In what way does Robert Louis Stevenson build intrigue and interest the reader in ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’
The book ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ was written in 1885 in Bournemouth, England and in January 1886 was first published by Longmans, Green & Co, and is probably one of Stevenson’s best-known stories he wrote. The novella is a Gothic mystery story set in the 1880’s in London. It is about a man named Mr. Utterson and how he discovers the truth about his friend Dr Jekyll and the horrors that occur as the mystery unfolds. The story is veiled in mist and characters uncertainty. We see the rising actions of Mr. Utterson as he attempts to discover the truth of the relationship between Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the constant theme of the ‘duality of human nature’ and reputation. The story begins with a trustworthy and sensible man named Mr. Utterson and his friend Mr. Enfield as they are taking their weekly stroll around an area in London. As they pass a very dilapidated door, Mr. Enfield recalls a gruesome story of physical attack.
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The story depicts how a man named Mr. Hyde ‘trampled calmly’ over a young innocent girl ‘like some dammed Juggernaut‘. This would immediately create surprise and intrigue in the readers mind. Why would anyone trample a young girl to the ground? The man pays off the girl’s relatives with a cheque, which was signed by a very prestigious man, named Dr Jekyll. This creates interest and intrigue to the reader and questions would present themselves in their mind. What is interesting is how Mr. Enfield describes Mr. Hyde. He says ‘He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance, something displeasing, something downright detestable’ [Chapter 1]. Why can Mr. Enfield not describe Mr. Hyde? How can a man make someone’s blood run cold? Mr. Enfield’s lack of description makes a pattern in the novel, even later on Mr. Utterson cannot come up with an exact description of this man, only as a ‘troglodyte’. It makes the reader find it hard to imagine what this character might look like or what he might not, and want to find out more about Mr. Hyde. How can it be that no one can describe him? Mr. Utterson represents the readers intrigue and tries to find out more information.
The lawyer visits his friend Dr Lanyon to try to shed some light on Mr. Hyde. Dr Lanyon informs him that he does not speak to Dr Jekyll anymore because they had a scientific difference of opinion that Dr Lanyon refuses to express any detail. He says that ‘Jekyll became too fanciful for me’ and finds his work ‘unscientific balderdash’ [Chapter 2]. Questions would become apparent to the reader such as why did Dr Lanyon think that Dr Jekyll’s was unscientific, or did it go against any of Dr Lanyon’s beliefs and boundaries? Robert Louis Stevenson makes the conversation very blunt and withholds information by making Dr Lanyon very stubborn as to why they have fallen out. The fallout seems connected to Mr. Hyde even though Dr Lanyon has never heard of such a person. Another question might be ‘Why is Dr Lanyon so irritated by Dr Jekyll’? Before this, it is told that they were great friends so something very significant to have broken up such a good companionship. This secrecy is continuous throughout the whole novel. Robert Louis Stevenson gives the feeling that there is a veil over everyone’s eyes, even in third person we only follow the journey of Mr. Utterson and as he figures things out so does the reader. London was really the perfect setting for this novel, as during the 19th century, the industrial revolution took place and you would get very dense smog that would smother whole parts of the city for days. This interests the reader because they do not get the whole picture in one page and are eager to find out more. Fog and mist represent secrecy because they can hide what is right in front of you. The whole picture only revealed at the end of the book so you have to follow Mr. Utterson’s footprints to get the whole idea.
After the appalling incident, involving Sir Danvers Carew Mr. Utterson leads police officers to Mr. Hyde’s home in Soho it was a very misty day. ‘A great chocolate-colored pall lowered over the heavens, but the wind was continually charging and routing these embattled vapors’ and ‘it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be a glow of rich, lurid brown, like the light of some strange conflagration’ [Chapter 4]. This build up to something might be a very eventful day. The suspense created makes the reader interested to find out what is hiding in Mr. Hyde’s house. Robert Louis Stevenson uses vivid language to captivate the reader’s imagination and evokes emotions such as apprehension as to what happens next. The weather also might represent how the characters are feeling themselves. The anonymous narrator just describes Mr. Utterson’s point of view, only the last two chapters are in Dr Lanyon and Dr Jekyll’s observations, this makes Mr. Utterson the flagship character of the novel.
When Dr Lanyon witnesses the transformation of Dr Jekyll at the end of Chapter 9 Robert Louis Stevenson uses descriptive language to captivate the reader’s imagination. Robert Louis Stevenson writes ‘He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth’ and ‘he seemed to swell- his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter’ [Chapter 9]. Robert Louis Stevenson uses vivid language to create an intense and climax. The atmosphere is electrifying throughout the last few paragraphs of Doctor Lanyon’s Narrative. Stevenson uses colorful language that is very powerful to the reader. Dr Lanyon is so horrified that he dies shortly after.
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One subtle thing that might interest the reader is the main theme in ‘The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. The theme that is stated by Dr Jekyll is ‘the duality of human nature’. Dr Jekyll says that ‘man is not truly one, but truly two’. The potion that Jekyll created intended to separate the elements of good and evil, and leave him with the good side, but instead it leaves him the pure evil, primitive side. Robert Louis Stevenson takes a very primal approach to Mr. Hyde and how he behaves, and illustrates primeval instincts within him. Mr. Hyde represents a very small, ugly, and hairy man that symbolizes his own moral values. Dr Jekyll says that the human soul is made up of angel and a fiend that are fighting for dominance. As the story progresses we see the ‘fiend’ Mr. Hyde completely overpower the ‘angel’ Dr Jekyll. The reader might wonder what happened to the ‘angel’ at the end of the book as only the ‘fiend’ was present. It could be anything the reader wants; Robert Louis Stevenson left that to the imagination.
There are many ways to interest and intrigue a reader when writing novels. You could use descriptive words, or make something out of the ordinary happen. Robert Louis Stevenson has created a fascinating novel that is full of suspense and intrigue and has enthralled many peoples imagination, and has used powerful and evoking vocabulary to create dramatic scenes and intense atmospheres. I feel that Stevenson has written a story that creates ambiguity and curiosity to all.
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