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Flashcards in Themes - Science Deck (16):

We get the first hint of "unnatural" circumstances early in the text.

only natural
sick and white with desire to kill him


Mr. Utterson is not interested in science and does not value it as a topic of debate; therefore he is (unknowingly) an ideal person to investigate the strange connections between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

They have only differed on some point of science,"
man of no scientific passions


Mr. Hyde’s footsteps invoke very strong feelings in Mr. Utterson.

attention had never before been so sharply and decisively arrested;


Nearly every character finds it difficult to properly describe Mr. Hyde; he is not exactly human, they all say.

haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders


Science is a serious matter for the gentlemen in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

at what he called my scientific heresies
I was never more disappointed


As in many other places in the text, God is invoked in a plea.

"Well, sir," he said, "here we are, and God grant there be nothing wrong."

"Amen, Poole," said the lawyer. (8.15)


Dr. Jekyll (who presumably is inside the laboratory) is in such depths of despair that he believes only God can aid him.

"Changed? Well, yes, I think so," said the butler. "Have I been twenty years in this man's house, to be deceived about his voice? No, sir; master's made away with; he was made away with eight days ago, when we heard him cry out upon the name of God; and who's in there instead of him, and why it stays there, is a thing that cries to Heaven, Mr. Utterson!" (8.31)


We are given concrete evidence that Dr. Jekyll performs his own scientific experiments.

Here I proceeded to examine its contents. The powders were neatly enough made up, but not with the nicety of the dispensing chemist; so that it was plain they were of Jekyll's private manufacture. (9.11)


The potion goes through a transformative process just as Dr. Jekyll does.

He thanked me with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders. The mixture, which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion as the crystals melted, to brighten in colour, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly and at the same moment, the ebullition ceased and the compound changed to a dark purple, which faded again more slowly to a watery green. My visitor, who had watched these metamorphoses with a keen eye, smiled, set down the glass upon the table, and then turned and looked upon me with an air of scrutiny. (9.27)


Dr. Lanyon adheres to a more rational brand of science, which is eventually blasted apart by Mr. Hyde’s transformation.

"It is well," replied my visitor. "Lanyon, you remember your vows: what follows is under the seal of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors—behold!" (9.30)


For Dr. Lanyon, Mr. Hyde’s transformation into Dr. Jekyll is akin to restoring a man from death.

"O God!" I screamed, and "O God!" again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll! (9.32)


Dr. Lanyon refuses to allow witnessing the transformation to reverse his long-held scientific beliefs; furthermore, Dr. Jekyll’s story was so horrifying one could say that it scared Dr. Lanyon to death.

What he told me in the next hour, I cannot bring my mind to set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard, and my soul sickened at it; and yet now when that sight has faded from my eyes, I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer. My life is shaken to its roots; sleep has left me; the deadliest terror sits by me at all hours of the day and night; and I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous. As for the moral turpitude that man unveiled to me, even with tears of penitence, I can not, even in memory, dwell on it without a start of horror. (9.33)


Dr. Jekyll argues that our physical bodies are easily transformed. But what about our non-physical aspects?

I was so far in my reflections when, as I have said, a side light began to shine upon the subject from the laboratory table. I began to perceive more deeply than it has ever yet been stated, the trembling immateriality, the mistlike transience, of this seemingly so solid body in which we walk attired. Certain agents I found to have the power to shake and pluck back that fleshly vestment, even as a wind might toss the curtains of a pavilion. (10.2)


Dr. Jekyll well knows the associated risks of using himself as a lab rat (for example, death), but the temptation to dissociate good and evil proves to be too strong.

I hesitated long before I put this theory to the test of practice. I knew well that I risked death; for any drug that so potently controlled and shook the very fortress of identity, might, by the least scruple of an overdose or at the least inopportunity in the moment of exhibition, utterly blot out that immaterial tabernacle which I looked to it to change. But the temptation of a discovery so singular and profound at last overcame the suggestions of alarm. (10.3)


Somehow the transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde is no longer linked to swallowing a potion, but rather to Dr. Jekyll’s thoughts. We never learn why that shift happens, and it is up to our imaginations to make sense of it.

After all, I reflected, I was like my neighbours; and then I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active good-will with the lazy cruelty of their neglect. And at the very moment of that vainglorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering. These passed away, and left me faint; and then as in its turn faintness subsided, I began to be aware of a change in the temper of my thoughts, a greater boldness, a contempt of danger, a solution of the bonds of obligation. I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde. A moment before I had been safe of all men's respect, wealthy, beloved—the cloth laying for me in the dining-room at home; and now I was the common quarry of mankind, hunted, houseless, a known murderer, thrall to the gallows. (10.22)


Although Dr. Jekyll is a scientist, he fails to understand fully how his potion works. Perhaps the nature of mankind is beyond the grasp of science.

My provision of the salt, which had never been renewed since the date of the first experiment, began to run low. I sent out for a fresh supply and mixed the draught; the ebullition followed, and the first change of colour, not the second; I drank it and it was without efficiency. You will learn from Poole how I have had London ransacked; it was in vain; and I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught. (10.27)