Utterson’s character is one of crucial importance in this novel. The story unfolds in the first chapter with the author giving us insight in to the role this lawyer will play. He is portrayed as being a stern and stoic man of honour and respect. The fact that he is the linking element between all of the characters in the story shows his magnitude and utter value. He knows everyone. The very fact that he is Dr Jekylls friend and lawyer emphasises his importance and allows him to be objective upon the circumstances.
Stoic though he is, there is somehow a ‘lovable’ quality to him. This feature is seen by others, as radiating from his eyes, rather than as a result of his deeds, or conversation. However ‘he had an approved tolerance for others’. Utterson appears to be envious ‘at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds’. There are no extreme elements to his character; he is neither good nor bad. Although he displays a certain craving for evil, he is forced to maintain his austere Victorian reputation. Through the author’s use of narration, the reader sees many of the novels events through Utterson’s eyes and we can perceive his feelings.
Utterson also has the role of the partial narrator in this novel sometimes, as many of the books events are often seen through his eyes. This is due to the fact that he is after all an austere and stern lawyer, who knows every character in the whole book, which allows him to have a rather objective perspective on the events. This is also because Stevenson had chosen this particular character to sort of, let the story flow, without him, your average reader may get somewhat confused, trying to make all the facts fit together. For example the author has used free indirect speech to show Utterson’s fears, feelings and beliefs. When Jekyll’s servant, Poole and Mr Utterson were attempting to break into the scientist’s laboratory, Utterson’s emotional and confused outburst of feelings were revealed when Poole asked him to read a confessional letter, from his ‘unworthy and unhappy friend’ Henry Jekyll. Mr Utterson solemnly replied ‘Because I fear’ (to read the confession).
Certain of Utterson’s stern comments on events, win the partial trust of Victorian readers. As they can relate to what he is writing, the dilemmas and situations often described by him are often something that the common Victorian gentleman might have come across every day of his life. For example just the fact that Mr Utterson is described as a ‘dry London lawyer’ is already something that people in those times were used to. The way he is described in as ‘backward in sentiment’ and very strict with himself, drinking gin when he was alone, trying to ‘mortify a taste for vintages’ and ‘though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for years’. This perfectly illustrates your typical, Victorian stereotype. Keeping ones image, respect and reputation in society, was tremendously vital to their way of life, in those times. Utterson, in a way, lets the light through like a window upon the Victorian society, putting a spot light on the cult of respectability, reputation and the relationships between masters and servants – members of different levels of the social hierarchy.
Utterson also shows the Victorian society to be one of much hypocrisy, in a way linked with strictness. This point is put across when you see Utterson, going for regular, long walks with his ‘good friend’ Mr Enfield. Even though he simply does not enjoy these long, boring walks, he still forces himself through them regularly. This hypocritical side of the Victorian society is also conveyed through the character of Jekyll, the scientist. By his words and many of his actions, he wants to get rid of his evil side, Mr Hyde, although he still has an unbearable longing for evil, to do evil that is. Doing evil through Mr Hyde, a false identity without getting caught, is hypocritical in itself. But what is even worse is that Jekyll wants to also rid himself of Hyde, which he of course can’t do, as Hyde is a very real part of him, without being hypocritical.
Utterson’s character also takes us through the most important aspect of the novel. The duality aspect. At the very beginning of the book, Stevenson explains how even Utterson, the finest of gentlemen, has a lust for evil. Also, when Mr Utterson and Enfield are walking through a bright and friendly neighbourhood, when at the end of the street, they come to reach ‘a certain sinister block of building’, or in other words an old and decaying house. This shows the grave contrast between the good and the bad. The fresh and the decay.
Emphasising greatly upon the whole point of the story; the theme of good and evil being partially present in everyone. Even Utterson’s evil side is shown, when he thought of blackmailing Hyde, when he stalked Hyde, when him and Poole broke into Dr Jekyll’s laboratory, or when Utterson took Jekyll’s will home to read, without giving it to the police straight away, not willing to ruin his past friend’s and client’s reputation. All these are examples of unacceptable behaviour in the Victorian times.
In conclusion, Utterson’s character, portrayed as a typical Victorian man, as I have already mentioned, is able to communicate with the Victorian readers. As they can almost surely relate to the longing of going a little bit out of tight boundaries. To break away from the regime, and heavy obligations built up from the societies pressure of respectability and reputation. The natural order of things often break down in the novel, for example when Poole actually dares to tell Utterson that his own mater has been ‘made away with’, and even though Utterson tries not to believe this servant, Poole persistently attempts to convince him in this truth. Basically, I would say that Mr Utterson is definitely one of the most important characters in the novel of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as he is able to convey his objective point of view to us at the beginning, the end and all the way throughout this outstandingly deep book written by Robert Louis Stevenson.