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How Does R. L. Stevenson Create Suspense In 'the Last Night' Chapter Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde?

1978 words - 8 pages

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a gothic novel in many of its aspects, but one of the most important reasons is that there is constant building of suspense. There are many ways that this is done: through his characters, through his vocabulary, the setting and even through the origins of the character of Hyde.Stevenson created the character of Utterson as a neutral base for the whole story; much like the table on which the dinner is served. But in the chapter of ‘The Last Night’, the table creates suspense too. Because the story is seen through the eyes of Utterson, the reader feel what he feels, so when he gets scared, the reader feels the same. When he is told not to go into the room that Jekyll is supposedly locked in, “Mr. Utterson’s nerves … gave a jerk that nearly threw him from his balance.” This quote builds suspense very well, because in the beginning of the book, Utterson is hardly ever scared of anything and if he is, he manages to tell himself everything is explainable. According to what we know about Utterson from the rest of novel, Utterson is calm under pressure and doesn’t get scared often, so if he is then the situation really is dire. Utterson also uses his common sense to find explanations for things that aren’t explicable without accepting the out-of-the-ordinary possibilities. When trying to comfort Poole, he says, “Your master, Poole is plainly seized with one of those maladies that both torture and deform the sufferer … There is my explanation … it hangs together and delivers us from all exorbitant alarms.” Utterson keeps trying to explain everything strange that’s happening with logical and reasonable explanations for all the strange happenings in order to comfort himself and keep his thoughts away from all the unexplainable (but true) possibilities of what is really going on. This builds suspense because we know that he is just making excuses and that what is really going on is a lot stranger than he wants it to be.An important method that Stevenson builds suspense in the novel is by also withholding information. The reader will use their imagination to fill in any gaps that the author has left for them. After knocking on Jekyll’s door, Poole says, “‘Sir,’ he said. ‘Was that my master’s voice?’ ‘It seems much changed,’ replied the lawyer, very pale.” Stevenson has not yet revealed that the voice is Hyde, so the reader will use their imagination and assume that it is. This keeps the reader going through the book in suspense because they want to know if they assumed correctly. Sometimes, the author builds suspense by making the characters know more than we do, so we want to keep reading to find out what is going on. At the beginning of the chapter, Utterson is very concerned of why Poole is so afraid; “‘I’ve been afraid for about a week,’ returned Poole …...

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