Horror is a tradition of writing, which has its roots firmly set in gothic novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such gothic novels were what we now perceive as traditional horror, set in castles or convents with characters such as ghosts and elements of the supernatural. Although the horror novels have changed over the years, there are still five main elements, which traditional horror novels cover.
The setting is a very important element in horror novels. This is because the setting can provide and extra sense of fear by relating scary events to scary places. Gothic novels are often set in such places as castles or monasteries. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is set in the city if London, but although it is not a setting of horror in itself, it makes the novel scary as the audience reading the novel can relate to the events happening in the area around them. The city is also described to make the events seem even more realistic. This is shown in page 21 when it says that there was a,Order now
“low growl of London from all aroundâ€¦”
Other novels such as “Dracula” use more traditional settings to create the air of fear. “Dracula” uses the setting of the ruins of a house in conjunction with a storm to create the air of fear in the novel. The setting is illustrated when the character, who is anonymous, is about to enter,
“the deep Doric doorway of the marble tomb.” Although “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” does not use the traditional horror settings, is still manages to create an air of fear by using a familiar and ‘real’ setting.
Another of the main ‘ingredients’ in traditional horror writing is an element of ‘otherness’. This is a character such as a monster or evil spirit or anything else unnatural. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” uses Mr. Hyde as the element of otherness in the novel. This is because Mr. Hyde is portrayed as a monster that commits evil deeds. This is shown on page 30 when Mr. Hyde,
“with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under footâ€¦”
“Frankenstein” is another novel, which uses the element of otherness a lot in the novel. In “Frankenstein”, the element of otherness is Frankenstein’s monster, and although it is not alive at this point in the novel, the description alone of the
“yellow skinâ€¦hair of a lustrous black” and the part that emphasises that this is not human is that
his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were setâ€¦” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” does use the traditional use of otherness to create the fear in the novel.
Credibility is another important factor in traditional horror stories. This is how realistic the novel is and how believable it is that the events depicted could actually happen. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” appears very credible. This is due to a combination of factors. The setting of the city of London makes it seem credible because many people could relate to the areas in which the events were happening. The events that took place also make the novel seem believable. Most of the evil happenings in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” are murders, and only a couple of years after the publishing of the novel, Jack the Ripper was lose in London. This drove even more people to believe that not only was “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” credible, but that it was a true story and not a novel.
An element of fear is also another important issue to consider when writing a horror novel. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” tries to scare the readers of ‘hidden personalities’. This is done as the evil character in the novel, Mr. Hyde, comes from inside Dr. Jekyll. The fear is also put across in death, as murder does take place in the novel. Fear is also used in the novel “Frankenstein”. The fear is again one of warning the public, and in this case it is warning about the dramatic developments in the role of science. “The Mysteries of Udolpho” also employs fear to scare the reader of the novel. This is done by using descriptions of the events. One example of such description to illustrate the fear being used is,
“She gazed at him for a moment in speechless affrightâ€¦”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” doesn’t use traditional fear, although it does contain fear in a warning of the readers.
The final key ingredient in a horror novel is suspense. This is where the author holds back some of the information and does not release all of the information to leave the reader in suspense, wondering about what is going to happen. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” uses this element to good effect throughout the entire novel. One example of this suspense is on page 46, where it says that whilst two men were having a conversation in the living room,
“the window was instantly thrust downâ€¦” Although it becomes apparent that the men have seen something, it is not revealed what they have seen, leaving the reader in suspense and wondering what they have seen. Suspense is also used in other novels, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The suspense is created because it takes along time for the man, who is anonymous, to commit the murder one he has decided that he is going to do it. The description of the events in between these two events also helps to build up the suspense. One example of this is when it says that
“I first put in a dark lantern, all closed, closedâ€¦”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” uses the element of suspense a lot during the novel and it is used in the traditional way as well.
Although “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” does use the five elements of horror writing, it does not always use them in the traditional way. This means that the conclusion to the question ‘How far do you agree that “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a typical horror story?’ is that “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, although a good horror novel, is not written in the style of a traditional horror story.