Category Archives: Characterisations

Detailed questions and answers on “Henry Jekyll’s full statement of the case”

Comprehension questions

What was Jekyll’s upbringing like? Why were the seeds of him becoming “Jekyll and Hyde” sown then?

What experiments did Jekyll pursue and why did other scientists like Lanyon regard him as misguided for doing them?

What are Jekyll’s emotions when he tramples on the girl talked about in the first chapter?

What were the circumstances that led up to the murder of Carew?

What does Jekyll decide to do after the murder of Carew?

What evidence is there that Jekyll is being taken over by Hyde?

What happens in Regent’s Park that shocks Jekyll so much?

What does Jekyll feel towards Hyde and what does Hyde feel towards Jekyll?

Analytical questions

What evidence is there that Jekyll is an “unreliable narrator”?

Why do you think Stevenson wrote this last section of the novel when the reader already knows the answer to the mystery?

How does Stevenson build up a sense of drama and horror in this section?

How does Stevenson build up sympathy for Jekyll and, to a lesser extent, Hyde?

Evaluative questions

How successful is this last section of the novel?

Creative response tasks

Write Hyde’s diary for the events described in this novel, describing his feelings when he tramples upon the girl, when he has to pay compensation, when he meets Utterson, when he murders Carew, when he goes on his nightly adventures, and when he returns in Regent’s Park and visits Lanyon. Describe his feelings towards Jekyll.

 

You can watch YouTube videos I made about this section here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G842fM-0xuU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tm9zkeIq-fE

 

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

Comprehension questions

What was Jekyll’s upbringing like? Why were the seeds of him becoming “Jekyll and Hyde” sown then? He always had two sides to his nature: he had a “gaiety of disposition”, which meant in those days that he wanted to be sexually promiscuous with the opposite sex, but he always wanted to be respectable and an important, high status member of society. The two things were only possible if he hid his reckless, wild side from the general public. Thus we can see that he had a “duality” of nature: two sides, a side that wanted to “appear good”, and a side that wanted to commit what was regarded then as “sinful” or “bad” acts.

What experiments did Jekyll pursue and why did other scientists like Lanyon regard him as misguided for doing them? He pursued “transcendental” or “mystical” experiments which attempted to separate the different sides of the human soul. He was regarded as being unscientific because what he was searching for was not viewed as a valid topic for scientific study.

What are Jekyll’s emotions when he tramples on the girl talked about in the first chapter? He doesn’t appear to really care about the girl at all and views the matter as a problem only because he was nearly lynched for being violent to her.

What were the circumstances that led up to the murder of Carew? Jekyll had not taken the drug from some time, vowing to give it up altogether, but when he did “give in” and take it again its strength was greatly increased because he hadn’t taken it in a long while. This meant that its effect was much stronger and this, in turn, led to him murdering Carew without any reason at all.

What does Jekyll decide to do after the murder of Carew? He decides to give up taking the drug altogether

What evidence is there that Jekyll is being taken over by Hyde? Sometimes he would go to sleep as Henry Jekyll but then wake up as Mr Hyde.

What happens in Regent’s Park that shocks Jekyll so much? He turns into Hyde suddenly during the day. He had not taken the drug. Hyde is wanted for murder and therefore is terrified of being caught and hung for the crime.

What does Jekyll feel towards Hyde and what does Hyde feel towards Jekyll? Jekyll feels “paternal” towards Hyde: he wants to indulge Hyde like a kind father might indulge a spoilt son. Hyde has nothing but contempt for Jekyll and would get rid of him if he weren’t killing himself as well.

 

Analytical questions

What evidence is there that Jekyll is an “unreliable narrator”? Jekyll is a narrator who does not fully describe things that might make him uncomfortable. For example, he only makes very short references to incidents that occupy a large part of the first part of the book: the trampling of the child, the murder of Carew and Lanyon’s response to seeing Hyde turn into Jekyll are only briefly described.  He appears to “skim” over these details because he doesn’t want to think about the implications of what he is done. He comes across as a very selfish and self-obsessed man who cares much more about not being caught and his own enjoyment than other people: he never expresses guilt for what he has done, only regret that things have turned out badly for him.

Why do you think Stevenson wrote this last section of the novel when the reader already knows the answer to the mystery? Stevenson aimed to write much more than a horror story: he wanted to write a story which was a “psychological fable about the human condition”. This section attempts to show the workings of Jekyll’s mind and reveals that far from being the opposite of Hyde, Jekyll always had “Hyde” hidden inside him. Behind the veneer of respectability lurked a monster.

How does Stevenson build up a sense of drama and horror in this section? The horror in this section is largely psychological. We feel horrified by the way in which Jekyll seems to love and care for Hyde, by the way in which he dismisses his crimes as unimportant and indeed at one point talks about how happy he felt when he was murdering Carew. Jekyll’s self-pitying words are nauseating to read and make the reader angry that a man who had so much could enjoy becoming a psycho-path.

How does Stevenson build up sympathy for Jekyll and, to a lesser extent, Hyde? We feel sympathy for the way in which Jekyll becomes “corrupted” by the drug and the opportunities it offers to him. Even though he has confessed to enjoying murdering Carew, we can’t help but feel a degree of sympathy for him when he talks about how degraded and humiliated he has become by his experiment. While we may hate Jekyll, we still see and, to a certain extent, feel his pain.

 

Evaluative questions

How successful is this last section of the novel? While the first half of the novel relied upon the classic tropes of the horror/mystery story to keep the reader interested, this last section maintains the reader’s interest by getting us to think very carefully about Jekyll’s state of mind and his perspective upon events we have already read about. Furthermore, this narrative “fills in the holes” of the narrative: we still don’t quite know why Hyde had to demand Lanyon fetched the drugs from Jekyll’s house. We realise now that Jekyll had turned into Hyde in Regent’s Park and was desperate to change back to Jekyll but had no safe way of getting home. One of the chief pleasures in re-reading the novel is thinking again and again about Jekyll’s predicament, which is possibly a predicament of many of us: how can we do what we want and yet be accepted in the eyes of society? Often our desires are in conflict with what society expects from us. This last part of the narrative explores this issue and reveals that we are all in a tragic situation like Jekyll: our inner-most desires will, in the end, kill us.

 

For more on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde please read my book Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: The Study Guide Edition available in paperback and e-Book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1494767910

My play-script version of the novel enables students to read the book in groups and understand it as well as the context of the times: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1495975010

 

 

 

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Detailed question and answers on “The Last Night”

Comprehension questions

Why does Poole ask for help? What is his mood?

What is the weather like?

Why are all the servants afraid?

What has Poole had to do for his master during these past few weeks?

What do Jekyll’s notes to the chemist reveal about his state of mind?

What has Jekyll being doing these past few weeks? Why does Poole call him “it”?

Why and how do they break down the door?

When they break into the “cabinet” what do they find?

What evidence is there that Hyde has killed himself?

What evidence is there that Jekyll has been there very recently?

Analytical questions

How and why does Stevenson use the “pathetic fallacy” in this chapter?

How does Stevenson make this chapter so dramatic and yet manages to prolong the mystery?

Evaluative questions

How successful is Stevenson is creating an atmosphere of horror?

Creative response tasks

Write a story or poem called “The Disappearance” in which you describe the room of someone who has disappeared.

Write Poole’s diary entry for this chapter, and other chapters where relevant. In the diary, get Poole to describe his relationship with Jekyll and his thoughts about his master.

 

You can watch a YouTube video I made about this section here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQMt54K_vgw

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

Comprehension questions

Why does Poole ask for help? What is his mood? He asks for help from Utterson because he suspects that there has been “foul play”: he is very worried for the safety of his master.

What is the weather like? It is a clear night with a full moon and “diaphanous” or transparent clouds. It is very windy.

Why are all the servants afraid? They think something terrible has happened to Dr Jekyll and don’t know what to do.

What has Poole had to do for his master during these past few weeks? He has had to take notes to the chemist which demand drugs which are “pure”.

What do Jekyll’s notes to the chemist reveal about his state of mind? He shows that he is very agitated because he has scribbled on the notes that he must have pure drugs using the phrase “for God’s sake” in wild handwriting.

What has Jekyll being doing these past few weeks? Why does Poole call him “it”? Jekyll has shut himself away and won’t see anyone, even his servants. Poole believes that Jekyll has been “made away with” – either kidnapped or killed – and that Hyde, who he calls “it”, is living there.

Why and how do they break down the door? They believe Jekyll has been murdered. They break down the door with an axe.

When they break into the “cabinet” what do they find? They find a very “normal” or commonplace set up: a kettle on the oven, a fire in the grate, and papers on a business desk. The only strange thing initially they see are the chemicals in their “presses”. Then they discover the dead body of Hyde in the larger clothes of Jekyll, twitching in the last throes of life.

What evidence is there that Hyde has killed himself? There is a “crush phial” in his hand which has contained poison.

What evidence is there that Jekyll has been there very recently? They find a letter written by him that day.

 

Analytical questions

How and why does Stevenson use the “pathetic fallacy” in this chapter?

The wind is very “wild” and strong and it is a clear night with a full moon: the wind possibly could suggest the violence of Edward Hyde.

How does Stevenson make this chapter so dramatic and yet manages to prolong the mystery? The chapter is punctuated by a number of gripping incidents. First, Poole’s appearance at Utterson’s door is dramatic because it is so unusual for the butler to leave Jekyll’s house without his master’s permission. The story he tells is wild and incomplete: he says that there has been “foul play” but we don’t know exactly what “foul play” there has been. The reader begins to wonder whether Jekyll has been murdered or kidnapped by Hyde? Poole’s mood adds to the tension: he is clearly in a state of near panic, which is unusual for this butler who is normally so calm. Second, Stevenson’s descriptions of the places and the weather add to the dramatic tension because he describes a clear windy night with a full moon: this setting suggests that something supernatural is afoot. Other descriptions of the house, the laboratory and Jekyll’s quiet room with the dead body of Hyde in it are very evocative. They provoke many questions which don’t have answers: why is Hyde dead and not Jekyll? Stevenson’s description of the servants huddled in the doorway adds to the sense of crisis and bemusement: why are they so frightened? Why don’t they know what is going on? Then, Stevenson piles on the mystery when we listen to Poole’s full explanation: he believes that Jekyll has been murdered by Hyde, but we wonder how the notes to the chemist, written in Jekyll’s hand, have been written. Further tension is created by the strange, strangulated sound of Jekyll’s voice pleading with Utterson to leave him alone. Stevenson’s description of the breaking down of the door is incredibly powerful: he describes the violence with which Poole attacks the door in vivid imagery, deploying dynamic verbs to evoke a sense of violence. The door “leapt” off its hinges: this personification of the door adds to the sense of drama; even the door is in shock! Then the ensuing description of the quiet laboratory and the small body of Hyde twitching in the big clothes of Jekyll provide a nice contrast to the violence of the attack on the door. There is something horrifying and pitiable about the description of Hyde’s body twitching in the huge clothes of Jekyll. It is also deeply mysterious: how and why has this happened? The mystery is furthered when we learn about the will being made out to Utterson and the fact that Jekyll himself is nowhere to be seen.

 

Evaluative questions

How successful is Stevenson is creating an atmosphere of horror? The horror is generated not by description of lots of “blood and gore” but by the fact that we begin to realise that something truly terrifying has happened to both Hyde and Jekyll. Hyde who had seemed so indestructible is now lying dead in the huge clothes of Jekyll. Further horror is generated by the servants’ reactions to Hyde and Jekyll: Poole, normally so calm, is in a state of total panic, while the other servants seemed to have completely imploded, huddling as they do in the doorway. Stevenson is successful in creating a sense of horror in the way he develops the mystery and forces us to think so hard about what has happened to Jekyll. The horror comes from us thinking about how this once respected man, who was so in command of his life, has been brought down so low: demanding drugs all the time and falling victim to the machinations of Hyde.

 For more on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde please read my book Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: The Study Guide Edition available in paperback and e-Book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1494767910

My play-script version of the novel enables students to read the book in groups and understand it as well as the context of the times: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1495975010

Detailed questions and answers on “Incident at the Window”

Comprehension questions

What does Enfield discover about Hyde’s rooms that he didn’t know? Why do you think Utterson hadn’t already told him this information?

What are Jekyll’s mood and emotions like in this chapter?

Analytical questions

How does Stevenson use description and dialogue to create a sense of drama and impending doom in this chapter?

Evaluative questions

How successful is this chapter in provoking the reader’s curiosity?

Creative response tasks

Write a poem or short story about a brief but chilling meeting with a friend who is in a bad way, calling it “My Sad Friend”.

Write Enfield’s diary for this chapter in which he talks about his friendship with Utterson and his thoughts on Jekyll and Hyde.

 

You can watch a YouTube video I made about this section here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDO-vorkfUc

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

Comprehension questions

What does Enfield discover about Hyde’s rooms that he didn’t know? He realises that Hyde’s living quarters are actually the back part of Dr Jekyll’s house.

Why do you think Utterson hadn’t already told him this information? Utterson is a very “discreet” person: he does not reveal his friend’s secrets or troubles to anyone. Thus we see him as someone who can be trusted and doesn’t gossip.

What are Jekyll’s mood and emotions like in this chapter? Jekyll is revealed as being in a state of “abject terror” when he finishes talking to Enfield and Utterson: he is terrified in the most extreme fashion.

 

Analytical questions

How does Stevenson use description and dialogue to create a sense of drama and impending doom in this chapter? The description of Jekyll sitting in such a dejected way at the window creates a sense of impending doom because we see that hhe feels that he has no future prospects. He appears to be without hope: he can’t even go out for a walk with his friends. Then when his mood shifts from one of depression to “abject terror” we have a sense that something terrible is going to happen to Jekyll.

 Evaluative questions

How successful is this chapter in provoking the reader’s curiosity? Stevenson’s manages to carry on creating a deep and profound of mystery in this chapter because, on first reading, we don’t know what is troubling Jekyll or what is making his mood swing so sharply. As far as we are concerned, Hyde has disappeared and therefore Jekyll possibly doesn’t need to worry about him. The shift from depression to “abject terror” is particularly perplexing. Why has he suddenly shut the window on his friends? What has happened to him to make him suddenly feel this way? The chapter, like the previous one, provokes many questions in the reader’s mind.

Characterisations in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

It is important to realise that the characters in the novel are not “real people” but invented creations. The author has invented them to engage our interest in their stories, to make us feel certain emotions towards them, to use them as a way to explore certain issues. A good literary critic must think about the techniques an author uses to make a character interesting, and the thoughts, feelings and images a character provokes in the reader’s mind.

Dr Jekyll

Dr Jekyll is a complex character. He is a rich man who lives what appears to be a very “respectable” life as a scientist, except that this appearance of respectability hides a darker side. In his confession, he talks about having a “dual” nature from an early age: he indulges in things that are not respectable in the society he lives in. We never really learn what these things are but we can guess: he probably likes having sex with people who were not deemed as suitable partners during that time.

Stevenson’s first description of him is informative:

 

Dr. Jekyll was no exception; and as he now sat on the opposite side of the fire—a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a stylish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness—you could see by his looks that he cherished for Mr. Utterson a sincere and warm affection.

 

It’s important to note that Jekyll is a kind man who does “good works”: he helps out the poor, various charities and religious causes. He is the embodiment of Victorian respectability and seems to take pleasure in helping people and being a good friend. Except, of course, this is, to a degree, a “sham”, a “façade”: he appears this way, but in reality he is not. Stevenson uses him as a way of exploring the hypocrisy of Victorian England: this is a world where appearances mean everything and, as a result, many rich people are being blackmailed because they are not as “squeaky clean” as they pretend to be. Jekyll believes that becoming Hyde is wonderful because it allows him to be the person he could never be if he was Jekyll: he can be violent, anti-social, and can go to places of “sin” and “vice” that might mean Jekyll’s disgrace if he were seen in them. In his confession, this passage is perhaps the most revealing of Jekyll:

 

Not that I dreamed of resuscitating Hyde; the bare idea of that would startle me to frenzy: no, it was in my own person that I was once more tempted to trifle with my conscience; and it was as an ordinary secret sinner that I at last fell before the assaults of temptation.

 

After deciding to stop being Hyde, Jekyll finds he can’t stop himself in indulging in Hyde’s pleasures as himself and, as a consequence, becomes an “ordinary secret sinner” who “fell before the assaults of temptation”. The language here is important: Jekyll sees “temptation” or desire as an “assault”; it is like being attacked. This shows how terrified Jekyll is of his secret desires. What are they though? We never really learn in the novel, but in various filmed versions of the book we see him acting like a paedophile, a sex maniac and a psycho-path. Part of the book’s power may be that we never learn what he has been doing, thus leaving us to imagine his depravity.

Jekyll is “vindictive” and settles old scores in the novel. This is particularly the case with Lanyon. Just before Hyde turns back into Jekyll in front of Lanyon, Jekyll speaking as Hyde says:

 

And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors —behold!

 

Here we see Jekyll “tell off” Lanyon for holding “narrow and material views”, in other words for being blinkered and unimaginative. He calls himself a “superior” to Lanyon and makes it very clear that Lanyon was wrong to “deride” or mock him. This is a clear example of Jekyll settling an old score: although he pretended to be relaxed about Lanyon criticising his scientific methods earlier on in the novel, we learn here, through the voice of Hyde, that he definitely is not.

It important to note that Hyde is Jekyll; this seems like an obvious point but it is easy to forget. Jekyll is portrayed in a psychologically convincing fashion: he is a fully-fleshed out character who reveals a striking array of different emotions and personas. The portrayal is psychological because we see that when Jekyll represses his inner-most desires he causes serious problems for himself: Hyde has been created out of his repressed desires. This is most clearly seen with the murder of Carew in Jekyll’s confession: he tells us that before the murder he had been deliberately trying to avoid taking the potion and that when he did, the potion had a doubly strong effect; his repressed anger came out in a terrifying fashion.

Questions

Why and how is Jekyll a complex character?

Why is Stevenson’s characterisation of Jekyll a “psychological” portrayal?

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

Why and how is Jekyll a complex character? Jekyll is complex because we learn by the end of the story that there are many sides to him. There is the “good”, the side that helps charities and the poor and is a loyal friend; there is the “respectable”, the part of him that wants to be seen as “decent” and “upstanding”; and then there is the side that enjoys inflicting pain upon people, the sadistic side; and there is also the “undignified” side, the side that does things that no respectable person would condone.

Why is Stevenson’s characterisation of Jekyll a “psychological” portrayal? The portrait is psychological because Stevenson really tries to work out WHY Jekyll behaves in this way: we see in Jekyll’s ‘Full Statement’ an explanation of Jekyll’s decline; we learn how Jekyll felt he had Hyde under control to begin with, but then Hyde becomes “monstrous” as Jekyll takes more and more of the drug. This is a very psychological portrait of Jekyll because we see how he doesn’t suddenly turn into an evil monster: it happened by degrees.

Mr Hyde

Utterson’s first meeting with Hyde is revealing. Stevenson writes:

 

Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him.

 

Hyde is, in many ways, the opposite of Jekyll. Where Jekyll is tall and kind-looking, Hyde is “dwarfish” and has a “displeasing smile” that has a “murderous mixture of timidity and boldness”. He clearly smiles in a perverted or unpleasant fashion, and is both cowardly and bold. Many film versions of the book do not capture this aspect of Hyde, making him appear quite a brave but psychopathic character: he isn’t brave at all. When he is confronted with what he has done to the little girl, he backs down and pays the family compensation because he is frightened of what they might do to him. When he suddenly appears in Regent’s Park at the end of the novel, he is terrified of being caught and hung.

On the other hand, he is not afraid of getting away with what he can; he is not worried about what people think of him. He does not observe the normal rules of politeness: he hits people he doesn’t like, and appears to dislike people for irrational reasons – we see this particularly with Sir Danvers Carew. He is probably highly sexual. We are told that he is “troglodytic”; this means that he is like a cave man. In Stevenson’s time, this was probably code for being highly sexual (Mighall, 2003 & Luckhurst, 2006): it was thought by the Victorians that our ancestors behaved like apes and had no sexual inhibitions.

His true character comes out towards the end of the novel when we learn of his emotions towards Jekyll:

 

The hatred of Hyde for Jekyll was of a different order. His terror of the gallows drove him continually to commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate station of a part instead of a person; but he loathed the necessity, he loathed the despondency into which Jekyll was now fallen, and he resented the dislike with which he was himself regarded. Hence the ape-like tricks that he would play me, scrawling in my own hand blasphemies on the pages of my books, burning the letters and destroying the portrait of my father; and indeed, had it not been for his fear of death, he would long ago have ruined himself in order to involve me in the ruin. But his love of me is wonderful; I go further: I, who sicken and freeze at the mere thought of him, when I recall the abjection and passion of this attachment, and when I know how he fears my power to cut him off by suicide, I find it in my heart to pity him.

 

We learn here that Hyde temporarily “commits suicide” – in other words he drinks the potion that makes him Jekyll – only because he wants to avoid being hung, not because he wants to be Jekyll again. He hates Jekyll’s “despondency” or depression suggesting that Hyde is a high-spirited, bizarrely joyful person: he is described as being in a “transport of glee” as he murders Carew. Although it has to be said there is a problem here because Jekyll uses the pronoun “I” to describe Hyde’s feelings while he is killing Carew, thereby implying that Jekyll felt this way too. He is also a joker who loves to swear and desecrate things: he writes “blasphemies” in the pages of Jekyll’s books, he burns the portrait of Jekyll’s father. There is almost something pathetic about Hyde for all his horrible selfishness: he is like an unruly child.

It is important to note that Hyde, according to Jekyll’s ‘Full Statement’ is not immediately evil. We learn when first appeared what Hyde does is “undignified” but his pleasures become “monstrous” as he gains in power. In other words, Hyde seems to gain strength by being allowed to exist, and progressively becomes more and more violent. When Jekyll gives up taking the drug for two months after being shocked to find that he has woken up as Hyde, Hyde comes back even stronger and more uncontrolled after Jekyll takes the potion again, and murders Carew as a result. In fact he becomes so strong that he appears without Jekyll taking the potion: once Jekyll has decided to stop being Hyde altogether, Hyde springs back to life in Regent’s Park without Jekyll ingesting the drug. From then onwards, Jekyll has to swallow stronger and stronger doses of the drug to stop being Hyde. This suggests that Hyde rather than being a fully-rounded character is an “aspect” or element of Jekyll: a Freudian critic might argue that he is the “Id” or the inner-desires of Jekyll which becomes stronger the longer he is allowed to exist. A religious interpretation might be that Hyde is the “Devil”, the inner “evil” of mankind, who thrives when God is ignored or deliberately disobeyed. Some other critics, called “cultural theorists”, have examined the culture that allows someone like Hyde to thrive and have argued that Hyde is a product of the society that he lives in (see Katherine Linehan in Literary Criticism chapter); he is allowed to get away with his crimes because someone with money and anonymity can. It is only when he angers the upper-classes with the murder of Carew that he is actually stopped.

Questions

What does Hyde look like? Why do people say that he seems “deformed”?

Why is he compared to being an “ape” or a cave man at times?

What does Hyde symbolise?

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

What does Hyde look like and how does he act? Hyde is small and muscular, and appears in some way “deformed”. He is described as “stumping”, that is, moving by violently putting his feet on the ground. When he speaks he seems to “whisper” in a “hoarse” fashion.

Why do people say that he seems “deformed”? Although he does not explicitly look ugly, everyone who meets him feels there is something abnormal about him. Just his presence makes people feel “icy”. It could be that he arouses a primitive feeling of fear in people, in the same way wild animals or snakes make people feel afraid.

Why is he compared to being an “ape” or a cave man at times? Stevenson, like many writers of the time, was very affected by the science of evolution developed by Charles Darwin. Hyde seems at times to be a “throwback” to when humans were “ape-like”: it almost as if Jekyll has accessed our evolutionary past when he takes the potion (Mighall, 2003).

What does Hyde symbolise? Hyde symbolises different things to different critics. For people interpreting the book as a Christian “allegory” (a long symbolic religious story) he represents the Devil, and all the temptations of the Devil and evil. There is a great deal of religious imagery in the book which suggests this interpretation has validity: Hyde is compared to the devil and he himself, when he is taking the potion before Lanyon, referencing the name of Satan.

 

 

Mr Utterson

One could argue that Utterson is the “protagonist” – the main character — of the novel in that he plays the detective figure searching out for the clues as to what is happening to Jekyll. In the first chapter Stevenson describes him in this way:

But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove. “I incline to Cain’s heresy,” he used to say quaintly: “I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.” In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of downgoing men. And to such as these, so long as they came about his chamber, he never marked a shade of change in his demeanour.

 

Utterson is a boring man who does not seem to have the desires, dreams or contradictions of Jekyll. He does not judge people however — but helps them. He lets people do what they want without interfering. This is what makes him an excellent character to investigate the case of Jekyll because he is not easily shocked: he helps “downgoing” men, that is, people who are losing their reputations for respectability. In the novel, we see him being very persistent: he tracks down Hyde after much waiting around for him at his door. We see him being caring: he tries continually to help Jekyll. He is also non-judgemental, offering to listen to Jekyll if he has anything to confess. He is also decisive: he makes the decision to knock down the door to Jekyll’s room in order to see where Jekyll is. Ultimately, it is his desire to find out the truth about Jekyll which leads to Jekyll’s destruction.

In literary terms, Utterson serves as a good counter-point to the extremes of Jekyll and Hyde and provides the narrative with a good “anchor” in that his realistic, ordinary approach to life contrasts greatly with Jekyll and Hyde’s fantastical experiments and misdemeanours.

 

 

Questions

Why could you argue that Utterson is the main protagonist in the novel? How and why does he behave like a detective?

 

Answers in brief and bold

Why could you argue that Utterson is the main protagonist in the novel? For the first half of the novel, before Jekyll gives his ‘Full Statement’, Utterson is the main character in that the reader follows his journey as he gradually uncovers the truth about Jekyll. Some critics have argued that he ultimately destroys Jekyll in his quest for the truth because Jekyll/Hyde takes the poison that kills himself after Utterson says he will knock down the door.

How and why does he behave like a detective? Utterson operates like a detective because he is continually looking for clues as to what is going on with Hyde: he takes some time to search for Hyde, he thinks about the problem of Jekyll’s will, he questions Poole, Lanyon and Jekyll himself about what is happening with Jekyll, he finds clues such as the broken walking stick, and he confronts Jekyll/Hyde by breaking down the door to his laboratory. All of these things make him like your “classic detective”, except of course there were very few detective novels before this one was written. Some people have argued that Stevenson invented the form of the detective novel with this book.

Dr Lanyon

This is an early description of Lanyon:

Dr. Lanyon sat alone over his wine. This was a hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman, with a shock of hair prematurely white, and a boisterous and decided manner.

 

In many ways, Lanyon is very similar to Jekyll in that he is a respectable, wealthy scientist who has a happy life. However, he has disassociated himself with Jekyll because of Jekyll’s scientific experiments which Lanyon believes are “unscientific balderdash”. Lanyon is a “smug” and patronising man who believes he knows best. He learns a terrible lesson when he sees Jekyll turn into Hyde. After this time, all his certainties about life are shattered and he becomes a broken man:

 

He had his death-warrant written legibly upon his face. The rosy man had grown pale; his flesh had fallen away; he was visibly balder and older; and yet it was not so much these tokens of a swift physical decay that arrested the lawyer’s notice, as a look in the eye and quality of manner that seemed to testify to some deep-seated terror of the mind.

 

Lanyon seems to represent the self-satisfied certainties of Victorian England: he appears to be someone who thinks he knows it all and then learns to his cost that he does not. There is a suggestion too that he too may have tried the potion or may be tempted to use it: the “terror of the mind” is his horror that he is just like Jekyll and harbours secret, terrifying desires.

Lanyon serves an important role in the novel in that he witnesses Hyde’s transformation into Jekyll; Stevenson deliberately engineers the narrative so that it is a scientist who witnesses this transformation because a scientist is a more trustworthy observer than someone who already believes in “supernatural” transformations.

 

Questions

How does Stevenson present Dr Lanyon?

Why is it Lanyon who observes Hyde’s transformation into Hyde?

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

How does Stevenson present Dr Lanyon? Stevenson presents Lanyon as a self-satisfied scientist who is a “materialist”, i.e. he doesn’t believe in mystical transformations or magic. He has a very happy and successful life in Cavendish Square, one of the wealthiest areas of London. His confidence in his scientific views is shattered when he witnesses Hyde’s transformation into Jekyll. Stevenson uses a mixture of description, dialogue and first-hand testimony to make Lanyon a plausible and interesting character. Initially, we hear about Lanyon’s beliefs that Jekyll’s scientific methods are “balderdash”, thus setting him up in what seems to be a minor conflict of opinion with Jekyll. However, we learn later that Jekyll has been greatly angered by Lanyon’s dismissal of his science and that he achieves a kind of revenge upon him when he shows how Hyde can change into Jekyll.  Lanyon’s shock and horror at having his logical, scientific beliefs shattered ultimately kill him.

Why is it Lanyon who observes Hyde’s transformation into Hyde?

Stevenson gives the narrative more “credibility” or makes it more believable by having Lanyon observe Hyde’s transformation because Lanyon is a skeptical, rational scientist who is a “truthful” observer. If a mystical person had seen the change, then we might have doubted his word because he would merely be endorsing what he already believes. However, Lanyon has to deny all his previous beliefs in order to say that the transformation really happened.

 

 

 

 

 

Poole

Poole is Jekyll’s elderly butler who shows surprising strength in knocking down Jekyll’s stout door. He is the embodiment of the Victorian servant: he is loyal and obedient even when his master’s demands are outrageous. Like Lanyon he has all his certainties about life shattered: he comes to believe that his master’s supposed friend, Hyde, has murdered him. He cannot act though without the support of his social superiors. This is why he asks Utterson to visit in the chapter ‘The Last Night’: although he would like to break down the door to Jekyll’s room he knows he doesn’t have the authority, but Utterson his social superior does.

Poole serves an important literary function in the novel in that he is used to heighten the sense of mystery and suspense. We see this in ‘Search for Mr Hyde’ when he tells Utterson that the servants have to obey Hyde and that Hyde is a familiar figure in the household. Most strikingly, he generates a huge amount of suspense in ‘The Last Night’ by the way he suddenly appears and says that there has been “foul play” to Utterson: the fact that he, of all people, is so upset shows how terrible the situation is. Thus we can see how Stevenson uses his character to convey a sense of horror at Jekyll’s predicament: if Poole can be upset then we all should be. The way Poole calls Hyde “it” is particularly chilling: Poole dehumanises Hyde in a way that no one else has been willing to do. He seems to realise that Hyde is not the same as the human race. Other people like Lanyon, Utterson and Enfield are more easily fooled by the social codes of the day and view Hyde as a gentleman, if a bad one. Poole though knows that Hyde is different. His theory that his master has been “made away with” turns out to be the closest guess of all. In such a way, we could argue that despite the fact that Poole speaks in “slang”, he is actually one of the more intelligent characters.

His character also illustrates how Hyde has managed not only to destroy and abuse people, but his actions have threatened the social order of the society. Utterson notes with horror that it is not good that all the servants are not doing their jobs anymore; furthermore, we see Poole, who should be preserving his master’s household, destroying his master’s door with an axe.

 

Questions

What function does Poole serve in the narrative?

What evidence is there that Poole is actually quite perceptive and intelligent?

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

What function does Poole serve in the narrative? Poole is important in the narrative because he helps heighten the suspense considerably. At first, the introduction of Poole helps heighten the mystery about the connection between Hyde and Jekyll because he tells Utterson that Jekyll has given orders for the servants to obey Hyde. In ‘The Last Night’ Poole creates a great deal of the suspense by appearing so worried about Jekyll, and theorising that he has been “made away with”. By calling Hyde “it”, he creates a sense of horror regarding Hyde, suggesting Hyde’s inhuman qualities.

What evidence is there that Poole is actually quite perceptive and intelligent? Of all the characters in the novel, it is Poole who gets closest to the truth when he suggests that Jekyll has been “made away with” or murdered by Hyde. This is something that Utterson doesn’t believe; preferring to think Jekyll is ill and needs drugs. Poole also subtly engineers the breaking down of Jekyll’s door by revealing the truth about the situation to Utterson in stages, and not all at once. This suggests he knows Utterson well and realises that he can’t tell Utterson the full extent of knowledge until Utterson has witnessed Jekyll’s house himself.

 

 

For more on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde please read my book Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: The Study Guide Edition available in paperback and e-Book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1494767910

My playscript version of the novel enables students to read the book in groups and understand it as well as the context of the times: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1495975010