What contributions to the novel are made by minor characters such as Poole and Sir Edward Danvers?
There are many minor characters who play a crucial role in themes and foreshadowing ; they act as triggers for the development of incidents in the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. These characters are: Enfield, the maid who witnessed Danvers Carew’s murder, Sir Danvers Carew himself, the policeman (Newcomen), the old woman who answers at Hyde’s house and of course, Poole who is Jekyll’s manservant. All these characters are witnesses to events that trigger the movement of the plot. This change in the plot leads to Utterson being drawn back into the mystery. As well as witnesses to events, these characters create an atmosphere of secrecy and hypocrisy – themes that are incorporated in the novella.
Enfield is a witness to a cruel act that Hyde commits. He recounts his story to Utterson. In his description of what happened he describes an atmosphere that is deserted and unnerving which makes him “begin to long for the sight of a policeman”. This contributes to a foreshadowing of bad events to come in the future; the word “policeman” suggests these events go against the law. Enfield later tells Utterson about a strange character that brings a sense of disgust and detestation to all the witnesses of a young girl being trampled. He describes him as “deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.” This contribution acts as a device to the unfolding of the story as Utterson finds such a character quite intriguing- and follows on in “the search for Mr Hyde”. I think that Enfield’s contribution to the theme of secrecy is shown in the book after he recounts the story. He has a feeling of regret and says he is “ashamed of my long tongue” and that he “never wants to refer to this again”. His statement reflects a very secretive character which creates a sense of mystery portraying the themes of the book right from the first chapter.
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Another minor character who has a major contribution to the book is the maid servant who, like Enfield, witnesses another act of ferocity as Hyde “clubbed him to the earth”. We see the crime in her eyes as well as her ears as his “bones were audibly shattered”. This combination of using sound and sight reiterates the ‘power’ with which Hyde beats him to the ground. This makes the maid servant faint- her contribution being her devastating story told to the police. Utterson is again drawn back into the mystery as Carew is carrying a letter addressed to Utterson. This wouldn’t have happened if the maid had not witnessed the crime or called the police meaning she is another key to the movement of the plot. The reader knows what she has seen; as when she recognises “Mr Hyde who had once visited her master” but Utterson doesn’t, the shifting of first person narrator emphasises secrecy. Also the maid setting the scene in a beautiful way - “moon was brilliantly lit” with soft descriptions of an “aged and beautiful gentleman” suggests that the Maid contributes as she is meant to - to give us a false sense of security and then we see the dual nature when Hyde lashes out.
Carew himself contributes to the secrecy as he is carrying a “sealed and stamped envelope...which bore the name and address of Mr Utterson”. The fact that Carew is like a ‘messenger’, giving something important to Utterson implies that Carew wanted to inform Utterson of something urgent as he is going to post the letter in the middle of the night. This act emphasises secrecy as the envelope is “sealed” as well as giving Utterson another part of the puzzle (in addition to the Maid’s story) which he has to put in place. Carew’s contribution to the story is that it makes the story very confusing and mysterious. His contribution being out late in the night questions whether all Victorian men are as reputable as they are supposed to be.
After the Carew murder case, Utterson meets a respectable policeman, a supposed symbol of justice. Utterson observes his reaction to Carew’s death as “his eyes lighted up with professional ambition”. The phrase “lighted up” suggests the fire-similar to that of Hyde- that exists within Policeman Newcomen. Utterson notices this dual nature and keeps his wits about him.
The policeman shows Utterson the broken stick with which Carew has been beaten and straight away he is drawn right back into the mystery (because of the Policeman) as he discovers the stick was his gift to Jekyll. The policeman’s contribution links the facts together in a subtle way and foreshadows the connection between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The look of the old woman at the door of Mr Hyde’s flat gives “a flash of odious joy”. The oxymoron “odious joy” emphasises the hatred the woman has for Hyde yet enjoying that he is in trouble. This contributes to the theme of suppression of violence or in this case hatred. Also she is described as a woman whose “manners were excellent” yet having a face smoothed with hypocrisy. Almost a face of lies. The two statements are close together which suggests the contradictions in personality i.e. she portrays dual nature – another major theme of the novella. I think that maybe showing that minor characters have a dual nature foreshadows a change in an unexpected character – that of Dr Jekyll.
Poole makes a major contribution to the movement of the plot. Like the other minor characters, Poole’s disclosures to Utterson move the action along and inform Utterson (and the reader) of details which help build the suspense and mystery of the novel. He is the character who tells Utterson that Hyde has a “key” to the house and they have orders to “obey him”. These facts intrigue Mr Utterson in the ‘search for Mr Hyde’ and lead Mr Utterson to meeting Hyde, a contribution made by Poole. In my opinion, Poole’s contribution adds a sense of secrecy to the novella. By adding important words such as a “key” to this mysterious door that they have encountered, it makes the other main characters like Utterson (who doesn’t know much about Hyde) understand what sort of person is Hyde and why he gets this special treatment. This hint of secrecy makes us ponder whether Hyde-a vicious ape like creature- is related to Jekyll in any sort of way.
In conclusion, I think that all the minor characters play an important role in the movement of the plot while adding to the book’s themes of secrecy, hypocrisy and suppression and each offers Utterson a different piece of the mystery jigsaw which in twists and turns allows him to draw his own conclusions and finalise the puzzle.