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Detailed questions and answers on “Dr Lanyon’s narrative”

Comprehension questions

What does Jekyll’s letter to Lanyon order him to do?

What is Lanyon’s reaction to Jekyll’s letter and the contents of Jekyll’s drawer?

What does Lanyon think of Hyde?

Why does Hyde warn Lanyon about if he watches him taking the potion?

What happens to Hyde and why is Lanyon so shocked? Why does the sight of Hyde’s transformation cause his death?

Analytical questions

Why is this chapter written in the first person with Lanyon narrating?

How does Stevenson create a sense of drama when Hyde turns into Jekyll? How and why have many writers and film-makers imitated and borrowed from this scene?

Evaluative questions

We learn the answer to the mystery in this chapter. Do you think it is a good solution?

Creative response tasks

Write a story or poem called “The Transformation”.

Write Utterson’s diary in response to reading this account, discussing his feelings when he learns that Hyde is Jekyll. Is he as shocked as Lanyon?

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS in brief & bold

 

Comprehension questions

What does Jekyll’s letter to Lanyon order him to do? He orders Lanyon to go to his room, or “cabinet”, and collect some drugs from a specific drawer, and then return to his house where a man at midnight will collect the drugs for Jekyll.

What is Lanyon’s reaction to Jekyll’s letter and the contents of Jekyll’s drawer? Lanyon thinks that Jekyll has probably lost his mind, that he has a “cerebral” or “brain” disease. He decides to arm himself with a revolver to defend himself. He assumes that Jekyll must have lost his mind because of some experiment that has gone wrong: Lanyon is not surprised by this because he has always been suspicious of Jekyll’s scientific methods.

What does Lanyon think of Hyde? Lanyon finds Hyde unpleasant but also ridiculous because he is dressed in clothes that are far too big for him. He notices that Hyde has a physical effect upon him, making him feel revolted.

Why does Hyde warn Lanyon about watching him take the potion? Because what Lanyon will see will “stagger the unbelief of Satan”, in other words even the Devil himself would be amazed to see what he is going to see.

What happens to Hyde and why is Lanyon so shocked? Why does the sight of Hyde’s transformation cause his death? Hyde turns into Jekyll. Lanyon is shocked for two reasons. First, because the transformation proves that Jekyll is a good scientist: he had called what Jekyll did previously “unscientific balderdash”. Second, his faith in human nature is shaken: how could someone as respectable as Jekyll change into someone as evil as Hyde?

 

Analytical questions

Why is this chapter written in the first person with Lanyon narrating? Stevenson uses a number of different styles of writing in the book. The first half of the book is largely written in the third person, and is mainly a description of Utterson’s quest to help his friend, Jekyll, and discover what his problems really are. The third person narrative style suits the “detective” genre of the writing. However, by having Lanyon tell his story in his own words makes the story all the more believable and emotional. We, the reader, become Lanyon himself as he watches Hyde transform into Jekyll: the first person narration allows us to feel his shock and pain at seeing his friend turn from the monster Hyde into his friend Henry Jekyll.

How does Stevenson create a sense of drama when Hyde turns into Jekyll? How and why have many writers and film-makers imitated and borrowed from this scene? Stevenson uses a great deal of “visual imagery” at key points in the book. Certain important scenes are described in so much detail that we can clearly visualise exactly what is happening. This is particularly the case with the transformation from Hyde to Jekyll.

 

He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change—he seemed to swell—his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter—and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arms raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged (covered) in terror.

“O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll!

 

We see here how Stevenson uses some very powerful verbs to describe the way in which Hyde is affected by drinking the potion: he “reels”, “staggers”, “clutches”, “stares”, “gasps”. The effect of these verbs is to give the prose a real sense of action: each verb generates a visual image which suggests the pain of Jekyll. We see Hyde “staggering” around like someone who is drunk and has lost his faculty to stand properly; the verb “gasp” suggests that he is suffocating. In the next part, the verbs acquire a psychedelic, magical quality, Hyde’s face “melts” and “alters”: this is very sinister and possibly horrific to see someone’s face melt like wax. Lanyon’s reaction adds to the terror: he screams out “O God!” because he has no other response than this. What he is seeing is almost beyond words to convey.

 

Evaluative questions

We learn the answer to the mystery in this chapter. Do you think it is a good solution? Some critics believe that the genius of the book is the solution to the mystery, which is both unexpected but obvious. Even when the novel is re-read again and again, it is this solution which intrigues, teases and attracts the reader: this horror story becomes a study of the human condition because of this solution. If Hyde had been another person or a ghost or ghoul, it would have been an ordinary ghost story about an evil person or thing who is the “shadow” of a good man. However, by making Jekyll and Hyde one and the same person, we begin to examine ourselves: do we not too have a “Hyde” within us? What would we do if we could have a Hyde who could do whatever he/she wanted without ever being caught? The novel thus moves from being a mystery story to a psychological fable which makes the reader ask questions of him or herself. Thus we could say the true horror of the story is that Stevenson has a point which is still true today: all of us have a “Hyde” within us. It comes as no surprise that the phrase a “Jekyll/Hyde character” has entered the language meaning a person who can suddenly switch from being very nice to committing evil.