How Does the Setting Enhance the Atmosphere in ‘The Strange case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’? Essay
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The Gothic movement was at its highest popularity, when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Gothic movement was about the darker side of life and man’s soul, and indeed romance, morbidity and death. In the novel this exploration of man’s darker side is taken to the extreme. Where there is the belief that there are literally two sides to a person, in the novel the two sides are split. With that duality, you also get a change in setting and this enhances the atmosphere.
Advance in science and medicine influenced minds and questioned beliefs of the Victorian age.
For example, does Mr Hyde ever come out in the day? This is because of the darkness in him is accentuated outside by night and shadows. He appears in gloomy surroundings in bad circumstances, and situations. For example, in the Carew murder ‘a fog rolled over the city’ which is like a carpet of gloom and horror descending before you even know what is about to happen. After its happened you get the ‘great chocolate coloured pall’ come over the city. Darkness and night have deeper connotations, apart from everyone disliking the dark.
The murder of Danvers Carew was also in darkness, which represents the connection between dark, blackness and evil. There was a full moon, which is well known to emphasise eerie settings. Dark represents evil and people are scared of the dark. This is because when you’re in the dark you cant see and it’s unknown who or what is around you. Just like it is unknown what actually causes evil. Mr. Hyde himself appears physically evil in his features, because he is the polar opposite of Dr. Jekyll.
The relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde coincides with night and day. As Dr. Jekyll is usually in day, in wealthy surroundings and Mr. Hyde, where he lives is a messy old house in Soho and creeps around in the night. In this house, he has a housekeeper with an ‘evil’ face, smoothed by hypocrisy’ so in fact, it appears that everything to do with him is not good. The house itself that Mr Hyde lives in is in ‘dismal quarter of Soho’. Before the book goes on to say what happened on page 27, it sets the scene. It is made out to seem like some hellish underworld, with a ‘glow of rich, lurid brown’ and even the light is weak against the darkness in the setting; ‘a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths.’ This weakness of light could also be telling you that good against the darkness and evil in the book is powerless.
This is like with Dr. Jekyll ending up taken over by the badness- Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll actually likes being Mr. Hyde more than himself, because he is younger and free compared to the restraints of Victorian middle class respectability. He is younger in Mr. Hyde because his bad side has not yet been fully developed. He calls it haggard because he wants to give the impression that it’s old and tired. Then, when Mr Utterson is visiting Dr. Jekyll, it is ‘late in the afternoon’, so this could be symbolising that there is light now but soon there will be darkness, i.e. evil. I believe that when Robert Louis Stevenson was writing this book, his own life has influenced the setting, as he used to live in Edinburgh where there were two parts, the old, grimy and poor parts in the centre of the city and the rich, posh suburban houses.
These opposites in setting- the rich suburbs contrasting with the dark back streets emphasises and night with day make Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll seem even further apart and yet they are the same person. This also adds to the effect of mystery in the plot, like at the beginning not knowing what events would occur. In night, when he appears for example, ‘he lay and tossed in the gross darkness of the night’. Then he has a nightmare, which is a sign that bad things are to come and the dark symbolises that also.
Robert Louis Stevenson himself had bad dreams and nightmares in his childhood, perhaps this relates to the man in the story. The mental landscape of the writer reflects in this book. His nightmares, the people in the Victorian age who lead a dual life. For example, when he was younger, him and his friend Charles Baxter would go out and pretend to be lower class and go to taverns. They would lead a dual life, just like that of Jekyll and Hyde, except they could in the end control whether they become that person or not.
To conclude, duality runs throughout the whole of this book, with
day/night, good/bad, Jekyll/Hyde, wealthy suburbs/grimy back streets, respectability (boring)/freedom (exciting). I think that his life experiences and feelings play a large part in the story and it’s inner meanings. In this book you can see that the setting relates greatly to the plot and Jekyll and Hyde. I think Jekyll and Hyde could relate to people in modern day society, because most people put on an act and don’t portray whom they really are deep down inside. Yet, when they are put in a different place and time, with different people with different behaviours and morals, they are suddenly let loose as a different person. The connection to the story with Jekyll not coming back in the end and Hyde taking over could be applied to this behaviour. Because, when someone puts on an act for such a long time, not only do the people surrounding, but also the person who is doing this, starts to believe that the person they have made out to be cannot be distinguished from the real person inside. So, overall the setting enhances the atmosphere a great deal more than you can perceive because of the underlying connotations and meanings.