The strange case

Analyse how Stevenson uses setting, atmosphere, and characters to help the reader interpret a sense of danger, threat and horror.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a Victorian story published in 1886, was written by the novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson. As the author, he created the story through inspiration and ideas. One main contribution to the story was an idea from a dream that Robert Louis Stevenson once had. Upon waking he recalled 'a fine bogey tale' and took action in writing his dream down. When he had completed writing the book, he showed his wife who said it didn't have enough 'Good against Evil.' So, taking on board the advice, he recreated a better and improved version.

Another aspect said to have inspired Stevenson was Deacon Brodie, a fine young man who was a respectable Edinburgh cabinet maker by day, and a burglar by night. He was often invited to dinners and parties, and whilst there, he would look where all the doors and windows were, and any items of expense, and come back at night and burglar them. However, like most crooks, he was caught whilst 'doing his thing' and he fled to Europe, only to be caught and brought back, and later sentenced. This character of Deacon Brodie fascinated Robert Stevenson, the way unholy evil could just crawl right out of a good and respectable man.

Laudanum was a wildly popular drug during the Victorian era. It is opium mixed with alcohol, and is a painkiller prescribed for everything from headaches to tuberculosis. As it was cheaper than gin and it was not uncommon for men and woman to binge on laudanum after a hard week's work. The Use of the drug spread rapidly, and many upper-class women developed habits. Laudanum is the drug which Stevenson took. And this idea may have contributed to the idea of using a drug to transform a human. However, he took the drug to help him sleep and relax, this may have influenced his dreams, and gave Stevenson the idea of using the drug on Dr. Jekyll.

Mr Utterson is the narrator of the novel. He is a middle-age lawyer, and is someone that all the characters confide in throughout the book. As an old friend of Jekyll, he recognizes the strange changes that occur around Jekyll and Hyde, but never suspects the same person. He is a very cautious man, and possibly the most respected, and wise character in the book.

Dr. Henry Jekyll is a middle-age prominent doctor. Throughout the story, he is described as tall and handsome, and he is also extremely wealthy. He has a fortune well over $2,000,000, which, in 19th century money is an awful lot!. Dr. Jekyll is described as well respected and proper, by all people that know him. This, however, is only one side to Jekyll, as throughout the novel we see his deceitful behaviour arise; something that Robert Stevenson claimed was Jekyll's fatal flaw. Dr. Jekyll believes that everyone has two different inner forces opposing, 'good and evil'. His strong belief lead to his experiments in which he tried to separate the two. These experiments, however, were not done just for scientific reasons, but also because he wanted to escape the restrictions of the respectable and 'good' appearance of Dr. Jekyll.

Edward Hyde is a small, deformed, monkey like, disgusting young man who has no apparent profession. However, despite the many descriptions throughout the novel, we are not too sure what physical features exactly are so vile. Hyde is often compared to animals, 'monkey like' implying that he has not fully evolved into a human being. However, in Victorian times, religious views were taken a lot more Dr. Jekyll describes him as 'pure evil,' but he is only describing the darker side of himself. Hyde is a troublemaker, and menaces society at night, two examples being a small girl he trampled in the street and the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. The word murder itself highlights the evil that this 'man' is capable of. Stevenson's use of this character 'Edward Hyde' helps the reader interpret a sense of danger, and threat. The horror of the murder would send a chill down the spine of the Victorian reader.

Richard Poole is Dr. Jekyll's butler. He is the person who goes and speaks to Mr. Utterson because of his worries for Dr. Jekyll. This is because of mysterious 'occurrences' in the laboratory of Jekyll's home. Dr Lanyon is a former friend and colleague of Jekylls. 10 years before the events in the story, he and Jekyll had a big disagreement over scientific happenings, which lead to the break of their friendship. Dr. Lanyon is a very wise and highly respected man, a true and good hearted fellow.

'The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels...'

This is the description of the back entrance to Dr Jekyll laboratory. Not only is the filthy entrance anonymous and unidentifiable, it is a haven for the outcasts of society.

This is the point when the reader is first told about the evil Mr. Hyde hidden in the novel. By setting the story at a particular time, the narrator is increasing the sense of foreboding and fear. His curious comment about 'the end of the world' introduces the supernatural other-worldly theme of the novel. Setting our first encounter with Mr. Hyde in daylight might have been less effective.

Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is set in Victorian London, when Stevenson was alive. Contemporary readers would have been interested in the setting because the novel would reflect in some way the society in which they lived. More importantly, society in Victorian times was deeply divided between the slums of the poor, who struggled to exist and the lavish lifestyles of the rich. This divide in society is useful for an author exploring the divided psychology of the self.

arrative structure is particularly important in novels. In Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson uses a number of narratives to build up a sense of mystery and suspense. Contemporary Victorian readers would have read Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a mystery story, wondering throughout about the connection between the two men. The narrative point of view here is crucial in revealing the truth.

The story opens with a third person narrative. We are told about Mr Utterson; his personality, lifestyle and qualities. We are told that Utterson is Jekyll's lawyer and that he has some suspicions about the shadowy friend of Jekyll, Mr Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson could have moved on to tell us about other characters including Jekyll and Hyde but instead he stays with Utterson's narrative.

Stevenson has a good reason for this. The effect is to keep us in the dark, along with Utterson. We share his sense of mystery, fear and bewilderment as we ponder the situation that unfolds. This makes us focus more clearly on the themes of the nature of evil and man's divided self.

The central section of the novel is a short account written by a friend of Dr Jekyll's who gives his eye-witness account of Dr Jekyll's change from human to monster. The link between Jekyll and Hyde is for the first time established two-thirds of the way through the book.

This technique is especially effective in that this eye-witness account is explained in Dr Lanyon's own words in the first person narrative. This way despite the horror, because it is seen through his friend's eyes, our sympathies remain with Dr Jekyll and we remain curious to find out what will happen next.

The final section is Dr Jekyll's own statement written before Mr Hyde takes him over completely. It takes the form of a letter written in the first person by Dr Jekyll himself.

Using this narrative technique, Stevenson is able to give us the sense that we are finding out what has happened from the man himself. It is a first-person 'confessional' narrative and is therefore all the more convincing.

The beginning of the book creates mystery and it is later on followed up that mystery with horror. There are themes running through both, however, that provide undercurrents of a dark and forbidding atmosphere.

The language throughout refers constantly to darkness, evil and religion. Utterson drinks gin to 'mortify a taste for vintages' although there is no specific reference to death, the reader immediately associates the word subconsciously thus adding to the build up of atmosphere.

Mr Enfield's story is akin to telling ghost stories around a fire. Utterson is really quite perturbed by this story and goes on to have nightmares about it. The reader takes on some of his fear and unease. Enfield decides not to mention the matter again making the reader immediately want to know more.

Locations are described very effectively and almost become personified and very foreboding e.g. a 'sinister' block in a 'dingy' neighbourhood. At the beginning of the book we are left with a mysterious location and a mysterious stranger. Enfield is exceedingly secretive and creates a desire in the reader, aided by the desire in Utterson, to know the whole story. This acts as a narrative hook to lead into later on in the book. later on in the book, we actually see Mr Hyde, through the eyes of Utterson, and find him to be somehow disfigured. Fear and horror are often created in literature when someone is different from the norm and the reader can feel repulsed and afraid.

Dr. Jekyll in his will leave all of his possessions to Hyde in the strange case of his disappearance. The readers are truly mystified to find that a highly thought of person such as Jekyll wishes to leave all of his possessions to such a horrible person such as Hyde. I found that the part of the story containing the most suspense was when Jekyll had locked himself in his room. Stevenson describes what goes on in this extract. But the words were hardly uttered, before the smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below. They saw it but for a glimpse, for the window was instantly thrust down; but that glimpse, had been sufficient, and they turned and left the court without a word. In silence, too they traversed the by street; and it was not until they had come into a neighbouring thoroughfare, where even upon a Sunday there were still some stirrings of life, that Mr Utterson at last turned and looked at his companion. They were both pale; and there was an answering horror in their eyes God forgive us! God forgive us! This creates a very strong and shocking image in the readers mind and builds up the suspense. The reader wants to know what caused Dr Jekyll to react in such horror as it obviously disturbed Enfield and Utterson considerably.

Mr utterson is described relieved to be denied admittance into Dr Jekyll's home. Mr Utterson went on to describe Dr Jekyll's house as a," house of voluntary bondage", with an" inscrutable recluse", in which he preferred not to be admitted into. While here he is told about DrJekyll's strange confinement to his cabinet.

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!