Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the novel “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.” The novel is set in the society of Victorian London and was written in 1886. The story tells of a middle-class respectable man, who’s profession as a scientist one day leads him to experiment with a potion in his laboratory. He does this due to the fact that he is living in a society where he is seen to be highly respectable and where individuals have only one personality, i.e. being good.
This potion goes wrong, resulting in a personality splitting into two opposite directions, one being evil and the other being good, causing horrific situations and terrible events like murders. The scene in which Carew is murdered is a very important scene as it is a turning point in the novel. It is the first major crime that Hyde has committed, and so it makes the reader wonder whether the mystery is finally going to be revealed as he has committed a serious crime and there is no way that he can escape. In this scene, Stevenson utilizes a range of different devices and techniques to add efficacy to the scene and the novel.
The scene starts off with a strong first sentence. Stevenson uses the first sentence to grab the reader’s attention and to make them want to read on and know what is actually going to happen that is so momentous. The reader gets the idea of momentous because Stevenson uses the words “London was startled,” this emphasises that this “crime of singular ferocity,” effected the whole of London, not just one or two people. Another purpose of this first sentence is to prepare the reader for what they are going to read next. This is efficacious as using words like “rendered” and “high position of the victim,” makes the reader feel that we know that something really really horrendous and dreadful is about to happen, which makes the reader want to definitely read on.
The reader is also made to notice another one of Stevenson’s techniques as he helps the reader to see things from the house-maid’s point of view and through her eyes. The reader is able to become aware that the maid is looking out of the window, the maid is feeling very warm and affectionate as she is looking at Carew. The reader gets this impression as her exact words are “aged and beautiful” and “polite,” and “gentlemen.” But suddenly then comes in a totally opposite appearanced man, which after a few seconds of thought she realises is Hyde, who she has a “dislike” for. Also the reader had seen him step on the little girl earlier.
The maid’s emotions then change from being calm to being nervous as she goes on to describe the scene and the devastating murder. The reader can see the change as Stevenson has moved from using words like “romantically,” to words like “flame of anger” and “fury.” The reader can feel these emotions which shows the start and the end of the scene being totally opposite to each other as it started off calm then gradually changed to nervousness and then finally into a lot of shock and terror; ending in the maid fainting, making the reader share the maid’s emotions and taking into consideration the shock the maid has suffered.
The description of the murder is very clear and vivid. The way Stevenson has described the homicide, the reader is able to imagine and picture the ghastly killing. Stevenson uses strong and solid language to describe the details of the crime, for example the words “clubbed” and “flame of anger,” are used to indicate the anger inside Hyde. The reader is also made to notice that the murder was very vicious and
ferocious, the words in the scene that implies this are “brandishing,” “trampling” and “underfoot.” There is also another contrast in the way Stevenson describes the meeting and then the murder. When Carew and Hyde first meet, Carew was speaking in a “polite” way and Hyde “answered never a word,” which gives the reader the perception that things were quiet and not much communication was going on. But then there is a huge transformation, and the air is full of anger and aggression, this makes the scene effective as the two contrasts are very different, making the reader question why. The first sentence prepares the reader for what has just happened in a diminutive way as we know that something significant is going to happen, but at the same time the reader is also stunned as they did not think that the event would be this massive and horrifying and are a little shocked.
Stevenson describes both Carew and Hyde in different ways, as Carew has calm words and Hyde has angry and aggressive words. For example Carew is described as “beautiful,” “aged,” “innocent,” “polite,” “gentleman,” and has “old world kindness,” whereas Hyde is described as “ape-like,” “mad,” “frenzied,” “rude,” “disliked,” and also has a “ill-contained patience.” The way these two characters are described is effective because the reader can clearly see the contrast in the two personalities and can also visualize the way they are described by someone else i.e. being the maid. This is also another very powerful technique by Stevenson because the reader can see that Hyde is a total monster, so the murder was unreasonable and unjust as Carew was totally irreproachable and there was no legitimate reason for killing him. This technique is really successful as it adds mystery to Hyde and makes the reader presume that Hyde is a bit unstable as he murdered a totally innocent mind, making the reader want to read on until the strange mystery is finally revealed.
In this scene, Stevenson also uses symbolism helps to augment the scene. Carew was an MP, so his job was to try to keep the law intact and also maintain the standards and the strict and scrupulous rules of Victorian Society, which highlights the fact that he symbolizes the actual Victorian Society. Hyde was in a very negative state of mind and was very angry because at that time Jekyll was refusing and telling himself not to take the potion, which obviously affected Hyde. Therefore Hyde was actually angry at the rules of society. In addition, Hyde could have chosen to kill anyone but he chose someone who represented society and maintained the rules of society. As a result of murdering Carew and “shattering his bones,” Hyde was actually destroying society.
Also this brought about the idea of id, ego and superego, which were written by Freud late on in 1900. The reader gets the picture of Carew being the superego or the conscience. Jekyll was the ego, the one that was reasoning and holding back and finally leaving Hyde with id, being the instinct, the one who does not think of the consequences of its actions. All these are symbolizing the three layers of personality. So, by killing the superego, the id was making the superego, the conscience quiet and totally silent so that it would not have been influencing the ego and also the id. This is also a bit like the story of Jack the Ripper. This symbolism is vital in the importance of the scene, as it gives the reader a new perspective of the murder; this also makes it very effective and makes the reader want to read further on.
At the time of the Victorian Society, there were many new theories and ideas. For example Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution, which influences Stevenson as he describes Hyde as “ape-like.” Also there was a lot of interest in science. Stevenson was influenced by many people, and has used some of these theories and ideas in his novel. There was also a lot of contradiction in Victorian Society. People like Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens wrote novels based on the two sides to Victorian Society, i.e. the rich and the veneer of respectability compared to the poor and the criminals.
This novel was also based on the theory of the “Doppelganger.” This extract of the novel adds a major turning point, which shows the reader what Hyde is like and how the society did not accept him. Stevenson wrote this scene very well as he describes the murder successfully and it has different contrasts in it making the reader want to read it and leaving them totally stunned throughout the whole scene. The novel “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” was very successful as it has been around for many years and is still being enjoyed today and will be for many years yet to come.