‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is a novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was first published in 1885 and was a huge success selling 40,000 copies in its first 6 months. This success was partly due to the novel’s theme of multiple personality as not much had been read into this disorder when the novel was written, therefore many Victorians seemed to have a particular interest in this subject. One of the concepts Stevenson was trying to promote in the novella was that there was ‘a beast in man’; a bad side to everyone.
Following the recent release of ‘The Origin of Species’, a book about evolution and how we evolved from apes, this made readers even more interested in the story. There were also the Whitechapel murders that took place during 1888 that many said were related to the play version of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ and, inevitably, the play was eventually cancelled. The novella concerns a scientist called Henry Jekyll who is a very kind, peaceful man but in secret develops a drug allowing his dark, animalistic, and murderous side to exist as a man called Edward Hyde. This allows Dr.Order now
Jekyll to act in ways he feels he normally can’t do. In today’s society, however this novella has become less dramatic and effective as more readers have knowledge of Stevenson’s final twist. People now are also much more aware of the multiple personality disorder as well as there being many films and books with similar themes. In turn, this means many more readers will learn the twist that Dr. Jekyll is in fact Mr. Hyde. This aside the story is still interesting in many ways such as instances like people not fully thinking about the two different sides of every person until they read the book.
Also, people may like it for the historical knowledge that Jack the Ripper may have used ideas shown in the novella in the Whitechapel murders. Victorian society was often hypocritical in nature which is well reflected in the characters. One of these characters is Dr. Jekyll. One of the ways his dual personality is shown is through the back door of his house. Here his back door is run down and very shabby, whereas his front door is perfectly nice, like any other in the street. His run down back door relates to the evil in Mr. Hyde.
‘The door was blistered and distained’. Mr. Utterson also shows a particularly obvious dual personality. He is a well respected man in the novella who is ‘extremely inclined to help rather that reprove’. He never drinks at parties and even though he enjoys it greatly will never go to the theatre. ‘Though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years’. This is mainly due to him wanting to be perceived as a respectable man but he is still envious of anyone that has fun.
Not only such dual personalities have related well to a Victorian reader, their duality makes them complex, mysterious and therefore more interesting. The setting of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is in Soho which is a small, dilapidated area of London. This area is home to the working class and poorer community where there is a very large crime rate, especially compared to the very respectable and upper-class West End which surrounds it. The West End is one of the most prestigious parts of London which is very affluent, full of rich and respectable people.
This difference is symbolic of Jekyll and Hyde’s relationship. Dr. Jekyll can be portrayed as the West- End whereas Mr. Hyde can be seen as Soho, the darker more horrible side. Pathetic fallacy is also used. This attributes human feelings to inanimate objects. “The fog still slept” The weather adds a false sense of security before the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. “The early part of the night was cloudless, and the lane, which the maid’s window, which the lane overlooked was brilliantly lit by the full moon”
The moon here is used to create a romantic and peaceful atmosphere, so when the murder takes place it’s even more shocking and unexpected as no one suspects bad deeds to occur during these nice conditions. There are three narrators in ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. These are Dr. Lanyon, Mr. Utterson and Dr. Jekyll. The use of these three narrators aids our understanding of these individual characters and their thoughts which is knowledge we wouldn’t have achieved without this narrative technique.
I have since had reason to believe the cause to lie much deeper in the nature of man, and to turn on some nobler hinge than the principle of hatred” This also makes the characters appear more interesting as we come to know them better. However, this doesn’t help our understanding of the current events in the plot because all the narrators have different ideas and a different understanding of the events. This keeps the novella mysterious and keeps the readers curiosity high as they are made to wait to discover the full extent of the events.
The narrators are many reliable witnesses which makes readers even more inclined to believe the sources. They include doctors and lawyers such as Mr. Utterson who are seen as highly respectable people who would have no thought to lie. Mr Utterson is described as “lovable”. No one would question his word. This adds believability to the novella and makes certain events to become more surprising and dramatically effective. The genre of the novella is at first quite unclear. Detective, horror, mystery or gothic are all possibilities.
It may be a detective story as r. Utterson is constantly trying to find out who this Mr. Hyde really is and where he has come from. The novella has elements of horror because of all the gruesome murders that are taking place. In my opinion the novella was a surprisingly gripping read as, even though I had previously heard about the final twist it was still exiting. Personally I thought having several characters narrating throughout the novella was interesting as it demonstrated the different personalities of the characters well. I will take away a small amount from this novella knowing that ever person does have a dual personality and people aren’t always as they first appear.