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Is 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' more than a simple horror story?

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Introduction

Zaki Rafiq-Khatana 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' by Robert Louis Stevenson Is 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' more than a simple horror story? When asked this question, the immediate answer is, yes. Robert Louis Stevenson uses the features of a conventional horror story, which were very popular at the time, but also uses the story to raise social issues and make criticisms about the hypocrisy and double standards of Victorian society, in general, and Victorian London in particular. The first aspect of horror to be noticed is that the main events of the story, such as the death of Mr. Hyde, usually take place at night. The idea of these events taking place at night creates an eerie atmosphere, full of suspense. An example of this is the setting for when he little girl is trampled on by Mr. Hyde. It is described as "three o'clock of a black winter morning". As said before, this builds up atmosphere and makes the reader think that maybe something unexpected is going to happen. Also the murder of Sir Danvers Carew took place "in the small hours" or "the early part of the night". Also, the back of Jekyll's house falls onto a dark alleyway, which is where Hyde lives. Hyde is an evil character so the idea of him going living at the back of the house where it is dark and dirty is quite deliberate. It adds to the idea of Hyde being a sinister and secluded character. Violence plays a great role in the story as well. ...read more.

Middle

Instead, they build it up even more. In Jekyll's letter to Utterson, he describes the situation he is in as "nameless". This is because it is unique and so has never been described before. It makes the reader wonder what his "nameless situation" is. Stevenson criticises Victorian society in this novel as well as the normal features a gothic horror story has. He makes reference to the typical Victorian gentleman through his characters, especially Utterson. Utterson is described as being "backward in sentiment", showing that he is slow to show his emotions. He is very "austere" and is "never lighted by a smile". He represents a certain type of Victorian gentleman who strives to live an upright, strictly moral life. He is shown to read for hours from a religious book on Sundays. Whether he likes doing it is something different, he just wants to be thought as a respectable person because an outward devotion to God was considered a worthy characteristic. Utterson's friends "were those of his own blood", which shows that he would only be friendly with people of a similar status or occupation, such as Enfield. Enfield is a distant relative who is "a well-known man about town". He is friends with Utterson even though they seem to have nothing in common. Utterson is Dr. Jekyll is another character Stevenson uses to show Victorian gentlemen. He represents the wealthy and rich part of society. For example, his house is "furnished with cabinets of oak". Dr. Jekyll's house is grand and well kept. His front door "wore a great air of comfort and wealth". ...read more.

Conclusion

This could suggest that all women were trampled on, not generally physically, but by how they were treated in society. The women who surrounded Hyde at this scene are described as being "as wild as harpies". The servant who witnessed the killing of Sir Danvers Carew fainted after seeing it happen. This shows women to be mentally and physically weak. Another way this is shown by Stevenson is when Poole and Utterson go to find out what is wrong with Jekyll. The moon is used to give a negative image of women. It says, "The pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her..." It shows women to be weak and submissive and that they have to rely on men to be able to live. When Utterson and the police got to search for Hyde, they meet his landlady. She is said to have "an evil face" which has been "smoothed by hypocrisy". She is presented as being unpleasant and she also takes delight in the idea that Hyde is in trouble, "a flash of odious joy appeared upon the woman's face". It is implied that she enjoys scandal and also that she is two-faced. This is another negative way of showing women. One thing that is unclear is that Stevenson could either be joining in with negatively portraying women or he could actually be trying to make people realize how unpleasant they are being to women. Stevenson also highlights how bad pollution was at the time. He describes the fog that filled the air as "rich, lurid brown" and like a "great chocolate-coloured pall" and that it "rolled over the city". London was very industrial at the time so the smoke from factories caused pollution to get this bad. ...read more.

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