One evening after dinner, Utterson is sitting peacefully beside his fireplace when he receives a visit by a very agitated and upset Mr. Poole. He offers Poole a glass of wine to calm him, and although Poole accepts it, he neglects to drink it as he hesitatingly tells Utterson about his fears concerning Dr. Jekyll. Poole is terribly afraid. He fears that there has been “foul play,” the nature of which he “daren’t say.” At this, Utterson grabs up his hat and his greatcoat, and the two men set forth in the wild, cold March night for Jekyll’s house. When they arrive at Jekyll’s quarters, a servant opens the door very guardedly, asking, “Is that you, Poole?” Once inside, Utterson finds all of Jekyll’s servants “huddled together like a flock of sheep,” and when they see Utterson, one maid breaks into “hysterical whimpering.” This matter is far more serious than Utterson ever imagined. Several of the servants try to speak up, but Poole silences them and leads Utterson through the back garden, warning the lawyer that if “by any chance” Jekyll asks him into his private room, don’t go.” This advice, along with Poole’s barely controlled terror, unnerves Utterson.
The two men go to Dr. Jekyll’s cabinet door in the laboratory. Poole calls out that Utterson is here, asking to see the doctor. A strange voice within states that Jekyll will see no one. Politely, Poole says, “Thank you.” Then, back in the kitchen, he asks Utterson, “Was that my master’s voice?” Utterson grows pale. “It seems much changed,” he says, trying to conceal his own fears. Poole is blunt. “Changed,” he says, is hardly the word for “Jekyll’s” voice. Poole says that he has worked for Jekyll for twenty years. The voice which they heard was not Dr. Jekyll’s voice. Eight days ago, Poole says, he heard Jekyll cry out the name of God.
It is Poole’s opinion that Dr. Jekyll was “made away with” at that time, and whoever is in the room now is “a thing known only to heaven.”
Utterson tries his best to be rational about the mystery. Logically, he says, if someone had murdered Jekyll, why would he still be in there? Poole then explains more about whoever is in the room. “Whatever it is,” he says, it “has been crying night after night for some sort of medicine.” Earlier, Jekyll used to cry out for certain medicines and would write his orders on a sheet of paper and throw the paper on the stairs. For a week, there’s been more papers on the stairs, a closed door, and whimpering. Poole has done his best to find the exact medicine, but no matter what he has brought back, it has not been “the right stuff.” “It” always says that Poole has brought something that is “not pure” and, therefore, Poole has continued to receive orders to go on yet another errand to yet another store. “The drug is wanted bitter bad,” Poole tells Utterson.
Utterson asks for some of these notes, and Poole is able to find one, crumpled up in one of his pockets. At first glance, the note seems to be merely a formal request — nothing amiss — asking that the pharmacist search for the drug “with the most sedulous care.” Expense is no consideration, the note stresses, and there is a sense of urgency: “The importance of this to Dr. Jekyll can hardly be exaggerated.” And then in a scribbled postscript, there is: “For God’s sake, find me some of the old [drug].”
Utterson finally has to admit that this is indeed murky business. More than murky, says Poole: “I’ve seen him,” he adds, referring to whoever lurks behind Jekyll’s door. One day, Poole says, he came into the large room just below Jekyll’s private room and there, digging among some crates, was a creature who was so startled at seeing Poole that he cried out “and whipped upstairs.” If that were Jekyll, why did it run? Why did it “cry out like a rat?” And why did it wear a mask?
Ever the rational lawyer-sleuth, Utterson tries to explain to Poole that, to him, it seems as though Jekyll has been “seized with one of those maladies that both torture and deform the sufferer.” The frantically sought-after drug, he hopes, is proof that Jekyll believes that “ultimate recovery” is possible.
Despite Utterson’s rational explanations, Poole is not convinced: “That thing was not my master . . . this was more of a dwarf . . . do you think I do not know my master? . . . that thing was never Doctor
Jekyll — God knows what it was, but it was never Doctor Jekyll.” He is adamant: “In the belief of my heart . . . murder was done.”
Utterson says that if Poole is convinced, then Utterson has no alternative: He considers it his duty to break down Jekyll’s door, and Poole can use an ax which is in the surgery room, while Utterson will use the fireplace poker. Before they commence, though, they confess to one another that they both believe that Hyde is in the room and that it was he who killed Jekyll. They call Bradshaw, one of Jekyll’s servants and tell him and a boy to watch the laboratory on the other side of the square. Then they set their watches. In ten minutes, they will assault the red blaize door of Dr. Jekyll’s private room.
As the minutes pass, Jekyll’s room grows quiet until all they can hear are soft, light footfalls, very different from Jekyll’s heavy creaking tread, pacing to and fro. “An ill-conscience,” Poole whispers, “there’s blood foully shed.” When ten minutes are up, a candle is set on the nearest table to give them more light. Then Utterson cries out: “Jekyll, I demand to see you.”
The voice that answers Utterson pleads, “For God’s sake, have mercy!” Utterson is stunned: The voice is not Jekyll’s. It belongs to Hyde. Instantly, he calls out to Poole: “Down with the door!” Poole crashes his ax four times against the sturdy red door, and each time, dismal, animal-like screeches are heard inside. On the fifth time, the lock bursts open, and the door falls inward. The scene inside is strange and incongruous. A quiet fire is flickering in the hearth, a tea kettle is singing, papers are neatly placed on the business table, and things are laid out for tea. Yet in the midst of this cozy scene, the body of a man is lying face down, terribly contorted and still twitching. The body is indeed dwarf-like, dressed in clothes far too large for him, clothes that would have fit Jekyll’s large stature. Clearly, all life is gone, despite the fact that the muscles continue to twitch involuntarily. In one hand are the remains of a crushed vial. To Utterson, it seems to be a clear case of suicide. Sternly, he tells Poole that they have come too late to save or punish Hyde. Only one task remains now: They must find Jekyll’s body.
They search the entire wing but find nothing: “nowhere was there any trace of Henry Jekyll, dead or alive.” They go to the dissecting room and find Hyde’s key, broken in half and rusty. The mystery remains. Once more they go up and view Hyde’s dead body, then begin examining Jekyll’s chemical equipment. Poole points out to Utterson the heaps of “white salt” that Jekyll had sent him on errands for.
The teapot suddenly boils over and startles them; Utterson picks up a pious work of literature and is aghast at the blasphemies written in the margin. The “cheval,” the full-length mirror, puzzles both men. “This glass has seen some strange things,” Poole whispers.
Examining Jekyll’s business table, Utterson spies a large envelope with his name on it and unseals it; several enclosures fall to the floor. The first thing he reads is a will, a will very similar to the one which Jekyll left with Utterson earlier. However, this time, Utterson — and not Hyde — is designated as Jekyll’s beneficiary. For a moment, Utterson is dazed. Why would Jekyll make out a new will? Utterson knows that he has nagged and reprimanded Jekyll excessively in the past. Surely Jekyll was angry at Utterson for being so demanding. Yet why did Jekyll make Utterson his beneficiary?
Utterson then examines another piece of paper. Shouting at Poole, he is delighted to recognize the doctor’s handwriting and the date at the top of the note: Jekyll “was alive and here this day,” he cries. Surely, Utterson thinks, the doctor must still be alive; perhaps he has fled. With great anxiety, he decides to read the next enclosure.
The message is brief. Jekyll has disappeared, under circumstances that he had the “penetration to foresee.” However, his end, he fears, is certain. He asks Utterson to read Dr. Lanyon’s note first, for Lanyon has told Jekyll that his note is now in Utterson’s possession. If after reading Lanyon’s narrative, there are still unanswered questions, Utterson is then to read the large, sealed packet containing Jekyll’s “confession.”
Utterson turns to Poole and asks him to say nothing of this sealed packet; perhaps they can yet save Jekyll’s reputation. Glancing at a clock, he sees that it is ten o’clock. He will go home, read the documents, return before midnight, and then they will send for the police.
Chapter 8 functions as perhaps the most traditional narrative Chapter in the novel. Most of the other Chapters present incidents: “Story [or Incident] of the Door,” “Incident of the Letter,” “Remarkable Incident of Dr. Lanyon,” and “Incident at the Window”; the other Chapters, similarly, give accounts of wills, what is reported in the newspapers, Dr. Lanyon’s “Account,” and finally Dr. Jekyll’s own “Statement.” In contrast, this Chapter flies along in its narrative sequences with such varied activities as the gathering of forces within Jekyll’s house (and note how frightened all the servants are: some, like the maid, succumb to hysterics; likewise, all stand “huddled together like a flock of sheep”). They are terrified of what Mr. Hyde stands for and are afraid that he might appear. Then, in swift succession, there is the breaking down of Jekyll’s door, the discovery of the dead body of Edward Hyde, the frantic search for Dr. Jekyll, the discovery of the new will, the new note, and Dr. Jekyll’s final statement. In other words, whereas many of the other Chapters concern themselves with only one single incident, this Chapter is crowded with many incidents.
The beginning of the Chapter is rather slow because the distraught Poole is not educated enough to convince Utterson of the seriousness of the strange events occurring in Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory. We should note the long, laborious method by which Utterson is finally convinced. That is, each time Poole offers some information, Utterson is able to offer some rational explanation; he sees the faithful Poole as merely a superstitious servant.
Utterson is not yet ready to act, but when Poole exposes Utterson to the sound of the voice behind the door, Utterson acknowledges that a change has indeed occurred. Then, when Utterson is told about Poole’s hearing a cry of despair eight days ago, about the continual crying night and day, about the desperate need for some chemicals and some drugs, about the glimpse of the strange man in the laboratory, about the weeping of a seemingly lost soul, and about the dwarfish figure that Poole believes to be that of Edward Hyde, Utterson is at last ready to act.
After breaking the door down and upon seeing the dead person (a suicide) in the laboratory, Utterson and we, the readers, still think that the dead person is Edward Hyde, even though the “clothes were far too large for him, clothes of the doctor’s bigness.” In addition, Utterson’s puzzlement over why such an evil person would commit suicide adds to the mystery. Then the mystery of the duality is increased by Utterson’s assumption that Hyde has murdered Dr. Jekyll. The search for Jekyll’s body still leaves the reader in suspense over the Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy or duality, especially when the search for Dr. Jekyll’s body is, of course, futile: “Nowhere was there any trace of Henry Jekyll, dead or alive.”
The discovery of the broken key and the rusty “fractures” (door or key openings) suggests that Jekyll’s rational actions have allowed him to arrange his living accommodations so that Hyde has been prevented from going out the back door. He could not leave by the front door because since the murder of Sir Danvers, he would have been apprehended by, or at least reported by, the servants. Thus, even at the most insane end of his life, Jekyll retains enough of his old rational self to keep Hyde in bounds.
As Utterson and Poole examine Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory quarters, more evidence of the Jekyll/Hyde duality is found. For example, they find a pious book which Jekyll had held in great esteem, “annotated in his own hand with startling blasphemies.” But, of course, Utterson is misled here. Had he remembered his assistant’s, Mr. Guest’s, analysis of handwriting — that Hyde’s and Jekyll’s handwriting was virtually the same except for a slightly different slope — then he would have realized that the vulgar and blasphemous annotations were made by Hyde — not Jekyll — and yet they are the same, thus emphasizing, ironically, the duality of man.
The entire mystery reaches its apex at the end of this Chapter with the discovery of Dr. Jekyll’s new will, making Gabriel John Utterson Jekyll’s sole beneficiary. The name of Edward Hyde is struck out. Utterson’s confusion is that the vile, evil Hyde was obviously there in the laboratory, saw the change in the will, and yet did nothing. Furthermore, by the date of the brief note — dated that day — Utterson is totally confused, because of the realization that earlier in the day, Jekyll was still alive. Finally, in the note which Jekyll left to Utterson, the word “disappeared” appears again: “When this shall fall into your hands, I shall have disappeared.” This same word appeared in Jekyll’s original will, as well as in Dr. Lanyon’s instructions to Utterson, and now it appears again in this letter. Therefore, Utterson is utterly confused. And since the final two Chapters are “documents,” and we neither see nor hear anymore from Utterson, we can only speculate as to how this strange information from his two closest friends will affect him.