“The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is a gothic horror novella
written by Robert Louis Stevenson in the Victorian era. The novella
follows a well-respected doctor - Henry Jekyll - and his struggle
between good and evil when he takes a potion and becomes Mr Hyde.
Robert Louis Stevenson - the author of the novella “The Strange Case
of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”- was born in Edinburgh in 1850 and died at
the young age of forty-four. He wrote the book in 1886. As a child he
was very close to his nurse and when he was ill she used to read him
Bible stories as he was brought up in a strict Catholic tradition,
which he later rebelled against. This led to his fascination for his
city’s low life and for bizarre characters, which proved rich material
for later stories.
Deacon Brodie lived in Edinburgh in the eighteenth century. His double
life is thought to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis
Stevenson to write “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. Deacon Brodie lived an
extravagant lifestyle, which even his high position in Edinburgh
society could not support, so he turned to crime to finance his
lifestyle. This concept of a doppelganger - a shadow of a different
side of a human - was used in “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” to create the
Stevenson may also have found inspiration from a book, called
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley as it is of the gothic horror genre
just like Stevenson’s book. A gothic horror story contains a plot
hinged on suspense and mystery, which often involves the supernatural.
Another writer, who may have influenced Stevenson’s writing, is
Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
Within Stevenson’s gothic horror story - “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” -
suspense is added by the description of the setting at each incident.
For example, when we are first introduces to “the door”, by Mr
Enfield, it is described as “blistered and distained” which makes you
wonder what sort of person lives in a place as neglected as this. When
describing the door, Stevenson includes detail about the surrounding
and the atmosphere as being dark weather, foggy and mysterious: “a
black winter morning”. The door also represents mystery, as we do not
know the contents of the building: “showed no window, nothing but a
door”. The building is described as being “a certain sinister block”
which suggests it looks evil. The atmosphere is unwelcoming around the
door” as it has “neither bell nor knocker” which shows that Mr Hyde
did not want any visitors.
Most of the changes from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde take place in the
laboratory. This is an odd setting to use, as it is a symbol of what
could be the origin of evil. Stevenson insinuates this by the way he
uses the butler (Poole) to say that it used to be a dissecting room -
this is where many dead bodies will have been experimented on. Since
the symbols of evil in this novella are Mr Hyde and his use of
medicine this could also be the case as the potion that went...