“Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him. ‘There must be something else,’ said the perplexed gentleman. ‘There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say?” (43).
We have spent a fair amount of time in class discussing the significance of physical appearance to our definitions of monstrosity. Within The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this same sort of ambiguous and enigmatic description of Hyde can be found several times, voiced each time by different characters. Here, Utterson declares that there is something off about this man, even though the characteristics themselves don’t imply anything inherently evil. This could be at least partially because Hyde’s “dwarfish” proportions and “displeasing smile” are contradictory to traditional Victorian ideals. But, at the same time, Utterson goes so far as to proclaim that Hyde “seems hardly human,” based on the unfounded uneasiness he feels in Hyde’s presence. This intrinsic fear is what drives Utterson to draw a line between human and “troglodytic” cave dweller and place Hyde on the latter side. Without disclosing any spoilers, I will say that we do not yet know why Hyde exudes this “unknown disgust, loathing and fear”. But, it is clear that Utterson is having a hard time categorizing him: “an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation”, “mixture of timidity and boldness”, “‘There is something more, if I could find a name for it’”. Thus, Hyde is in line with Cohen’s third thesis: The Monster is a Harbinger of Category Crisis.
What are the implications of such an ambiguous description of Hyde? Is it more or less effective in defining him as a monster compared to, say, the obviously hideous Creature from Frankenstein?