Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - How Does Stevenson create an atmosphere of tension and build up suspense in the novel? To what extent are his methods typical to Gothic Horror Genre?
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How Does Stevenson create an atmosphere of tension and build up suspense in the novel? To what extent are his methods typical to Gothic Horror Genre? The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has all the characteristics of a Gothic Horror text. For example, most of the settings are dark and mysterious, women play a very small part in the text and there is a beast, Hyde. In Frankenstein and Dracula, two Gothic horror texts, there is also a beast. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, lives are deeply affected. The little girl is trampled and badly injured, Sir Danvers Carew is murdered, the maid who saw the murder was deeply horrified, the shock on Dr Lanyon was too much for him and he took to his bed and died. Stevenson was bought up strictly and taught to behave properly. Victorian children had to seen and not heard and boys had to be brave and manly. Stevenson often wondered about the evil side of a man. He grew up feeling there was a clear division between good and evil, very aware of the powers to destroy, if given the chance.
When Utterson mentions Hyde, Jekyll "seemed seized by a qualm of faintness" and became "feverish" in manner. Jekyll seemed to want nothing to do with Hyde as if he was afraid of something. Jekyll handed Utterson a letter that he said he received from Hyde in which Hyde promised not to bother Jekyll again. Utterson noticed that it was written "in an odd upright hand, and signed 'Edward Hyde'". The tension in this chapter builds up very quickly. Letters are also typical to Gothic horror genre. They are a type of mask or veil. In chapter 6, Lanyon was very ill and "his death-warrant written legibly upon his face." He told Utterson that he was about to die and that he knew things he shouldn't and that he didn't really want to know them. He handed Utterson a letter which should not be opened until the death or disappearance of Henry Jekyll. He didn't want to talk about Dr Jekyll and told Utterson that he regards Jekyll as good as "dead". Utterson was confused and wrote a letter to Jekyll asking the "cause of his unhappy break with Lanyon" and "his exclusion from the house".
Another theme in Gothic horror texts are the 'anti-heroes'. They often appeal and repulse the reader at the same time. The reader may sympathise as the 'anti-hero' struggles with his conflicts. In the case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, we may feel sorry for Jekyll as he struggles with his desire to be Hyde but at the same time we feel angry at him for making the potion and taking it in the first place. Only Lanyon and Jekyll knew the secret about Mr Hyde, and the truth killed them both...eventually. Jekyll excluded himself from society but he was still unable to stop Hydes personality from dominating himself. Jekyll didn't have any more mixture to switch personalities, so he had to destroy both in order to destroy Hyde. In conclusion, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a very effective Gothic horror novel. There is a lot of suspense and tension in it so that the reader was always trying to guess the outcome. Stevenson's narrator is an unsuspecting lawyer, who has to get the answer to the mystery and he uses the elements of Gothic horror genre to create a more gripping atmosphere of tension and suspense. He uses settings and atmosphere, veils and masks, anti-heroes, supernatural elements, violent and horrific acts to make us ask the question... Who is Hyde?
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