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. He wondered what it would be like to be pure evil and so he created Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

The tension and suspense in the novel begins with the title, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It makes you want to know what the strange case was and how it affected the characters.

Mr Utterson is the narrator of the story. He was a lawyer and friends with Jekyll and Lanyon when they were students. He was an upright man and Jekyll trusted him. So much so, that Jekyll gave him his will to look after. Utterson agreed to this, but he found the contents to be unusual. The will didn’t make any sense to Utterson, who was a lawyer, and he decided to try and solve the mystery. In Gothic texts there is nearly always a problem that has to be solved.

One day, Utterson was out walking with his distant cousin Mr Enfield, when they passed a door. The door was in a “sinister block of buildings” and contrasted to the neighboring doors which were clean and had well polished brasses. This strange door was “equipped with neither bell or knocker and was blistered and distained.” It looked like it had been rejected and “no one had appeared to drive away the random visitors or repair their ravages” The “visitors” being tramps and schoolboys who played on the doorstep and tested their knives on the stone. The door creates an atmosphere of tension. It is linked to Gothic horror genre as veils and masks. The door hides something. This door opened into the dissecting room of Jekylls house. Enfield tells Utterson about a terrible incident when a man named Hyde trampled calmly over a child’s body and “left her screaming on the ground”. This information startled Utterson, and he became interested in the relationship that Jekyll had with Hyde.  Especially when Enfield tells him that this monster, who was the man named in Jekyll’s will, had a key to the door! After the incident of the door, Utterson had a nightmare and declared that he wanted to find out who Hyde was … “If he be Mr Hyde, I shall be Mr Seek.”

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A year later there was a terrible incident. A maid who was looking out of her bedroom window and was “romantically given… and fell into a dream of musing.” witnessed  an aged and beautiful gentleman come down the lane and meet another man. The elderly man had bowed, and “accosted the other with a pretty manner of politeness” but Hyde, as the maid recognized him as, attacked him with “ape like fury”. The horror of these sights and sounds, caused the maid to faint. The contrast between the atmosphere and settings and the murder show great tension and suspense ...

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