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How does Stevenson build up tension in 'Dr Jekyll'.

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Introduction

How Does Stevenson Build Up Tension In The Novella 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'? 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish writer, and was first published in 1886. It was an instant success, especially in North America and Britain, and was one of the author's best selling works. Its success was and still is, in part, due to the sense of tension built up through the detail, the language, structure and themes within the book. It was written at a time of great change in the scientific world when there were many new medical discoveries being made and these were a central inspiration for Stevenson in this novella. There was also great interest in the recently published Darwin theories, which suggested that humans had evolved over millions of years from monkeys. The novella attempts to harness the interest in these new ideas and discoveries and puts them into a dark and compelling mystery. In order to draw people in and keep them persuaded by the idea that what they were reading was not only possible but highly plausible, the story needed to have great suspense, tension and mystery. This is still valid and Stevenson's use of many different and varied techniques are fundamental in building that suspense and tension which keeps the reader engrossed even in today's very different world. ...read more.

Middle

They offer a background to important moments in the story. The dark secrets of the door which the reader has been drawn into are revealed more fully when Utterson himself finally meets Hyde in chapter 2, 'The Search for Mr Hyde'. There is tension in the build up to this meeting simply because of the description offered by Enfield of Hyde being 'not easy to describe' and that there is 'something displeasing and downright detestable' about him. Just before they meet, Utterson hears the footsteps of Hyde as they 'drew swiftly nearer, and swelled out suddenly louder as they turned the end of the street.' The carefully chosen adverb gives the impression of an animal. The author uses other words such as 'savage' and 'dwarfish' during the conversation between the two men to describe the animal-like nature and deformity that Utterson sees in Hyde. This builds suspense because of the constant threat that Hyde could suddenly go wild and hurt his new acquaintance at any moment. Due to the dislike we already have for Hyde and the sympathy we have for Utterson, we are afraid for the safety of the latter in this first meeting. Hyde is clearly unpredictable and yet ambiguously understated. This subtleness is an attribute which Stevenson gives to Hyde to build tension during this first meeting. ...read more.

Conclusion

Chapter 8 is entitled 'The Last Night' indicating excitement and possibly even the end of the world. On the other hand, it could be the end of the Hyde case and a solution might beckon. Either way, it promises a thrilling ending. Indeed the title of the book itself 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' encourages the reader to be inquisitive about what is 'strange' and what kind of relationship the two people mentioned actually have. The word 'case' indicates that it is probably a mystery; like a police case. The title appeals to many different people as it offers the possibility of the story being mystery, crime and horror at the same time. In conclusion, 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' is as compelling today as it was when it was first published. It works as a piece of horror and mystery because of the tension created in an almost effortless way by Stevenson, who is able to make an outrageous idea seem possible. As a reader, you are afraid but cannot wait to find out what happens next and much of that fear is fuelled by Stevenson's skilful writing, but some of it is created by what lies deep inside us. Stevenson has understood this and used the techniques to make us delve a little deeper within us. The reader is left believing that somewhere out there, a doctor could be carrying out experiments right now. ...read more.

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