ugly business at the best”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29). By making the lawyer within Utterson human it allows him to challenge it. By personifying the situation of the letter there is a presence of conflict of interest, because as Jekyll is his friend and client he is damned if he does do something about the letter and damned if he doesn’t.
“Genre’s are types of communication practices which help us to organise and make sense of texts.” (Schirato and Yell, 2003, pg 56). Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be seen as three different types of genres. The detective, the gothic and the mystery genre. Firstly the detective genre is a “type of popular literature dealing with the step by step investigation and solution of a crime, usually murder.” (< www.britannica.com >, 2003). The detective genre can be seen with the title of the chapter “Incident of the Letter”, for it has the feel of a police report. Stevenson in the novel has Utterson trying to resolve the case of Hyde. Throughout, the reader sees some of his work in action.
“And now one word more: it was Hyde who dictated the terms in your will about that disappearance?”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27-28). “Have you the envelope?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27). “what was the messenger like?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28). “I should like to hear your views on that….I have a document here in his handwriting.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29). Because of his friendship to Jekyll, he fails to see things, which would hurt Jekyll’s reputation.
Another genre is the Gothic. The “gothic novel was expected to be dark, tempestuous, ghostly, full of madness, outrage, superstition and a spirit for revenge.” (< www.britannica.com >, 2003). The Mystery genre can also be tied in with the gothic for the mystery stories can be divided into two types, one of which is the gothic novel. Mystery stories also tie in with the detective genre as mentioned before. Both these can be seen to emerge through Stevenson’s descriptions of London, of Jekyll’s lab and of Utterson’s House. Mystery stories are set out to create doubts in the reader’s minds. To present them with the unknown and a seemingly unanswerable question. This can be seen with regards to the Jekyll/Hyde situation and with the letter that was supposedly written by Hyde to Jekyll, which he then gives to Utterson. The reader never really finds out exactly what the letter said, only what Utterson is prepared to share, for if it hurt Jekyll’s reputation he wouldn’t mention it.
The mystery again emerges further on when the reader finds out that the letter may in fact have been forged by Jekyll himself. The gothic genre also emerges through the descriptions of Jekyll’s lab, of Utterson’s House and of London as mentioned before. Stevenson has the readers picturing the errie, dark atmosphere within the streets of London “the fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries, with a sound as of a mighty wind.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28).
Also he brings forth the sense of the madness occurring and of the ghostly state of Jekyll and his lab since he encountered Hyde. “the dingy windowless structure….once crowded with eager students and now lying gaunt and silent, the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw, and the light falling dimly through the foggy cupola…for even in the house the fog began to lie thickly; and there, close up to the warmth, sat Dr Jekyll, looking deadly sick.” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 26).
Structure and language use.
Chapter 5 “Incident of the letter” is mainly structured around Utterson, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Guest with a small interaction from Poole. It is written in a brisk, business-like and factual way. The chapter is dry and forthright and at times often resembles a police report rather than a novel. This chapter can be divided into three parts. The first is set in Dr Jekyll’s medical Lab, where the reader along with Utterson is taken into the private part of Jekyll’s life. The reader is given a detailed account of his lab and everything within it and this is also where the medical discourse comes in.
It is also where Jekyll gives Utterson the letter. The second is at Utterson’s house, where the legal discourse comes in. Here he and Mr. Guest have legal discussions regarding the letter where, Mr. Guest suggests that Hyde’s writing looks a lot like Jekyll’s. The third part is where Utterson for the first time begins to doubt Jekyll as he now suspects that Jekyll forged the letter for Hyde. “What!…Henry Jekyll forge for a murderer!” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 30).
Examples of the dry and forthright language used within the chapter can be seen through the dialogue between Utterson and the other three men about the letter. “Have you the envelope?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27). “And now one word more: it was Hyde who dictated the terms in your will about the disappearance?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 27-28). “There was a letter handed in today: what was the messenger like?” (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28). “I should like to hear your views on that….I have a document here in his handwriting”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 29). The overall structure of the chapter flows in a logical and quizzical manner. When describing Dr Jekyll’s lab, London and Utterson’s house, Stevenson helps to break up the business-like manner of the chapter, whilst also creating atmosphere.
Broader cultural and representational issues
Within chapter 5, many cultural and representational issues arise from the Victorian era. For example, when Stevenson wrote this novel homosexuality and even sexuality were taboo subjects. His novel was considered to have “tapped directly into the anxieties of Stevenson’s age.” (< www.sparknotes.com/lit/ jekyll/context.html >, 2003). During the Victorian Era people came across aspects of cultures that they both “desired and feared to indulge…these aspects included open sensuality, physicality and other so called irrational tendencies.” (< www.sparknotes.com/lit/jekyll/context.html >, 2003).
These desires and secret fascinations of homosexuality and sexuality have been portrayed as hidden meanings, which can be recognised when the reader looks deeper within the text. Another cultural issue is that of the importance of reputation. This played a major role during the Victorian Era for it was seen as a “world of appearance”. (< www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/jekyll/about.html >, June 2000). Within that society a man’s reputation was very valuable. This was especially the case with professions such as a doctor or a lawyer like Jekyll and Utterson.
Relationship between the chapter and the rest of the novel.
Chapter 5 is positioned directly in the middle of the novel. This suggests importance or a turning point in the story. For it is where Utterson really starts to become curious of the Jekyll/Hyde relationship, especially at the end when he finds out that Jekyll may have forged the letter for Hyde. “What!…. Henry Jekyll forge for a murderer”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 30). It is also during this chapter that Utterson finally finds out about what Hyde had to do with the terms of Jekyll’s will and how he was the one dictating.
The chapter ends leaving the reader questioning why Jekyll forged the letter. The first four chapters set the scene for chapter 5 by introducing Hyde and making him out to be an evil person. This then becomes highly suspicious to Utterson, which then leads him to investigate. Some of Utterson’s questions are answered but more arise. These continue on into the next four chapters where all are to be finally answered through two confessional letters from both Jekyll and Lanyon.
What broader structural and thematic roles does it play?
Structurally, chapter 5 looks backwards to things that have already happened and forward to those things, which are to happen. This chapter introduces the reader to many new ideas such as Jekyll’s guilt over creating Hyde. “I have had a lesson – O God, Utterson, what a lesson I have had!”. (Stevenson, 2003, pg 28). It also gives the reader insights into two disciplines, that of medicine and law. The chapter also picks up the important themes within the book such as guilt, responsibility, importance of appearances and professionalism and slight indications of the duality of human nature.
So therefore in performing a textual analysis on chapter 5 it can be seen that there are at least 3 discourses found within: the discourse of homosexuality, the medical discourse and the legal discourse. It can also be seen that there is a high usage of figurative language by Stevenson, such as personification, metaphor’s and simile’s. Also through the analytical tool of genre this chapter can be seen as being at least 3 different genres: a detective, a gothic and mystery.
Also when looking at the meanings of the chapter of structure and language use it is considered factual and business-like and often at times resembling a police report. There is also evidence of broader cultural and representational issues such as that of homosexuality and of the importance of reputation. It can also be seen that this chapter is positioned directly in the middle of the novel with the first 4 chapters reviewing what has already happened and shaping the readers interest as to what is to happen in the future.