Prose Narrative Criticism:
“Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Greasy Lake” Studies in Literature
August 25, 2012
Prose Narrative Criticism
While reading any composition of literature, the reader must address how they will connect with the text. To do this, the reader considers different forms of literary criticism. There are an abundance of approaches to literary criticism. For the purposes of looking at “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson and “Greasy Lake” by T.C. Boyle, the narratological approach will be used here. The narratological critical approach to assessing literature expects that the audience reads to “understand how events are constructed and through what point of view” (Purdue University, 2005). This type of critical approach also “considers the narrator not as a person, but as a window through which we see a constructed reality” (Purdue University, 2005).
In reading “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, the reader notes that the narrator remains anonymous, although he frequently refers to himself in the third person. This type of narration lends itself to the “window” theory of the narratological approach meaning that the reader watches what unfolds without the feel that there is an obvious narrator. However, while the novella does follow Uttersons point of view, it fails to clearly define that Utterson is the one telling the story. In “Greasy Lake”, while the story teller or narrator refers to himself in the first person, the reader is never given a name. Approaching this short story in this manner creates the same effect that “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” created, with one exception. The reader seems to be watching events as they occur, rather than having to be retold of events via a specific narrator. However, at points within “Greasy Lake” the reader is privy to the inner thoughts and senses in the first person narrative, which argues that the narrator is indeed a person, rather than a “window” where the reader sees a “constructed reality” (Purdue University, 2005).
In terms of historical context, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was written in England in 1855. The novella is set in the 19th century, which is appropriate given the time it was written. This was also called the “Victorian era”. During this time, England was beginning to make huge strides in the fields of technology as well as social dynamics. Many people in England would begin to question the relationship between their own growing economy, the technology that it would take to get there and the countries outside the parameters of that growth (Wikipedia, 2012). An interesting point to note is that the Victorian era marked a “turn towards romanticism and mysticism in terms of religion, social values, and the arts” (Wikipedia, 2012). Due to this change, communicating with the dead via “channeling” or “ghost conjuring” became a popular form of entertainment. This is fascinating because “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was written during this time. The novella plays into the mysterious and unsettling notions of the possibilities of ghosts, before the reader understands the manifestation of Mr. Hyde.
“Greasy Lake” was written in New York in 1981 by T.C. Boyle. While much like the changes England experienced in the Victorian era, similar upheavals were taking place in America in the 1980’s. American youth was heavily influenced by the music during this period. Fashions as well as actions mimicked popular music of this time. Technology was a blazing trail in American (Wikipedia, 2012). Mobile music devices such as the Walkman and the boom box were becoming common place among young Americans. This technology brought music out of homes where it was simply played on radios. It brought music into the streets of America. The short story “Greasy Lake” is actually the product of inspiration from a Bruce Springsteen song named “Spirit in the Night”...
Cited: Boyle, T. (1981). Greasy Lake . Penguin Group.
Purdue University. (2005). Critical Approaches to Literature: A Brief Overview. Retrieved from Literature Resources: http://www.cla.purdue.edu/blackmon/engl360k/critical.html
Stevenson, R. L. (1886). Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Longmans, Green and Co.
Utley, S. (2001, April 23). Auteurs.net-Le Meilleur du web litteraire. Retrieved from All about T. C. Boyle Resource Center: www.tcboyle.com
Wikipedia. (2012, August 28). 1980 's. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980s
Wikipedia. (2012, August 30). Victorian Era. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era
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