Robert Louis Stevenson
- He was born in Howard Place, Edinburgh, United Kingdom on November 13, 1850
- Written in 1886
- Most popular books are Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Stevenson was plagued with bad health all of his life so he traveled a lot. This gave him a deep appreciation for setting in novels and he spent a lot of time developing them.
- He died of a Cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 44 in Vailima, Samoa on December 3, 1894
Robert Louis Stevenson paid great attention to the setting so there is a lot that can be learned from the setting of this book. It takes place in London in 1886. This is during the Victorian age. Characteristics of this time are very important to understanding the story. During this time they were very morally restrictive. There could be no deviation from the norms of society and those that dared to were exiled from society. Gothic architecture was very popular during this time. This adds to the element of darkness that this story has. The black door that Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield come across on their walk is further emphasis of the dark nature that the story has. Everyone is expected to be on their best behavior at all times, and those that deviate have their reputations ruined.
Dr. Henry Jekyll
- Jekyll is a very proper man. He does charity and holds parties for all of his friends. He longs to do evil but does not want to face the consequences. He comes to the conclusion "that man is not truly one, but truly two." (Stevenson 60). He is also a scientist and is able to make a potion that will allow him to change into Hyde. While he wants to do evil, he does have a conscience and attempts to right all of the wrongs that Hyde does.
- Hyde is the evil alter ego of Dr. Jekyll. He does horrible, evil things that are never disclosed, but we do know that he has no problem running over little girls and he killed a man in cold blood. His physical appearance is just as bad as his actions. He has a quality that makes people hate hi at the mere sight of him. Enfield says, "He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point." (Stevenson 13). At the end, of the book, Hyde begins to take over the body of Jekyll.
Gabriel John Utterson
- Utterson is the perfect example of what a Victorian man should be. He follows all of the rules of society and is a complete gentleman. He is not a very fun guy, but he is a very loyal friend. He is a lawyer with great integrity. He is very rational and cannot imagine anything that cannot be explained be reason. Despite being dreary and boring he was "somehow lovable." (Stevenson 9).
Dr. Hastie Lanyon
- Lanyon is a respectable doctor with a high social status. He is the first to find out the secret that Hyde and Jekyll were the same man and this is what gave him such a shook that it killed him. He is "a hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman, with a shock of hair permanently white, and a boisterous and decided manner." (Stevenson 16). He is true to his word and does not reveal Jekyll's secret until Jekyll has died or disappeared.
- Poole is a very polite and loyal man. He knows all of the coming and goings of Dr. Jekyll and is able to tell when there is something wrong. He is the one who enlists Utterson's help in finding out what has happened to Jekyll.
- Enfield is a distant relative of Utterson, and he is the one who tells him the story of Hyde. He is the reason that Utterson became so intent on finding out the real relationship between Hyde and Jekyll. He is also loyal and respectable. He, unlike his relative, has no interest in learning anything more about Hyde or his actions.
- Guest is a friend of Utterson's who also happens to be an expert in handwriting. He is the first to give the reader a clue that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. He notes that Hyde's handwriting is the same as Jekyll's just with a different slant.
Sir Danvers Carew
- Carew is a client of Utterson's. He is well liked and respected. Hyde beats him to death with his cane in the middle of the street.
There are a lot of metaphors in the story.
"Poor Harry Jekyll ... my mind misgives me he is in deep waters!" (Stevenson 20).
- Utterson says this after looking at Jekyll's will. It says that in the case of his death or disappearance, all of his assets are to be given to Mr. Hyde. Utterson thinks that Hyde has something hanging over Jekyll's head and is forcing him to make him the sole benefactor of his will. Utterson suspects that Hyde is going to kill Jekyll.
"hailing down a storm of blows" (Stevenson 28).
- This is said by the witness to the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. She says that Mr. Hyde was the one hailing down the blows.
Another metaphor in the story is Hyde and Jekyll themselves.
They are the same person, they share the same body and memory, but they have two very different personalities and appearances. Jekyll is a respectable and good man who does a lot of charity work. Hyde is a evil murderer who has no regard for anyone but himself. Jekyll is a metaphor for good while Hyde is a metaphor for pure evil.
- Hyde is an allegory. He represents pure evil. He only thinks of himself and does not care about hurting others to get what he wants. He feels no remorse when he causes harm or pain.
- The door that Hyde uses to get into the laboratory is an allegory. It exemplifies the way that Jekyll can lead two lives without facing the consequences of Hyde's actions. Jekyll can go out his front door when he is himself, a respectable and honored member of society. When he is Hyde he has to use the back door because he is going out to do evil things. Hyde is hated. All Hyde has to do to escape the consequences of his actions is to go through the door and drink the potion. Then the respectable Jekyll can reappear and make up for all of Hyde's deeds.
- The Fog that covers London symbolizes the obscurity that surrounds Hyde and Jekyll's relationship. When Hyde is out doing evil there is always fog to shroud his deeds.
The City of London
- The city is very dirty and it is a dangerous place. The part where Hyde lives is dark and dingy. It is not a place that you would want to be in at night. The part of town where Jekyll is seen is a much more respectable part of town even though it is still very dirty.
Point of View
Third Person (Limited)
With this point of view there is a narrator who is not actually part of the action, it is like he is following Utterson around. The narrator has access to Utterson's thoughts but he cannot give the reader any insight into what others are thinking. This allows an element of suspense and gives the story the feel that there is a mystery to be solved. In the last two chapters of the book we get to hear two other points of view. They are letters from Lanyon and Jekyll. The letters allow the reader to get the whole story. Utterson would never have been able to figure out the rest of the mystery because he would not be able to understand anything that could not be explained by reason.
Mysterious and Serious
When Stevenson wrote the book he wanted readers to feel like there is a mystery that needs to be solved. He did this by making the point of view third person limited. This way he could assure that the reader only knew what Utterson knew. Since Utterson did not know the nature of Jekyll and Hyde's relationship the reader did not know either. The reader is able to solve the mystery the same time that Utterson finds out. Stevenson wanted the story to be very serious too. There is no comedy or humor in the novel. Utterson is always on edge so the reader is always on edge.
When I read this story I always felt like there was danger around every corner. It always felt like something awful was going to happen.
Suspenseful and Dark
- I also felt like the whole book was filled with darkness and suspense. The description of the setting made it feel like the whole city was dark and dirty. The idea that a perfectly respected man could have a side to him that secretly wanted to kill people and do evil things adds to the darkness of the story.
Good vs. Evil
- The relationship between Jekyll and Hyde is a perfect example of this theme. Hyde is pure evil, whereas Jekyll is a good man who does charity work and has friends. Hyde is a murderer and he runs over little girls in the street but Jekyll is a good man who makes up for the actions of Hyde when he regains control of his body.
- Henry Jekyll is a good man. He is a respected figure of Victorian society. He follows all of the rules. Deep down though, he feels the desire to do evil things. He goes so far as to create a potion that allows him to have a different appearance so that he can do all of the evil things. He will not have to face any of the consequences of evil if he is not recognizable. He will not risk the loss of reputation or all of his assets.
The two sides of Human Nature
- There is a battle between the good and the evil parts of human nature. Everyone has an evil side but there is no way to separate them and not face the consequences of your actions.