The Strange Case of
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Edited by Lily T.
Stevenson had a short life (1850-1894) full of travelling and adventure. He was born in Edinburgh and died aged 44, a sickly wreck. He was an atheist obsessed with religious questions.
All his travelling clearly fuelled his exotic adventure stories, while the booming literary marketplace- combined with ground-breaking scientific discoveries, new communication technologies and a mass-market demand for knowledge- meant that he could survive as a professional writer, relying on a steady income during his voyages.
Most of Stevenson’s writing was preoccupied with travel and exploration, so some thought Jekyll and Hyde, written in 1886, was oddly out of place and assumed the novel was written as purely financial motivation. But Stevenson’s work all shares a common theme: adventure and the unknown, which Stevenson shows us is not restricted to physical travel.
One influence on Stevenson was the real-life story of William Brodie, a respectable Edinburgh councillor who lived a secret criminal life as a burglar, gambler and lothario, and was hanged for his crimes in 1788. Stevenson wrote a play about him in 1884. Stevenson’s built on a similar idea in Jekyll and Hyde that a respectable appearance could mask unacceptable appetites.
The idea of a split-personality is also closely related to the idea of the ‘double’, a popular theme in 19th-century Gothic literature. Stevenson seems to have been especially influenced by James Hogg’s 1824 Confessions of A Justified Sinner. Hogg used the idea of the double to approach the tricky theological problem known as ‘predestination’, the idea that those who enter heaven were predestined by God to do so. Hogg’s novel explored the idea that if a person’s fate was predetermined, then they could do whatever they liked- after all, their punishment or reward had already been decided.
The 19th Century (the time period Stevenson lived in) saw huge social change: people begin to have electric lights in their homes and on their streets, they could travel and communicate much faster and the x-ray helped doctors hugely. In this context, Jekyll and Hyde serves as a literary fable, representing a moment in time for our species where the potential for human thought and endeavour was quickly becoming apparent.
We arguably still suffer from a snobbery that condemns Stevenson as merely a ‘popular’ writer. However, the novel is full of complex ideas and stylish writing. The idea of the unconscious and the primitive in man, which caused such anxiety for the Victorians, was a common theme in twentieth century art. In this content, Jekyll and Hyde is a masterpiece of narrative craft and human psychology.
Stevenson travelled a lot and was very sickly throughout his relatively short life.
Jekyll and Hyde is seen as different from Stevenson’s other works, but it has similar themes of adventure and the unknown.
Stevenson was influenced by the story of William Brodie and James Hogg’s Confessions of A Justified Sinner.
William Brodie- the real life Jekyll who lived a secret double life
Chapter 1: Story of the Door
Utterson and his cousin Enfield are out walking in London when Enfield tells Utterson a bizarre story about a small deformed man (Hyde) who trampled over a young girl at night then gave a cheque to the girl’s family as compensation, which was written by someone else but Enfield won’t say who. Enfield shows Utterson the door to Hyde’s house. Utterson says he knows the man who wrote the cheque but doesn’t say the name either.
Chapter 2: Search for Mr Hyde
At home, Utterson takes out Dr Jekyll’s will from the safe, which says if Jekyll disappears then Mr Hyde gets everything he owns after 3 months, no questions asked. Utterson goes to see Dr Lanyon who’s known Jekyll for years (like Utterson) but doesn’t like him anymore and hasn’t seen him for ages. Lanyon hasn't heard of Mr Hyde. Utterson goes home but can’t sleep as he keeps imagining Hyde assaulting the girl and maybe Jeykll too. The next day Utterson waits at the door Enfield pointed out, confronts Hyde and asks to go inside but Hyde says Jekyll’s not home then runs away angrily. Utterson then goes around to the front of the house, which is much nicer than the back, and asks the servant (Poole) if he can see Jekyll, but he confirms he’s not in and that the house staff have been ordered to obey Mr Hyde.
Chapter 3: Dr Jekyll was Quite at Ease
Two weeks later, Dr Jekyll hosts a dinner with some of his old friends. Utterson stays behind to chat alone and asks about his will and Mr Hyde. Jekyll says he doesn’t like Lanyon, calls him 'a pedant', and tells Utterson to stop investigating Hyde as it’s a private matter. Jekyll tells Utterson he has a 'very great interest in poor Hyde'' and makes him promise to bear with Mr Hyde and make sure he gets Jekyll’s belongings if Jekyll disappears. Utterson reluctantly agrees.
Chapter 4: The Carew Murder Case
A maid watches from her window as Mr Hyde beats a well-dressed man (Sir Danvers) to death with a walking stick. Police find an envelope addressed to Utterson on his body. Utterson and a police inspector search Hyde’s house- he’s already left, but they find a burnt cheque book in the fire and half the walking stick used to kill Sir Danvers.
Chapter 5: Incident of the Letter
Utterson goes to see Jekll, he’s escorted to the laboratory room by Poole where he finds Jekyll looking 'deathly sick'. Jekyll gives Utterson a letter written by Hyde saying he’s long gone. Utterson shows the letter to Mr Guest (Utterson’s servant), who notices the similarities with Jekyll’s handwriting.
Chapter 6: Remarkable Incident of Dr Lanyon
Dr Jekyll starts acting like himself again and sees his friends almost every day, then suddenly stops. Lanyon suddenly gets unwell and dies. He leaves an envelope for Utterson, with strict instructions that it’s for his eyes only, and that he can only read it when Jekyll dies or disappears.
Chapter 7: Incident at the Window
Utterson and Enfield are taking their regular Sunday walk and stop by the door. Utterson sees Jekyll and asks him to join their walk; Jekyll declines but is grateful, so Utterson says they can talk through the window. Jekyll seems pleased but suddenly looks terrified and the window closes. The two men walk on, looking pale.
Chapter 8: The Last Night
Poole visits Utterson to tell him that he’s convinced the man locked away in the laboratory is Hyde (his voice doesn't sound like Jekyll) so they break the door down with an axe. They find Hyde’s dead body, in Jekyll’s clothes, holding a smashed glass bottle- he’s swallowed poison to kill himself. There’s an envelope for Utterson containing Jekyll’s new will (he leaves everything to Utterson) and a written confession.
Chapter 9: Dr Lanyon’s Narrative
Lanyon receives a letter from Jekyll asking him to break into his laboratory, take a drawer from his office, and take it back to his house. The letter also says someone will come at midnight, claiming to be Jekyll. Hyde comes, creates a potion from the ingredients in the drawer, then takes it and turns into Jekyll in front of Lanyon, to Lanyon’s horror and disbelief.
Chapter 10: Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case
Jekyll explains his motivation for developing the drug: to separate the two identities we all have ('good and ill') so that our good side could continue through life without disgrace. He tried to stop using it but couldn’t, and ended up killing Carew. Jekyll explains how he started losing control of the transformations and that he changed into Hyde without a potion. He changed into Hyde in a park and couldn’t go home (he’d be recognised by his staff) so he sent the letter asking Lanyon for help from a hotel. He writes the confession from his laboratory while 'under the influence of the last of the old powders', knowing that when he turns into Hyde he won’t change back and that his life as Jekyll is at an end.
Robert Louis Stevenson
(Quite literally, the stuff of nightmares)
Exam Practice Questions
Character Exam Questions
What is the importance of Utterson’s character?
To what extent is Jekyll to blame for Hyde’s actions throughout the novel?
How does Stevenson present Hyde as a symbol of pure evil?
How is Lanyon used to convey ideas about science and the supernatural?
To what extent is Mr Enfield presented as the perfect Victorian gentleman?
Theme Exam Questions
How does Stevenson explore the idea of duality in the novel?
What is the importance of the conflict between science and the supernatural in the novel?
To what extent is the importance of reputation the driving force behind the novel?
How could Jekyll and Hyde be seen as a religious novel?
Why are there no women in Jekyll and Hyde?
James Hogg, the Scottish poet, novelist and essayist
Gabriel John Utterson- who’s often referred to by just his surname, Utterson- is an upright and quite reserved man and works as a lawyer. He’s ‘a lover of the sane and customary sides of life’ and advises others with great empathy. However Stevenson also writes about his inclination to ‘Cain’s heresy’ (which means that he sympathises with the Biblical figure who denies responsibility for his wayward brother, Abel, and murders him) implies a firm independence.
We see most of the book through Utterson’s eyes, and trust him more than we would some of the other characters as he clearly is more moral and reliable than a lot of them:
His affections, like ivy, were the growth of time.
This suggests he’s steady, consistent and doesn’t change much with the comparison to ivy, which grows slowly. He’s also deeply loyal to his friends and very trustworthy- his friends all trust him with their secrets. In total, Utterson is the symbol of law and order, and represents the perfect Victorian gentleman.
It could be argued that Utterson, not Jekyll, is the main character of the book. Throughout the novel there are 131 references to Utterson, compared to just 99 to Hyde and 98 to Jekyll, and there are far more references to lawyer than doctor. This could suggest it’s a novel about law rather than science.
Utterson is a lawyer and a perfect Victorian gentleman.
We see most of the book through his more trustworthy point of view.
He’s reserved, consistent and loyal to his friends.
It could be argued that Utterson is the main character of the novel
Dr Jekyll is a respectable and wealthy doctor, living in central London (Soho to be precise) who lives in the upper echelons of society. He is seen as upright and honourable, but he represses a more immoral side to his character. When he was younger, he had an 'impatient gaiety of disposition', meaning he had a disreputable side that he had to hide.
So that he doesn't have to repress his ‘evil side’ any more, he creates a potion to split his good and evil counterparts, which means he can commit sins but feel no guilt. This evil side takes form as Edward Hyde.
Jekyll describes how he was just as much himself while transforming into Hyde as he was when he was Jekyll:
I could rightly be said to be either…I was radically both
Stevenson makes us feel bad for Jekyll, even though he does commit these awful acts. He is shown to be deeply repressed by the Victorian way of life, and does try to stop Hyde from taking over. Jekyll’s presented to begin with as a kind man, and he’s horrified by what Hyde has done, but at the same time it could be argued that he’s responsible for the murder of Carew and all the other unnamed crimes Hyde commited.
In the novel, there are far more descriptions of Hyde than Jekyll which means that when it comes to 'the good doctor' we actually rely on our own assumptions of what an upstanding gentleman is like. Perhaps in that sense Jekyll is more of a ‘myth’ than Hyde.
Jekyll is a respectable and wealthy doctor.
He has another side to his character who commits immoral acts, but he doesn’t want people to find out he isn’t respectable.
He creates a potion to split his good and evil sides.
Notice how descriptions of Hyde's physical appearance are as vague as the descriptions of his crimes
Mr Hyde is Dr Jekyll’s alter ego who’s obviously a villainous violent man- a man, though, not literally a monster. He speaks and is a character in his own right and in almost all ways he’s the opposite of how people see Dr Jekyll. He’s physically different, as shown by the quotes:
Deformed somewhere…but I [Mr Enfield] couldn’t specify the point
Something troglodytic, shall we say?
He’s also said to be 'pale and dwarfish'. Hyde being physically squat, plainly dressed and even 'deformed' shows he’s the opposite of upstanding like the other characters, he’s literally and figuratively a low character, and isn’t respectably dressed.
When people try to describe Hyde they find it difficult, giving quite vague descriptions which adds to the whole sense of intrigue and mystery. Things are much more terrifying when it’s left to our own imaginations to fill in the gaps- which Stevenson does well. Then there are the repeated references to him being a 'creature' and 'hardly human', even compared to an 'ape' and 'monkey', as if he’s not evolved or civilised.
In the same way his appearance is vague, so are his crimes. Apart from the girl he tramples and the murder of Sir Danvers, it’s really ambiguous about just what he does. It’s as if his abnormality and strangeness is a crime in itself. Maybe we fill in the gaps with what we imagine are vile things, like his appearance. Perhaps he’s gay (which was illegal in those days) or a cross-dresser or some other sexual deviancy as they would have seen it. Jekyll isn’t married, and there are no major female characters in the book. Whatever it is, we’re told he’s 'pure evil'. It’s almost as if whatever his evilness might be, it’s beyond mortal comprehension- or just that it’s too forbidden and socially taboo even to mention, let alone print in 1886.
Hyde is the evil man Jekyll turns into when he takes the potion.
He is shorter than Jekyll and described as 'deformed' and 'hardly human'.
The novel never really goes into the evil acts that Hyde commits, but they’re said to be 'pure evil'.
Hyde's "ugly" appearance mirrors his "ugly" morals and behaviour
Dr Hastie Lanyon (also referred to by just his surname of Lanyon) lives in Cavendish Square which is the real-life centre for the London medical profession. He’s described as:
Hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman, with a shock of hair prematurely white and a boisterous and decided manner
This shows he’s loud and confident, and we quickly find out he’s a well-respected doctor. As a symbol of rational thinking and skepticism throughout the novel, Lanyon acts as a foil for Jekyll: his attitudes starkly contrast Jekyll’s, which is why they don’t talk anymore. Lanyon believes in science, but Jekyll is more interested in the supernatural.
When Hyde takes the potion and transforms back into Jekyll, Lanyon watches in horror and disbelief. He can’t handle the shock of everything he believed being proved wrong, and this unmoving attitude leads to his death from shock. He would rather die than try to understand that what he thought was false, and Stevenson uses his death to show how science is beaten by the power of the supernatural.
Lanyon is a well-respected and friendly doctor.
Jekyll and Lanyon used to be friends before Jekyll became obsessed with the supernatural instead of normal science.
Lanyon’s death represents the supernatural overpowering science.
Lanyon's physical appearance completely changes once he sees Hyde transform back into Jekyll
Mr Enfield is a distant relative of Utterson. He’s quite an unconventional character as he’s described as a 'well-known man about town', which has positive and negative connotations. It suggests he’s slightly notorious. His behaviour is reflected in his language, where he has a fashionable urban slang.
Mr Poole is Dr Jekyll’s elderly butler, who has been given orders to obey Mr Hyde. He’s the one who comes to Utterson’s house to tell him he’s worried about Jekyll, and helps Utterson break down the door to get to Hyde in chapter eight.
There’s also the character of Mr Guest, Utterson’s Head Clerk. This means he does all his administration work- a bit like a receptionist. He’s a very reliable man and crucially, he studies handwriting, which is an important part of the plot. He makes the discovery that Jekyll’s handwriting is almost the same as Hyde’s.
Mr Enfield is Utterson’s relative and a well-known man about town.
Mr Poole is Jekyll’s butler who gets help from Utterson as he’s worried about Jekyll.
My Guest is Utterson’s reliable Head Clerk.
As respectable gentlemen, Utterson and Jekyll both have butlers
THEMES & ADVANCED REVISION
Duality and Good vs Evil
In an essay, Stevenson described how he had been trying to write a story about man’s double being, and it is this which makes the novel so harrowing. It’s not that Jekyll is pure evil, or that Hyde is some outside force that has a hold of Jekyll, but that Hyde is an embodiment of Jekyll’s deepest urges to do ill:
Man is not truly one but truly two
Jekyll is a combination of both good and evil, whereas Hyde, who is physically smaller than Jekyll, is a concentration of the bad elements that already exist. In most gothic novels at the time, the evil was a separate entity. Stevenson’s idea that evil is inside of us made Jekyll and Hyde much more terrifying.
Jekyll is often seen as a symbol of good, as the opposite to Hyde, who is pure evil, but in actual fact he is a mix of both good and evil. Hyde is pure evil without the good side to rationalise him, but Jekyll says from the beginning that he’s a 'a double-dealer'. His potion doesn’t mean that Jekyll is pure good and Hyde pure evil, it means Hyde is Jekyll without the constraints of society and morality that stop Jekyll from being evil.
The novel is full of contrasting imagery and motifs; light & dark, night & day, real & unreal, and the possible and the impossible. These contrasts, and sometimes the blurring of the two, further develop this sense of good and evil.
The novel is a story about the good and evil inside of all people.
Hyde is Jekyll without the restraints of morality and society.
The contrasting imagery in the novel is used to symbolise good and evil.
The novel explores the binary concepts of good and evil
Science vs Supernatural
The characters of Jekyll and Lanyon- two respectable and wealthy scientists- are used to represent the argument between science and the supernatural that Stevenson weaves throughout the novel. Lanyon is a traditional scientist and refuses to believe the 'unscientific balderdash' that Jekyll studies.
Jekyll, unlike most characters in the novel, isn’t reserved and set in his views, and believes in experimenting beyond the logical way of thinking. He creates Hyde, portrayed as beyond reason: the characters in the novel can’t describe him rationally as he symbolises the supernatural. He’s the irrational creature that Jekyll has created.
When Lanyon sees Hyde transform into Jekyll, he can’t accept that his rational views could be wrong:
“I have had a shock,” he said, “and I shall never recover. It is a question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it. I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away.”
Lanyon suggests he’s unafraid of death due to what he’s seen, adding to the sense of horror and mystery at this point in the novel. He can’t bear to think of what’s happened, and Stevenson suggests that it’s our own ignorance of the world around us that means we can live happily. Once we’ve seen what’s really possible, like Lanyon, we wouldn’t want to live in such an irrational world either.
Lanyon and Jekyll are used to represent science and the supernatural in the novel.
Jekyll believes in the supernatural, and his experiments are less scientific than Lanyon’s.
Lanyon refuses to believe that his rational views could be wrong, which leads to his death.
Jekyll's supernatural experiments are shocking to Lanyon
Reputation and Repression
For upper class men, like those in Jekyll and Hyde, reputation was essential. Victorian gentlemen had to maintain the appearance of being upright and respectable, and taking part in immoral activities could mean they might no longer be seen as a gentleman at all and therefore lose all the social advantages that came with the title.
A typical Victorian gentleman dressed in a coat, hat, tie, boots and all the rest of the fancy items of clothing that marked him out as rich and respectable. His clothes were important to his identity. His hat, cane, necktie and handkerchief functioned almost as ‘props’ to project a carefully constructed image of respectability. He was almost entirely concealed by these clothes, which look to us now more like a costume or a uniform, with very little room for personalisation or to reflect his individuality.
Utterson is a classic Victorian gentleman, and as such him and Enfield avoid gossip as it could reflect badly on them. As Jekyll’s friend, Utterson is also more concerned with preserving Jekyll’s reputation than bringing Hyde to trial:
If it came to a trial, your name might appear.
Stevenson shows that Utterson can’t fully understand Jekyll’s situation as he doesn’t know what Jekyll’s really like- he only knows the upstanding side of his personality that his reputation is based on. Reputation can’t be trusted as it is the version of a person that they want the world to see.
This importance placed on reputation led to many gentlemen repressing their desires, or having to do things in secret to preserve their reputation. At the time that Jekyll and Hyde came out, it would’ve been seen as a novel about good and evil, but now we can see that it's more about one man (Jekyll) struggling with his repressed nature, and being forced to find a way to be ‘free’.
Victorian gentlemen were supposed to act and appear respectable at all times.
Stevenson suggests reputation can’t be trusted as it’s the side of someone that they want the world to see, not necessarily who they are.
Many gentlemen had to repress their desires or do immoral things in secret.
Consider how important a Victorian man's clothes were to his identity; his hat, cane, necktie and handkerchief function as ‘props’ to project a carefully constructed image of respectability
Jekyll and Hyde carries heavy religious overtones, and the novel might be read as a parable about man seeking to disrupt the divine order of things. Jekyll’s observation that all human beings, as we meet them, are 'commingled out of good and evil' recalls the biblical Book of Genesis, where the tree in Eden gives knowledge of both good and evil at the same time.
Furthermore, Hyde’s offer to Lanyon in chapter nine, offering him a choice between ignorance and knowledge, seems a clear reference to Satan’s temptation of Eve.
In the final chapter, Jekyll says he’s driven to:
Reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life, which lies at the root of religion and is one of the most plentiful springs of distress.
It makes us question what lies at the root of religion- creation or free will? And what even is the ‘hard law of life’? He could be suggesting that we go beyond our mortal limitations at our peril, or maybe that we can’t escape our own nature.
Another religious aspect of the novel is when Hyde is described as a 'damned juggernaut'. The word Juggernaut comes from an Indian procession, where every year in Orissa (an Indian state) they’d put the image of the god Krishna over a huge cart and people would throw themselves under the wheels as it was in motion and get crushed to death to show their devotion, so the word has come to mean something huge and powerful and destructive, which Hyde is.
The word 'damned' is an expression of anger but also has connotations of being ‘damned’ to hell, like Lucifer was of course. There are lots of demon and devil-like comparisons, Enfield says there was a 'black and sneering coolness' to him. Hyde’s even described as 'like Satan' himself and Jekyll says: 'That child of hell had nothing human'.
The novel could be read as a parable about man disrupting the divine order of things.
Stevenson makes us question our own nature and the meaning or religion.
Hyde is described as a satan like figure, highlighting his evil nature.
Hyde successfully tempts Lanyon in a way comparable to the snake in the Biblical story
Gender and Sexuality
The concern of so many unmarried men about Jekyll’s situation might be because they think his ‘blackmail’ results from a homosexual encounter. Jekyll’s ambiguous statements to Utterson seem to point towards this: when he turns back again to experimenting after the spell of conviviality, he tells Utterson in a note that “I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name”.
Friends of Stevenson, like the critic John Addington Symonds, seem to have read the story in this way. Stevenson himself, however, thought that Hyde’s activities were more horrifying when they were kept mysterious.
Yet there is something odd about how emphatically male the novel seems to be. The maidservant who faints when she witnesses Carew’s murder is the only significant female character. Perhaps the text’s real subject is anxiety about the loss of authority, which in Victorian England was emphatically male.
Even the maid disappears from the novel once her purpose has been fulfilled. This could be explained through the suggestion that Jekyll and his friends are homosexual, but Stevenson also gives his male characters feminine traits.
The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside, and I came to myself as if out of a great sickness.
When Jekyll transforms into Hyde, it has connotations with giving birth, a distinctly feminine act. As well as this the male characters embody different aspects of the traditionally ‘female nature’, such as Utterson trying to look after Jekyll as an almost motherly figure. This creates the idea that female characters aren’t needed.
There is a suggestion that Jekyll took part in homosexual acts, which were illegal at the time.
There are very few female characters, and the ones that are there are only used to fulfill a purpose.
Stevenson suggests female characters are unnecessary.
The maid is one of the only female characters and her role is relatively minor
Letters are used both as a plot device and to symbolise secrets (all of the important secrets are told through letters). When Carew is found dead, a letter to Utterson is found in his possession. We don’t find out what’s in it, but it’s unimportant. The letter is simply a device used to ensure that Utterson is swiftly brought into the affair, and that no time is wasted explaining his re-entry into the narrative. This technique helps maintain momentum. A similar thing takes place when a dinner invitation from Dr Jekyll arrives with Utterson at precisely the same moment he and Mr Guest are poring over the letter supposedly written by Hyde. It’s a coincidence, apparently, but it means that no time is wasted, and is in keeping with Stevenson’s preference for strict narrative conciseness.
Stevenson’s London was a place of extraordinary contrasts between grandeur and squalor. Dr Jekyll’s house, with its grand front and neglected rear, clearly shows the way in which these extremes were often pushed up against each other. The difference is so stark that Enfield, in the first chapter, doesn’t even realise that it’s the same place. It’s as though the split characterisation of Dr Jekyll is directly mirrored by the architecture. In fact, the first descriptions of the courtyard are remarkably human: the windowless upper storey is 'a blind forehead of discoloured wall', the knocker-less door is 'blistered and distained' like haggard, unhealthy skin. We can perhaps then view the house as a powerful symbol for human psychology; a place 'plunged in darkness' where the respectable and unrespectable coexist.
Doors and Windows
The many references to doors and windows throughout the novel reinforce the idea that a firm boundary lies between inside life and the outside world- suggesting social and domestic lives are two separate realms. This contrast between the outside and inside might also represent human psychology, particularly the idea of a subconscious, which was beginning to be understood at the time. Jekyll’s slamming of the window could therefore represent his desperate need to ‘shut off’ his subconscious in order to keep certain urges and desires at bay.
Light and Dark
It’s clear that Hyde presents a problem for reason and truth- often represented through the repeated light metaphors. Utterson wishes to see him clearly but Hyde stays firmly in the dark; a symbolic threat to the established social order. When he finally does get described, the terms used tend to be animalistic, and these features are meant to mark him out as a revolt against reason. Hyde also only comes out in the night, whereas Jekyll lives during the day, making night and darkness a symbol of evil and light and day a symbol of good, adding to the heavy sense of contrast throughout the whole novel.
The fog serves as a device to create further mystery and opaqueness within the novel. It’s also a symbol for the veiled and hidden way people at the time lived their lives with a need to conceal themselves and any socially abnormal or undesirable behaviours. It creates a sense of mystery and confusion and this causes the reader to chase the truth throughout the novel and work hard until the evidence can be believed. The fog is also used to represent Hyde: all through the novel the fog gets thicker, blocking out the light (a symbol of Jekyll).
Stevenson uses the famously dense fog of London as an interesting plot device
Language and Structure
Stevenson builds up lots of drama and tension throughout Jekyll and Hyde through his use of structure. He adds to the drama by repeating the transformation scene from different perspectives: if we think of the narrative moving along a timeline, we can see that it stops moving forwards at the end of chapter eight.
Until that point, events have been described by a third-person narrator closely sharing Utterson’s point of view. Then we rewind, revisiting the narrative from an increasingly better-informed point of view. First, we rewind to get Lanyon’s account in chapter nine, then we get Jekyll’s own version in chapter 10. Offering a satisfying sense of closure, these sequences also act like a big explosion in an action movie, repeated from different camera angles to achieve maximum dramatic effect.
As we shift from the third to the first person narrative, the other effect of the last two chapters is that we are reading the actual evidence, presented to us directly without any meddling narrator in the way. This clever technique has the effect of putting us in the role of Utterson as he reads the documents, increasing the sense of immediacy and drama.
Ten years later, in 1897, Bram Stoker would do something similar in his classic Gothic novel Dracula, where many of the chapters are presented as extracts from the characters’ diaries, and correspondence between them is included as telegrams as if it has been cut and pasted straight into the narrative.
The novel is thick with language and imagery that conjure a sense of ambiguity and obscureness. Words such as 'gloomy', 'muddy', 'glimpse', 'lurid', 'brown' and 'hue' add to the novel’s unsettled atmosphere, and also create for the reader a semantic field of mystery and malevolence; an evil environment with evil people.
The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city
Using symbols (such as fog and the use of light and dark) and the language to describe them, Stevenson adds to this sense of evil. The fog creates mystery in the novel, as well as showing the need for people at the time conceal any undesirable behaviours, and the use of light and dark adds to the tension as so many things are kept in the dark- both literally and figuratively.
By describing the transformation scene in lots of different perspectives, Stevenson adds more drama and tension to the novel.
The last two chapters let us read the evidence directly as if we are Utterson.
Stevenson uses language to create a sense of mystery and obscureness.
Bram Stoker's Dracula was one of many inspirations for Stevenson
Higher Level Context
Around forty years after Stevenson was writing Jekyll and Hyde, Sigmund Freud came up with his ideas about the mind being split into conscious and unconscious elements. Freud argued that we have no control over our unconscious- a troubling thought, but one which clearly fits Jekyll’s relationship to Hyde. Jekyll even describes identity as a ‘fortress’, specifically anticipating Freud’s idea that the conscious mind acts to limit the effects of primal urges hidden beneath the surface. The fact that the novel was inspired by a dream, which Freud described as the ‘royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind’, only seems to validate the comparison.
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Stevenson was heavily influenced by Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species (1859), which introduced the theory of evolution. It was very controversial as it was seen as an attack on religion, and many people felt as if they had to choose between science and religion. It also suggested that all humans had come from primitive forms and, to the upper class Victorians, this was an unacceptable idea. The descriptions of Hyde as ‘ape-like’ and ‘troglodytic’ would’ve been especially terrifying to a contemporary audience.
Setting and Victorian London
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is heavily reliant on Stevenson’s atmospheric depictions of Victorian London. The city’s famously dense fog continually reappears in arresting descriptions: at one moment London is ‘'drowned' in it, so that its gas-powered lamps 'glimmered like carbuncles' in a way that feels distinctly theatrical. These lamps which normally create a warm soft atmosphere, form the stuff of nightmares in Jekyll and Hyde. After Enfield’s anecdote about the trampling, when he describes 'street after street, all lighted up as if for a procession'. Utterson is haunted by visions of 'the great field of lamps of a nocturnal city'. These dream-images give a sense of the city going on forever, in a rather dizzying and sinister way; perhaps aptly, considering London was the largest city on earth in the nineteenth century. When Enfield describes having walked home 'from some place at the end of the world', his turn of phrase indicates the sheer scale of a metropolis whose population had grown from 1 million to 6 million within a century.
Freud's theories suggest that Hyde is like the 'id'- the primitive desires of the subconscious mind
Higher Level Analysis
Is Jekyll and Hyde a Detective Story?
There are close similarities between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the kind of detective and mystery fiction that was popular in the late 19th century. There are at least two crimes, and the scene when Utterson and Poole storm into Jekyll’s cabinet, only to discover Hyde’s dead body, is quite literally a ‘locked room mystery’: the key to the door is broken and rusty from lack of use, lying on the floor. There’s also the bone-grinding drama of the transformation scene itself. This last point is important. Reading the novel today, it’s practically impossible not to already know that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. Readers are often surprised by the way in which Stevenson carefully withholds this information, so that the final chapters explain the strange occurrences that have taken place up to that point. It is this arrangement that makes the novel a prototype detective story. We get a confusing tale, then, we get a clear story that straightens out the case.
Stevenson uses frustration as a way of keeping his readers’ attention. One way that he makes the novel exciting is by using Utterson either to provide or withhold information. In the first chapter, Enfield does not tell Utterson the name on the cheque when he recounts the ‘trampling’ story, partly being polite but also playing the role of the author, stylising his story for maximum dramatic effect. It’s frustrating for the reader: doubly so when Utterson doesn’t ask the name of the other man ‘because I know it already’. All at once, both characters share an unspoken secret, and the reader has to read on to discover it and make sense of things.
The key is another symbol that makes the novel seem more like a detective story and adds to the sense of mystery and intrigue