The presentation of individuals and society in the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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ABHINAV SINGH                11 ‘G’


English Literature Coursework Assignment: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson


Choose two extracts from the novel and use them as a basis for your discussion of one of the following topics:

  1. The ways in which places and settings are used in the novel;
  2. The presentation of individuals and society in the novel;
  3. Stevenson’s methods of developing tension and a sense of horror in the novel.

For the purposes of my analysis, I have chosen option two: The presentation of individuals and society in the novel. The two extracts that I have chosen for the analysis are: Utterson’s first meeting with Mr. Hyde and his subsequent description of him (in the chapter The Search for Mr. Hyde) and an excerpt from the last chapter Henry Jekyll’s full statement of the case. 

        In this essay, I am going to discuss how Stevenson presents the individuals and the society in the novel. In order to make a clear interpretation, I am going to be using the novel as well as my background knowledge of the time and context in which the novel was set. I will also review Stevenson’s experiences, which might have led to the creation of the story.

        Firstly, I will examine the society presented by Stevenson in this novel. The entire story revolves around the upper/middle class. There are only hints of other social classes in the form of workers and servants, employed by the rich people. The four main characters of the play have much in common; they are all rich, well-educated and professional men: Utterson is a lawyer; Enfield is a well known man around the town, showing his popularity. Lanyon and Jekyll are both doctors, which shows their high professional status. Another trait that all these men have in common is, they are all cold and distant yet likable. Also, they are all un-married. Below is an extract from the book, outlining Mr. Utterson’s personality:

Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold…backward in sentiment… and yet somehow lovable.

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Another interesting fact regarding the novel is, not one of the main characters is a woman, this shows the nature of the society. The society at the time was a male-dominated one. Some have argued that this gives the novel an empty feel. Readers agree that, the severe lack of women from the settings creates unease in the novel, which can be felt slightly. This particular writing trait that Stevenson employs can be linked back to his own childhood, Stevenson had a strong father figure and thus, the imbalance in sexes is noticeable in the writing. In the novel ...

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