Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a popular novel published in 1886. this book related to many of the Victorian readers. During the Victorian period people lived two lives one side is the almost stiff powerful dull society with more concern of their reputation. However when they were in the comfort of their own homes, emotions which are ceased to be seen and bottled up in public are relieved by drinking alcohol, smoking socializing with friends and intimacy with a partner.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a successful horror novel of the time, one reason for this is Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Most Victorians rejected the theory as it questioned their faith and powerful race. His theory raised a few eye brows and put many people on edge scaring them at just the thought of evolving from apes and even re-evolving back. Stevenson uses this public fear to shock and scare his audience with horror novel. Gothic horror was every popular around this time and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde included many gothic horror features.
Some of these features are ; mystery, Gothic architecture, death, decay and secrets. All these create fear tension and a good horror novel. A old dark dangerous London is a good setting for fear and action. London’s scenery was full of medieval and run down neglected buildings. During the day London’s streets are usually busy and booming with business although this novels settings is mainly set during the night early hours of the cold winters morning. back in these days streets were dark and the mortality rates were high.
During the day the rough streets are shadowed by aged blistered and distained buildings, but in the dead of night these are hidden as there is nothing to be seen but lamps this creates fear and mystery not knowing what lurks behind the thick wall of darkness. During the bitterly cold nights what is normally full of people the streets are as empty as a church this emphasizes the silence and eeriness of the lamp lit streets, this also relates to gothic architecture. In typical gothic novels the weather is always dark and gloomy.
London is already a dark dangerous city but to add to this its now draped in fog and with permanent bad weather to form a sinister London landscape. ‘One street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighborhood’. The street was a pleasant and well kept, however one building was quite the contrary, ‘a certain sinister block of building thrust forward’ this suggests that the discolored ‘blistered and distained’ building stuck out like a saw thumb. A main theme of the novel is opposites the contrast between nice and ugly.
On the face of the building there’s a door ‘which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, blistered and distained’ which seemed some what of a mystery. For many years this decayed building has been neglected its clear no one has lived there for years. The only company and treatment it receives is the’ tramps slouched in the recess striking matches on the panels’, this is just another reason why people scurry past the square. The building is mystery to everyone local to the area ‘the windows are always shut’
Gothic horror novels use mystery and secrets to create fear and tension, this is a affective because the reader starts to imagine what the secret could be. They are often wrong but by picturing it, the human mind often over exaggerates what it could be maybe the reader’s personal fear. Stevenson does not reveal the secret until the end of the story however he drops in hints and clues so it’s kind of like a detective investigation. Hyde’s physical appearance is not disclosed for the first few chapters instead his descriptions are based on how he made other characters feel.
This allows the reader to picture Hyde how they think of him, like always the reader’s imagination is far worse which makes the story interesting. ‘In case of Dr Jekyll’s ‘disappearance or unexplained absence for any period exceeding three calendar months. ‘ The said Edward Hyde should step into the said Henry Jekyll’s shoes with out further delay,’ there are two mysteries in this quotation, one being at this point Mr Utterson knows nothing about this Hyde character and has seen him a few time but only remembers him for brutally crushing a little girl.
Both the reader and Mr Utterson are confused to why Jekyll’s will includes this stranger. The second mystery in this quotation is the strange unexplained disappearance of Jekyll, why would such high member of society ceased to exist? And what had caused Dr Jekyll to do this? Hyde is suspected to be linked in with Jekyll’s peculiar behavior, his barbaric looks and attitude have already gained him a bad name. ‘that sawbones turned sick and white with the desire to kill him. ‘ This was a doctor’s view on Hyde, for a doctor to remark some one in Victorian times like that is a worrying thing as they saw gruesome things on a daily basis.
In the opening few chapters Stevenson reframes from describing Hyde, he uses various characters reactions to portray Hyde’s repulsiveness. He was twice described as deformed ‘He must deformed somewhere, he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point’. In Victorian times deformed people were pushed to the boundaries of society showcased for public entertainment as employment in the work place was difficult for them. But no-one dared put Hyde in his place, he was indescribable however when he was described ‘.. the man seems hardly human.. ‘.. Satan’s signature on his face.. ‘ this states his pure evil animal look about him.
Hyde run down a helpless little girl with no remorse, Mr Enfield described this most unbelievable event to Mr Utterson, ‘for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. ‘ ‘it was hellish to see’ ‘it wasn’t a man; it was like some dammed juggernaut. ‘ Like he’s some unstoppable force. He’s seen as hardly human. One of the Victorians greatest fears of the time was evolution Stevenson links Hyde’s primitive appearance and actions to this.
The novel played one peoples fears and maybe opened their eyes to what could possibly happen. Violence can add an element of surprise, this tension could shock and thrill the reader. In a good horror story the reader is unaware who is to be hurt next, this creates fear and mystery. To create more fear the writer builds up to something where the reader is sure some thing is going to happen however it only builds up to a anticlimax, there are usually a few anticlimaxes before a brutal killing.
It is possible for the reader to put them selves in the position of the victim, no-one wants to die an horrific death this can make the reader feel sorry for the victim, this can be most affective when the incident reflects a real life circumstance. ‘Mr Hyde broke out of all bounds, and clubbed him to the earth. And the next moment with and ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim underfoot, and hailing down a storm of blows,’ this shows the true capabilities of Hyde’s animalistic nature.
Ape-like fury’ relates back to evolution and how his behavior is no better than a ape, with a sudden burst of outrage Hyde beat a well respected old man to death with no emotion accept anger. Hyde is depicted as creature of great evil although we learn of only two of his crimes. It’s the nature of both which highlights the violence against two innocent victims. The first violent act was against the small child and a the second a much beloved old man. These attacks were on both harmless beings which emphasize the extreme immortality of Jekyll’s darker side.
Stevenson has created a tremendous amount of fear using the theme of duality, secrets, Darwin’s theory, and general gothic features. These would be less affective for today’s audience. This is mainly because we have now accepted the theory of evolution and the possibility of having to sides to us. This will remain a well respected novel and if it was to be updated the idea of duality would have to be changed a little. The change between the two sides of a person would be random and the person would also not be able to manipulate the change, the character would also have memory loss each time he/she changes.