What Makes the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde an Effective Horror Story?

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What Makes ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ an Effective Horror Story?

The most famous shilling shocker of the Victorian Era was “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, the 1886 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is set in Victorian London where the lawyer, Mr Utterson investigates a strange relationship between his client, Dr Henry Jekyll and the mysterious figure, Mr Edward Hyde. But the novella takes an unexpected twist when the very well respected Dr Jekyll reveals that his experiment on his controversial theory of dualism has gone terribly wrong and that he has in fact turned himself into his alter-ego; Mr Hyde. The novella follows a literary tradition of gothic horror novels, for example “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and has opened a door into a different type of horror stories. The novella also depicts the time in which it was written; Victorian England had a very high crime rate and the people knew it, the police wasn’t up to scratch and it led to Queen Victoria declaring that England had to be a safer place to live.

The contemporary reactions of “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” were mixed. Some people thought that the book was a blasphemy and they thought that no-one should be able to play god, for religious and ethical reasons. But the majority of people thought it was just a very good horror story and in the first six months it sold 40,000 copies, which in those times was a large amount. The reason for this success was down to a few reasons; firstly, the publication was delayed until Christmas time, this helped because people have a vision of Christmas and sitting round a flickering fire and flickering candles as a family, and telling horror stories. This appealed to a lot of families because Christmas was one of the only public holidays in the Victorian era so families liked to spend a lot of time together, this along with it being a “shilling shocker” (i.e. the novella only cost a shilling) which meant that even...
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