Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Introduction of The The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Written by Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish novelist, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, presents a gothic fiction genre. The novel was published in 1886. The storyline revolves around the character, Dr Henry Jekyll, Mr Gabriel John Utterson’s friend, who changes his personality with a potion that he comes across during his research. He takes on the personality of Mr Edward Hyde, who is very cruel and evil-minded. The duality of persona is, since then, presented with the name of Jekyll and Hyde.

Summary of The The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Mr Utterson, a lawyer, relates the story of his weekly strolls when he comes across his friend, Enfield, who recounts him the story of a horrible attack he has witnessed. He states that once he has come across a person, Mr Hyde. He saw Mr Hyde attacking a young girl, and disappearing behind a door. However, shortly after that he emerges with a check of a handsome amount and after paying the guardians of that young girl, disappears again. Surprisingly, the check bears the signatures of a respectable person. They also agree not to drag the matter further. However, later Dr Jekyll, who is also Mr Utterson’s client, visits him to get his will written in the name of Mr Hyde. Recalling that incident, Uttersonon soon starts having nightmares about London’ incident.

Feeling confused, Utterson visits his friend Dr Hastie Lanyon and Jekyll to know more about this mystery. Lanyon, however, discloses that he is not at good terms with Jekyll since their dispute about Jekyll’s unethical research and intentions. Lanyon believes that Jekyll’s research is just unscientific “balderdash”. So Utterson is not fully satisfied and visits the lab’s building, a meeting with Mr Hyde, too. He comes to know that it is a laboratory but mysteriously relates to Dr Jekyll as it is adjacent to his house. Interestingly, Utterson also meets Mr Hyde and comes to know that he is a deformed, ugly man who willingly shares his address with Utterson but that is of Dr Jekyll.

Mr Utterson, confused reaches out to Jekyll to learn about Mr Hyde. He also discusses it with his friend Dr Lanyon. Dr Lanyon informs him about his broken contacts with Jekyll over some “unscientific balderdash” research that he does not approve of. Utterson’s curiosity takes the best of him. He starts observing the laboratory and rest of the building to know about Mr Hyde as he visits. He learns that the building is the laboratory of Dr Jeykyll and is also attached to his house. He visits there and finds Mr Hyde. Utterson is shocked at Hyde’s appearance, which is shockingly ugly combined with ambiguous looks. Mr Hyde give his address to Utterson. When the personality shifts, Jekyll asks him not to worry about Hyde’s issue. A year passes peacefully but then a maid reports Hyde killing Sir Danvers Carew, a Parliamentarian, who happens to be one of Utterson’s client. When the police investigate the murder, Utterson expresses his suspicions about Hyde and guides the police to his apartment in the foggy weather of London. However, to their horror, there is nobody in the apartment. He see Mr Hyde disappearing. When Utterson mentions it to Dr Jekyll, he also asserts having no connection with Mr Hyde. Interestingly, Utterson’s clerk informs him that Jekyll’s handwriting is similar to Hyde after he sees the note given to Utterson by Jekyll.

Meanwhile, Dr Jekyll goes into isolation after some time, while Lanyon dies of the shock of seeing Mr Hyde. Before the tragedy, he gives Utterson a letter about Jekyll, but with the condition. He asks that the letter must not be opened until Dr Jekyll dies. When one day Utterson walks with his friend Enfield, they see Jekyll opening the window of his laboratory. However, he immediately slams the pane after they greet each other. Soon Poole, Jekyll’s butler informs Utterson that Jekyll’s voice has changed after he has isolated himself in his laboratory. When they visit him to verify the problem, they break the door to enter. Surprisingly, they find Mr Hyde dead with a letter from Dr Jekyll for Utterson explaining the whole ordeal with the truth.

When Utterson reads both documents, he finds Lanyon’s letter verifying the claim of Dr Jekyll about the discovery of a potion that transforms him into Mr Hyde, the vicious deformed person. Once the unintended evil act such as murder is commited, Mr Hyde changes into Dr Jekyll. Jekyll also confesses of killing the parliamentarian and trampling upon the girl. Informing his friend to help him, Dr Jekyll discloses his experiment and its becoming automatic, going beyond his powers. When the potion becomes short, Jekyll finds it hard to purchase ingredients, which leads him to become Hyde permanently and thus commit suicide to save himself from the the discovery of his crimes and suffer the punishment.

Major Themes in The The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

  1. Good and Evil: Good and evil are the major themes in the novel. It relates to one person’s personality Dr Jekyll and shows that evil and good resides in a person. His temporary conversion to Mr Hyde to commit an act of evil shows that he is the same person who set the evil inside him free. Therefore, this duality of nature in a single man shows how good and evil weighs upon an individual’s mind to force him to do either good or bad acts. The death of Mr Hyde, however, sheds light on the fact that after all human nature has not lost its capacity for doing good, or feeling regret at their acts.
  2. The duality of Nature: Duality of nature is another thematic strand that shows that a person can do good as well as bad if they intend to. Therefore, if any one of these two weighs heavily upon him, he commits that act. Dr Jekyll and Lanyon are both efficient and superb scientists but one acts for the welfare of mankind, while the other spends his time to fulfill his evil designs or show the degenerated side of his nature. He becomes Mr Hyde, fights with himself, and then sacrifices his life after the goodness of his nature overpowers the evil residing in him.
  3. Repression of the Self: Repression of one’s soul or psyche is another major theme of the novel that falls under the overarching theme of psychoanalysis. It shows that Dr Jekyll sees the repressed side of his nature more than the other one, and tries to uncover it. When he becomes successful in bringing this hideous personality into Mr Hyde, his second self, it proves as destructive as he should have been in that guise.
  4. Dark Side of Development: Mankind’s progress in every field, especially science, has taken hold of the entire human life into its fold. However, this also demonstrates the progress of the dark side, for Dr Jekyll, instead of serving humanity like his fellow Lanyon, demonstrates this dark side in the shape of his metamorphosis into Mr Hyde, who commits murders and cruelties whenever he finds a vulnerable target. It happens because of Dr Jekyll’s experiment of inventing the potion.
  5. Loyalty: The theme of loyalty emerges when Lanyon advises Dr Jekyll to restrain himself from doing the vicious type of experiments. He asks him to rather pay attention to the ethical side of his research. However, his loyalty toward his friend proves short-lived, and it takes his own life when he comes to know about Dr Jekyll’s invention of the potion and his conversion into Mr Hyde. He fails to bear Jekyll’s decisions and suffers a shock. Another point of this loyalty is shown through Mr Utterson who stays loyal to his friend. He honors the request of not opening the letter until Dr Jekyll is dead. Utterson doesn’t read his letter before his death as promised.
  6. Violence: The novel also shows the thematic strand of violence at several places and its impacts. Mr Hyde first tramples a young girl in the street and goes unpunished. When he finds another chance, he mercilessly kills Sir Danvers Carew, a renowned personality. The most horrible thing is that Mr Hyde, or else, Dr Jekyll, proves a ruthless person who does not feel shame at this violence in which a precious life perishes.
  7. Scientific Progress: The novel also shows scientific progress that could be unbelievable even in the future and yet foreshadows today’s scientific developments. Dr Jekyll is engaged in this science for his metamorphosis despite warnings from others. Even Lanyon, his close friend, advises him not to cross the ethical boundaries, yet he does not stop. This also causes the death of his very friend, who advises him to stay away from it.
  8. Appearance and Reality: The character of Dr Jekyll also shows the theme of appearance and reality in that he wants to keep his reputation intact, and yet he is engaged in heinous crimes against humanity by killing innocent people. Despite his well-respected name and home, he still works in his dirty laboratory. His split personality, evil Mr Hyde engages in vicious acts of killing others.
  9. Curiosity: It is just curiosity of Dr Jekyll how he would look after transformation that he invents that potion. However, he finds out that his other self is not only deformed and hideous but also vicious and harmful to humanity. Therefore, he kills himself by the end when he fails to transform himself back to Dr Jekyll from his second personality of Mr Hyde.
  10. Gender Bias: The novel shows gender bias through its female characters who are not only vulnerable but also weak. The first female character is the maid girl that Mr Hyde falls upon at night and almost kills her, had there been no other person on the scene. The second female character is the witness to the murder of Mr Carew, the Parliamentarian, but she proves equally weak as she faints. Therefore, the novel shows bias in the depiction of the female characters.

Major Characters in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

1.     Dr Henry Jekyll: Dr Henry Jekyll is the main character and also the anti-hero of the novel. As a middle-aged scientist, he holds a doctorate in science. Even in terms of wealth, he is not short of riches including a good reputation in society. Yet he falls from this pedestal of honor to the point of viciousness on account of his obsession with discovering something extraordinary. When he discovers the formula of that potion, he can split his personality to see how his other self behaves. In his transformation, he kills a renowned parliamentarian and causes the death of his friend afterward. He speaks only in the last chapter, while Utterson, Enfield, and Lanyon describe his character in the rest of the book. In the end, he kills himself out of self-hatred when he finds that he is no longer able to merge or change back into Dr Jekyll.

2.     Edward Hyde: Edward Hyde appears a separate character from Dr Jekyll. However, he is Dr Jekyll’s second personality, who comes out only in the darkness of the night and proves himself highly dangerous and vicious. Physically, his stature and deformity correspond with his petty behavior and vicious nature displayed in the street when trampling upon a young girl and killing a parliamentarian without any mistake. Surprisingly, however, he is quite civilized when he communicates with Lanyon and Utterson. Dr Jekyll himself states that he is an evil person. Hence, to kill Mr Hyde, Jekyll’s personality commits suicide by the end.

3.     Mr Utterson: Utterson is a lawyer who discovers everything about Dr Jekyll through other characters. He is his close friend as well. Utterson starts investigating Dr Jekyll’s routine life, behavior, and his links with Mr Hyde. A respectable and conscientious man, he, though, reveals the vicious conversion of his friend, Dr Jekyll, his views seem quite sympathetic when he shows Dr Jekyll’s narrative at the end of the story.

4.     Richard Enfield: Richard Enfield is Mr Utterson’s cousin, the narrator of the novel. He is somewhat incompatible with the reputation his family has earned. His initial witnessing of Mr Hyde, however, does not provide him a strong role in the rest of the novel.

5.     Dr Lanyon: Dr Lanyon is also a narrator and an ex-colleague of Dr Jekyll. He does not participate in any experiment of Dr Jekyll, especially the strange invention of the potion. He abandons his friend when he does not stop. Sadly, he dies of shock when comes to know about his success in his devious scheme.

6.     Richard Poole: Poole is Dr Jekyll’s trusted butler and is genuinely concerned about his health. He seeks assistance from Utterson when both go to see Hyde dead and finds the letter of confession in Dr Jekyll’s voice.

7.     Sir Danvers Carew: Sir Danvers is a respected Parliamentarian and the second victim of Mr Hyde’s killing spree.

8.     Mr Guest: He is the clerk of Utterson who is an expert in identifying writings. He tells Utterson that the writing style of Mr Hyde matches that of Dr Jekyll. Hence, hinting that they are the same person.

Writing Style of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The novel is written from multiple points of view along with the third person narrative in most places. However, Dr Jekyll also narrates his side of the story in the form of a letter. First, Mr Utterson enters the story and narrates his concerns about Dr Jekyll for leaving his belongings to Mr Hyde. Later, Lanyon narrates his interaction and obsession with Dr Jekyll. Finally, Dr Jekyll’s letter narrates his discovery, his passion for that discovery, and his full account of his transformation including his confessions. This methodical approach of chiseling the main information from the accounts of different characters shows as if it is a judicial decision presented through the accounts of eye-witnesses. The sentences have the accuracy, curtness, and conciseness of a legal mind. The diction shows that sometimes the reader thinks twice about hating Dr Jekyll and sometimes sympathizes with him.

Analysis of Literary Devices in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

  1. Action: The main action of the novel comprises Dr Jekyll’s transformation into Mr Edward Hyde and his killing spree. The rising action occurs when Utterson tries to investigate the real issue between Jekyll and Hyde duo. The falling action occurs when Mr Hyde commits suicide and leaves a letter from Dr Jekyll’s point of view.
  2. Allegory: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde shows the use of allegory in the shape of the man’s original sin and his fall. Mr Hyde could be a symbol of that original sin, while some other things such as the door of his laboratory could be a symbol of the exit and entry to the eternal world.
  3. Antagonist: Although it seems that fate is the main antagonist of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the opening chapters. It becomes clear that Mr Edward Hyde, the split personality of Dr Jekyll, is the primary antagonist who seems to have been restored to this position after he kills Sir Danvers Carew.
  4. Allusion: There are various examples of allusions given in the novel. The first example here alludes to Cain, the second to Jagannath of India, the third to Babylonia and the fourth to Philippi as given in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.
    i. “I incline to, Cain’s heresy,” he used to say. “I let my brother go to the devil in
    his quaintly: “own way.” In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of downgoing men. (Story of The Door)
    ii. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. (Story of the Door).
    iii. This inexplicable incident, this reversal of my previous experience, seemed, like the Babylonian finger on the wall, to be spelling out the letters of my judgment; and I began to reflect more seriously than ever before on the issues and possibilities of my double existence. (Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case)
    iv. The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it
    but shook the doors of the prison-house of my disposition; and like the captives of Philippi. (Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case)
  5. Conflict: The are two types of conflicts in the novel. The first one is the external conflict that starts between Dr Jekyll and Utterson about his real identity and the second between Jekyll and Mr Hyde about their roles. The inner conflict goes on in the mind of several characters but mainly it tortures Dr Jekyll about his other self, Edward Hyde.
  6. Characters: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The scientist, Dr Jekyll, his second personality, Edward Hyde, and even Utterson are complicated and dynamic characters, while Lanyon, Enfield, Sir Danvers Carew, and others are static and flat characters as they do not see any change in themselves during the course of the story.
  7. Climax: The climax takes place when Poole and Utterson break into the laboratory of Jekyll and find the dead body of Mr Edward Hyde with a letter from Jekyll.
  8. Doppelganger: Although Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are not similar in physical features, they are similar in that they are both the same person. Mr Hyde is another or second self of Dr Jekyll. Therefore, it could be termed a doppelganger case.
  9. Foreshadowing: The novel shows the following examples of foreshadowing.
    i. It was worse when it began to be clothed upon with detestable
    attributes; and out of the shifting, insubstantial mists that had so long baffled his eye, there leaped up the sudden, definite presentment of a fiend. (Search for Mr Hyde)
    ii. Next, in the course of their review of the chamber, the searchers came to the cheval glass, into whose depths they looked with an involuntary horror. (The Last Night)
    iii. A voice answered from within: “Tell him I cannot see any one,” it said
    complainingly. (The Last Night)
    These foreshadows show that something sinister is going to happen. For example, the last one shows that the change in voice means that Dr Jekyll is no more Dr Jekyll.
  10. Hyperbole: Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs in the novel at various places. For example,
    i. Well, it was this way,” returned Mr Enfield: “I was coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o’ clock of a black winter morning, and my way lay through a part of town where there was literally nothing to be seen but lamps. (Story of the Door)
    ii. here was never a day when, if you had said to me, ‘Jekyll, my life, my honour, my reason, depend upon you,’ I would not have sacrificed my left hand to help you. Lanyon, my life, my honour my reason, are all at your mercy; if you fail me to-night I am lost. (Dr Lanyon’s Narrative)
    These sentences hyperboles and show how things are overblown to make readers believe in them.
  11. Imagery: Imagery means to use images such as given in the novel.
    i. The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses, with its muddy ways, and slatternly passengers, and its lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful re-invasion of darkness, seemed, in the lawyer’s eyes, like a district of some city in a nightmare. (The Carew Murder Case)
    ii. The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind. (Incident of the Letter)
    Both of these examples show the use of different images as the first one shows Gothic images and the second one nature and city life.
  12. Metaphor: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde shows good use of various metaphors such as:
    i. And the lawyer, scared by the thought, brooded a while on his own past,
    groping in all the corners of memory, lest by chance some Jack-in-the-Box of an old iniquity should leap to light there. (Search for Mr Hyde)
    ii. That was the amount of information that the lawyer carried back with him to
    the great, dark bed on which he tossed to and fro, until the small hours of the
    morning began to grow large. (Search for Mr Hyde)
    iii. Even now, he sat with the glass of wine untasted on his knee, and his eyes directed to a corner of the floor. “I can bear it no more,” he repeated. (The Last Night)
  13. Mood: The novel shows suspense in its tone and mood, at times it becomes somber and ironic but then turns to a tragic and sympathetic mood by the end.
  14. Motif: Innocence, violence and urban terror are the main motifs of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
  15. Narrator: The novel is a multidimensional narrative as several narrators narrate the main events of the story, throwing light on the reality from different perspectives. However, almost all of them are third-person narrators except Lanyon and Dr Jekyll.
  16. Protagonist: Gabriel John Utterson is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with him and ends with Dr Jekyll’s letter that, too, is addressed to him.
  17. Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places. For example,
    i. Bless me, Poole, what brings you here?” he cried; and then taking a second
    look at him, “What ails you?” he added; “is the doctor ill?” (The Last Night)
    ii. How could the presence of these articles in my house affect either the honour, the sanity, or the life of my flighty colleague? If his messenger could go to one place, why could he not go to another? And even granting some impediment, why was this gentleman to be received by me in secret? (Dr Lanyon’s Narrative)
    This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed by different characters such as first by Utterson and then Dr Lanyon.
  18. Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel shows the titular thematic strands of the doppelganger case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and also the duality of nature, violence, innocence and urban terror, etc.
  19. Setting: The setting of the novel is the historic city of London.
  20. Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. For example,
    i. His friends were those of his own blood or those whom he had known the longest; his affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied no aptness in the object. (Story of the Door)
    ii. Even on Sunday, when it veiled its more florid charms and lay comparatively empty of passage, the street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in a forest (Story of the Door)
    iii. Two base passions raged within him like a tempest. (Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case)
    The first simile compares his affections to ivy, the second the street to fire, and the third passions to a tempest.