How does Robert Louis Stevenson Create Tension in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Essay
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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a gothic horror story. Around the time the novella was written, people were very much into things that were old, dark and creepy, which is very typical of this type of story. They were also very interested in how the human mind works. This story has the aspect of the human mind in it, which shows that Robert Louis Stevenson was influenced by society in this matter.
Throughout the story, Stevenson creates tension in a number of different ways e.
g. the way the plot unfolds, the structure, characterisation, setting and by deliberately keeping the reader waiting.
Stevenson shapes the plot so that we do not see the whole picture until the very end. Instead he reveals it to us slowly by giving us clues. These clues make the reader wonder, and start to ask questions. This is good because the reader will keep on reading to find out the answer to their questions.
The incident where a small man (Mr. Hyde) tramples all over a little girl is one of those clues. First Stevenson tells you about Mr. Hyde trampling over the girl. After this, he tells you that Mr. Hyde goes through a sinister looking door and then produces a cheque signed by Dr. Jekyll. This raises suspicion because Dr. Jekyll was a very respectable kind of man. He was hardly the kind of person to cold-heartedly trample over little girls.
Another clue he gives us is the will Dr. Jekyll made. It said that if anything should happen to him, all his possessions should be given to Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde alone. This is strange in itself as most people leave things to all their family and close friends. Even stranger is the fact that his will said that if Dr. Jekyll went missing for three months or more, Mr. Hyde should simply take over his life. This is very strange, its almost as if Dr. Jekyll knew that something would happen to him.
The last clue that I am going to mention (although there were many more) is the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. This was a horrific murder. But the clue lies in the weapon used to kill him. It was a stick that Mr. Utterson had bought Dr. Jekyll as a present. This is another clue that gets you thinking. Did he steal the stick? Or is there some other explanation? This creates a lot of tension in the story, it also makes the reader want to read on until they find out the answer.
The structure of this novella is something that also creates tension. It is set out so that the reader sees things from more than one point of view. First of all you get the story from Mr. Utterson’s point of view. Then you get Dr. Lanyon’s narrative, which explains the letter he received from Dr. Jekyll. After this you get the full statement from Dr. Jekyll himself, which is where you get the answer to all your questions. Because of this layout, the reader is kept waiting until the very end of the story before they can make sense of what has been happening. This is why the structure creates tension.
The way Stevenson reveals Mr Hyde to us makes a lot of tension. He keeps on building up the character by revealing bits about him here and there throughout the story. This brings him across as a very strange and mysterious character.
The setting also plays an important part in the build up of tension. The way Stevenson describes the door at the beginning of the novella creates a lot of tension. He describes it as “blistered and dismatches on the panels” he also says that “children played shop upon the steps”, “schoolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings” and “for close on a generation no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages”. This makes the door sound very neglected and not a very nice place at all. Also, he describes it as “sinister”. This makes it sound very evil. All of this builds up tension and makes the reader want to read on to find out what the door has to do with the story.
Throughout the story Stevenson deliberately keeps the reader waiting. A classic example of this is in the chapter “The Last Night”. Stevenson gives us a lot more clues to the mystery, such as Poole visiting Mr. Utterson about Dr. Jekyll. After their conversation finishes and they go to find Dr. Jekyll, he makes us wait and wait. First, we have to wait while the door is broken down. Then they find Mr. Hyde’s body dead on the floor and we are then left with a question: Where is Dr. Jekyll?
In conclusion, I think Stevenson was very successful in creating tension in the story. All the different clues and questions he gave us right the way through the story create loads of tension. This is because as the story progresses it gets more complicated, and harder to understand. Then finally he gives the reader all the answers to all of the questions swimming round in their heads.
As I read the story, I was getting more and more confused. I was trying to figure out what was going on, but did not succeed. As I got further through the story I just wanted to keep on reading to get more clues so that I could try to figure it out. When I finally got to the end of the story, and the accounts from Dr. Lanyon and Dr. Jekyll, everything dropped into place. After you read it, you start to think about all the clues you have been given and how obvious it should have been.
I think this is a book that people will still be reading for many years to come. It is very interesting to read and it’s very enjoyable. This is the type of book, that if you read it again you would look at it from a totally different perspective, which therefore makes it a lot more interesting.