How Stevenson Uses Descriptions of Scenery to Give Insight Into the Nature of Jekyll/Hyde

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English Coursework

Minnie Wright

How Stevenson Uses Descriptions of Settings/Scenery to Create an Atmosphere or Give the Audience an Insight into the Nature of Jekyll/Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson was first published in 1886. The themes involved in Stevenson’s novella, good and evil, the primal, animal side of human nature, morality, shocked its strict, righteous Victorian audience. The Victorian society was intent on repressing thought and behaviour that could be considered animal. At least, this was the culture on the surface; taking a look into the underground society shows the immediate balancing side to the strict and proper society. In the repression of natural instincts such as open sensuality and freedom to experience life, society bred a deep fascination in the indulgence of the senses and instincts, creating a secret world of prostitution and indulgence in sex and drug use. Jekyll and Hyde’s contemporary society was going through a time of a scientific revolution that terrified them, Darwin had recently come up with his theory of evolution, and the thought that there could be something (science) that could prove that humans were in fact come from beasts, threw the religious beliefs and sense of moral right and wrong of the society. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Stevenson put into fiction, there for everybody to read, society’s deepest fear: that man was evolved from a primitive animal and had, and would, succumb to, those instincts.

Stevenson uses very evocative language, captivating adjectives and metaphors all designed to paint a picture that draws the reader into the atmospheric world in which the story takes place. “Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable.” “tonight there was shudder in his [Enfield] blood; the face of Hyde sat heavy on his memory; he felt (which was rare with him) a nausea and distaste of life; and in the gloom of his spirits, he seemed to read a menace in the flickering of the firelight on the polished cabinets and the uneasy starting of the shadow on the roof”. This, the reader being more involved in the world of Jekyll and Hyde, brings about, subconsciously, in the reader a different approach to judgement of the characters. All the actions that the characters make and the descriptions that Stevenson gives of them, affect the reader as more directly and personally, because they have been drawn in to be emotionally involved in the story themselves. The language Stevenson uses is also very flowing language, with rhythms that have a sense of ease to read and that are almost poetic in feel. [Enfield] “I was coming home form some place at the end of the world, about three o’clock of a black winter morning, and my way lay through a part of town where there was literally nothing to be seen but lamps. Street after street, and all the folks sleep – street after street, all lighted up as if for a procession, and all as empty as a church”. This piece of monologue, spoken by Enfield to Utterson, demonstrates the beautiful flow that Stevenson has in his writing and his use of vivid imagery and alliteration and assonance to paint the pictures in a similar way to authors of poetry. This is what increases the dramatic effect of the story; because the reader is emotionally drawn in and their imaginations are fuelled by the atmospheric descriptions the story has a bigger impact on them.

The audience’s first introduction to Mr Hyde is through Enfield’s narration to Mr Utterson of the story of how he first encountered Hyde. Enfield’s story starts with a strong sense of mystery “Did you ever remark that door? It is connected in my mind, with a very odd story.” This immediately draws the reader in with curiosity, wanting to find out what odd story could possibly be attached to the...
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