Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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A study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s use of settings, characters and
symbolism in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and MR Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on the November 13th, 1850 in
Edinburgh as the son of Thomas Stevenson, joint-engineer to the Board
of Northern Lighthouses. Since his childhood Stevenson suffered from
tuberculosis. In 1867 he entered Edinburgh University to study
engineering, but soon changed to law and then devoted his life to
writing. He had a wife Fanny, whom he married in 1880. He ended his
life as a tribal leader in Vailima, in Samoa before he died on
December 3, 1894. Stevenson died of a brain hemorrhage, aged 44.

The symbolism starts with his birth place Edinburgh, it has a new town
and an old town, the new town is where the university was and it would
have been where the well to do people would be and the old town would
have been where the slums of the city were. This is the start of
symbolism because it shows duality like Dr Jekyll being Mr Hyde.

Stevenson was around in the 19th century Victorian England when the
industrial revolution was at its high a great time for new discoveries
and really Stevenson could have been a great inventor if he had stayed
in engineering. I think that Stevenson could have been influenced by
these great discoveries in ‘The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’
with Dr Jekyll’s crazy new idea of metamorphosing and know one
believing him, I believe that it would have been like this during the
industrial revolution new ideas that people would have thought would
be prosperous like Dr Jekyll’s idea.

I think that some of the evilness found in Stevenson’s novel ‘The
strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ could have come from the evil
stories that his nurse Cummy and her enthusiastic Calvinism and the
stories she told of the Covenanters harsh seventeenth century
Presbyterians who opposed encroaching Anglicanism would prove quite
influential in the author's career.

In this novel Stevenson follows a gothic tradition there is a lot of
description of dark mysterious places throughout the novel. In the
novel there is lots said about the buildings in Soho “the dingy
windowless structure” their again is a dirty dark feeling to the place
and not a place where the high class society would be seen the likes
of Dr Jekyll.

There are a lot of references to doors and windows in the novel I
think that this has symbolism behind it. I think this because the
doors are all closed and the windows are sordid as if there is a

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secret being kept in that no can know about it. I think this because
every time there is a secret, especially if it is being kept from
Utterson then there is a locked door or window mentioned “the door was
shut against the lawyer” (page 31) the lawyer is obviously Utterson. I
think that most of the secrecy is Dr Jekyll and that he is a very
secretive person as he writes in his letter to Utterson “…you must not
be surprised …… if my door is often shut even to you….” (page 33) This
also shows Utterson has no trust in anyone not even his closest
friends. This is also shown when Utterson speaks to Jekyll through the
window this is as if there secrets are getting out but they slam the
window shut and no more secrets can get out.

I also think it as if the person doesn’t want any visitors “The door
which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and
distained” (page 6) it could also be that the person isn’t expecting
anyone or they don’t have friends which could say a lot about their
character. It is also as if when they are inside and the door is
closed then the secrets are kept among them but when they are out in
the open air then there are no secrets I know this because Utterson
longs for openness and says the line “he preferred [to be] surrounded
by the air and sounds of the open city” (page 34)

There is also a link between the blistered door and Hyde I think this
because the door has animalistic type scratch’s on it this could have
quite easily have been Hyde I know this because of some of the other
events that happened in the book that I will go on to explain later in
this essay this is another example of symbolism in the novel.

There is also a lot of symbolism about the windows in the novel this
is again to do with secrecy. When the windows are closed again to
secrets can be shared but as well as secrets not getting out they
can’t get in either. It’s a two way thing know one can know Dr
Jekyll’s secrets and he can’t know anyone else’s when he’s in his
house. There is a whole chapter about windows “Incident at the Window”
this shows the extensive amount of symbolism used in the novel a whole
chapter of it. The secrets are only let out when the windows are
opened I know this because when Utterson and Enfield are speaking to
Dr Jekyll through his window Jekyll must realise that too many secrets
are being let out through the window and that Utterson and Enfield
have seen too much then he slams the window shut. We then find out
that they had seen enough for secrets to be let out “ that glimpse had
been sufficient” (page 36) Utterson and Enfield find out some thing
shocking it is described as “ an expression of such abject terror and
despair as froze the blood of the two gentlemen” (page 36) It must
have been some very shocking or maybe even horrific as we know that
Utterson and Enfield didn’t speak a word too each other until they
were into the next neighbourhood when Utterson asked God forgiveness
and then they don’t speak again. It must have been very horrific and
not a pretty site.

In the chapter “The Last Night” Utterson decides that the secrecy has
to come to an end when Jekyll’s butler Poole visits Utterson
unexpectedly Poole is very distressed and obviously cares about his
master Dr Jekyll as Poole believes that Hyde has come to kill Jekyll.
It is at this point where Utterson has had enough and decides to go
round to Dr Jekyll’s house and end the secrecy. Utterson prepares to
knock the door of Jekyll’s laboratory with an axe there is
anticipation in him he knows that when the door is down that their
will be no more secrets but that he might have to solve a mystery but
he may also be faced with a dead body. The door was “tough and the
fittings were excellent workmanship” it took them five swings of the
axe before they got in and there they found him. Edward Hyde, he lay
on the floor wearing clothes that were too big for him there was a
smell of drugs in the air. It appeared that he had committed suicide
as they were breaking down the door; he had taken arsenic “the strong
smell of kernels that hung upon the air” and this is what he died of,
arsenic poisoning.

Stevenson uses a ‘multiple perspective’ technique where we receive the
story from more than one viewpoint unlike the rest of the book which
is in ‘third person’ in this chapter, “Doctor Lanyons Narrative” it is
a letter from Jekyll to Lanyon and then it is Lanyons thoughts and
events that followed from the letter. Again there is more symbolism
used about secrets and again it is breaking in and letting out secrets
but this time it’s into Jekyll’s cabinet. Again it was very hard to
get in and took two hours again this is more secrets let out into the
open. This chapter is about Lanyon finding out how the potion is made
up and finding out what he said was impossible.

The fog in the city is yet more symbolism because the fog is described
as being dark fog and the above it the sun shining brightly this is
showing duality and again like the old and new town within the city.
The weather also reflected the novel so say when the secrets are out
then the fog lifts this is called pathetic fallacy so the weather
reflects the mood of the novel you always picture something sad with
it raining heavily and something happy with the sun shining brightly
this is also an extensive use of symbolism.

When we think about what the words actually mean in the novel it is
very easy to see what Stevenson means in the novel for example “a
great chocolate coloured pall lowered over heaven” (page 23) when we
think about we can see what it means that some thing is being covered
up or hidden. There are some phrase’s though that taking a bit of
thinking about “the wind was continually charging and routing these
embattled vapours” (page 23) What does it mean? Well I think that
something is being disrupted in the air this phrase also has an
example of personification in it ‘charging’ is personified. These are
also examples of pathetic fallacy.

There is also a lot of violent and pessimistic vocabulary used about
Soho it is described as haggard and needs life putting back into it.
It’s a dismal, muddy and gloomiest place in London probably in the
country. I think that Soho and London are like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Soho is the impure dismal extraction from London. So all the bad parts
of London are put into this one area so that the rest of London is
nice but we all know that I cant be completely pure. Soho and Hyde are
the parts that we want to enjoy but we know we shouldn’t in Soho there
might be prostitutes and Hyde might have take drugs they are things we
shouldn’t do but that we enjoy.

I also think that there is a lot of sexuality in the novel but it is
indirect so that the book could still be published without parts being
taken out and therefore spoiling the novel. Examples of this indirect
sexuality are “a pale moon lying in her back” this is also
personification. Stevenson would have had to use this indirect
sexuality because the prove readers wouldn’t have aloud it to be
published he would also have had to do the same for some of the
horrific scenes that we would think are nothing now as times change
films and books are doing more and more that wouldn’t have been aloud
in the 19th century.

A lot of Stevenson’s characters are symbolic to other themes and ideas
in the novel. Like the one that I have already mentioned about Dr
Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Soho and London are mirrored against each other
Soho and Mr Hyde are the extracts of bad from the good of London and
Dr Jekyll.

Mr Hyde actions are very animalistic and has an animal instinct in him
it is as if he is the link between man and ape “it wasn’t like a man
it was like some damned Juggernaut” (page 7). He’s a hairy small “so
ugly” (page 7) creature that walks stooped, it is as if he’s not
properly developed “Mr Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave the
impression of deformity without any nameable malformation” (page 16).
He shows a lot of violence in a different way to most people when he
trampled over the girl but in the book it is described as “the man
trampled calmly over the child’s body” (page 7).

In the Victorian era there was a lot of suppression and it’s like Dr
Jekyll’s evil has been suppressed into this one character but this
evil is suppressed so much that it burst’s out even bigger than it was
in the first place. I think this is also another use of symbolism
because when you suppress something it becomes small and Mr Hyde is a
very small person and has some of Dr Jekyll’s evilness in suppressed
in him.

Mr Utterson is a very honest man and doesn’t let out other peoples
secrets and is also the keeper of Dr Jekyll’s will which shows that he
must be a very trusted man which you would hope he is as he’s a
lawyer. I think he is also a very noisy man as he’s the one that see’s
something through the window and he’s the one that goes and breaks
down Dr Jekyll’s door to the laboratory. He is man that you become to
like and is liked by others he is also a very respectable man most
likely because he’s a lawyer.

Dr Lanyon is a man that likes to live life as a bit of a poser really
very theatrical I picture him as the type of guy who is in ‘the’ bars
and leads a very high class live in society also he would have all new
nice clothes and the right friends a gentleman I also think that he
would be quite snobby. People also have trust in him “If anyone knows
its Lanyon” he also obviously has a good character “This was a hearty,
healthy, dapper, red faced gentleman with a shock of hair prematurely
white and a boisterous and decided manner” he also would strike me as
the type of man that would have a lot of energy and would keep himself
fit.

Dr Jekyll is almost an opposite to Mr Hyde which he should be really
because Mr Hyde is an extract from Dr Jekyll but the bad parts of him.
In this I mean that for example Dr Jekyll is described as being “a
large, well made, smooth faced man of fifty, with something of a
stylish cast perhaps” (page 19) where as Mr Hyde is described as
being “small and very plainly dressed” (page 14) and “so ugly” (page
7). Its has if Dr Jekyll can’t cope with the evil in side him because
its not what he wants to be like and associated with.

I think that it is also so he can lead the double life that he wants
to, he can socialise in the new town with his high class society of
people that he likes to socialise with or he can go into the old town
as Mr Hyde and do what ever he wants with any and not be found out by
the up class people he likes to be with.

All the main characters are hypocrites they all are repulsed off
Jekyll yet when it comes to facing there own evilness they can’t I see
this as them tearing there bodies in half. One half good being
repelled from the other half bad I say this because if they are
repulsed off Hyde’s evilness then they must surly repulse of their own
evilness in themselves.

There was a lot of hypocrisy in the Victorian era

Stevenson couldn’t go into great detail about murder and crime and
things like that this is because back in the 19th century the public
would have to have been protected with a censorship anything to do
with the arts and media would have been censored but a lot higher then
we know it today. There were ways to get around the censorship though
this would have been done by using an allusion and doing something
indirectly. An example of this is that in this novel did you know that
Hyde, Jekyll, and Danvers were supposed to be ‘up to something’? We
never really get to know about this in the novel though because of
censorship.
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