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When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the time Victorian London was a terrible place to live in, for instance, London was riddled full of prostitution. Most of London was dilapidated because there was no sanitation system so London had a terrible stench to it. It was smoggy because of the factories and there was a great deal of of child cruelty. Children as young as five would have to work in appalling conditions just in order to eat. There was crime because back then the police were unreliable, drunk and they weren’t introduced until 1829, and there were major unsolved crimes like Jack the Ripper, but on the positive side etiquette was seen as important. We can see in this by the way Dr Utterson behaves, but unfortunately the lower class as you will discover later on in the novella tend to take etiquette less to account
There is significant reference to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution which in those days meant that people believed that there were two halves to the human character , the noble side and the criminal or animal side, the noble side being Dr Jekyll and the animal and criminal side being Mr. Hyde. Stevenson helps make this apparent by his description of Hyde making him look repulsive, ugly and having a terrible temper and an animal like behaviour. The Victorians had a belief that once you’re a criminal you stay a criminal because the criminals were naturally bad. We can see this by the way In which everyone who sees him describes him as
“”Particularly small and particularly wicked-looking, is what
the maid calls him,” said the officer.”
The fact that this sort of reaction is natural to everyone who sees Mr Hyde implies to us that firstly Stevenson believed in the ‘criminal class’ theory, Mr Hyde is living proof of this.
The atmosphere throughout the majority of the book is eerie and mysterious because of the darkness of the area and how slummy it is, with all of the dilapidation and crime rife. This also helps to give out a sense of mystery and intrigue at the same time.
” Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east the
line was broken by the entry of a court; and just at that point a
certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the
This quotation here also gives out a sense of imminent danger the word sinister shows this to us because it gives out a negative impression of the house and the area around the house
You may have also noticed as you read through the whole book that if you read through it carefully enough you would discover several links to the first chapter for instance the murder of Sir Danvers Carew and the attack on the little girl. Both of these clues are linked due to the fact that they were both unprovoked and also because they are both examples of the fierce aggresion Mr Hyde displays all throughout the book.
“Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough at the
corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man
trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on
This is also shows yet another reference to Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species again, with Mr Hyde this time round, displaying his criminal side. This quotation shows Mr. Hyde’s potential for extreme violence and even potential murder
Other people display their ” animal side” to them during the book when The girl’s family and the girl’s doctor had
“I knew what was in his mind, just as he knew what was in mine; and killing being out of the question,”
this also shows how everyone has an “animal side” within themselves.
Another recurring clue that appears and re- appears in this book is the theme of the key. For instance, the key and references to the key have been written throughout the book.
“Mr. Utterson again walked some way in silence and obviously
under a weight of consideration.”You are sure he used a key?” he
inquired at last.”
If you were to go through the book at any point you would discover how important this key was. And the fact that Mr Utterson is asking a question “Are you sure he used a key?” also raises the mystery surrounding the key, because his doubt makes you wonder about why he has his doubts about the key
Furthermore is the matter of the Door which seems to be a complete mystery and just as the key is, it is mentioned several times throughout the book, this has a significance because firstly the door serves as a main clue you
“Black Mail House is what I call the place
with the door, “
The name given to the place with the door, ( Blackmail house) helps bring in intrigue to the door and the secret behind it because of the negative association with the door, thus increasing our intrigue in this constantly mentioned door and the secret that lies behind it. The word “Blackmail” also suggests that there is surreptitious activity going on in that house.
The other strange clue that is hinted at earlier on in chapter I is the whole matter of the cheque book’s signature which Utterson remarks upon.
“drawn payable to bearer and signed with a name that I can’t mention, though it’s one of the points of my story, but it was a name at least very well known and often printed. “
the handwriting of the signature has a significant link to a main character in the later chapters of the book and serves as a huge clue during the book, this also creates a feel of curiosity because by his teasing the information to you it hieghtens the feel of tension and intrigue.
Furthermore there are plenty of comparisons to Mr Hyde and the devil which are used almost as frequently as Robert Louis Stevenson uses Mr Hyde and the animal like comparisons.
” I could see that–but carrying it
off, sir, really like Satan”
This quotation highlights again Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which also show’s how terrible a person Mr Hyde can possibly be. This is also significant because here we can see Mr. Hyde being personified as the devil
Another important clue that Robert Stevenson introduces to us is Mr Hyde’s cheque and his unbelievable wealth, which is linked on to another part of the story where the mysterious will is brought along, as well as the handwriting of Mr Hyde where Mr Utterson takes the cheque as a comparison
” I took the liberty of pointing out to my gentleman
that the whole business looked apocryphal, and that a man does
not, in real life, walk into a cellar door at four in the morning
and come out with another man’s cheque for close upon a hundred
We can see from this that Mr Hyde is rich enough to throw money around and this also shows his shiftiness because of the way he had jus walked into his house and had then started to throw money all around the place in order to make himself look better.
Stevenson uses the setting of the house and the house’s area already gives us a negative impression of the house, and also implies that the house is empty and neglected even though in reality it is quite opposite to our impression.
“Discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every in every feature the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence.”
This quotation tells us how the house is in bad disrepair, and how it is almost rotting away due to the “negligence”
Another example of this negligence which has just proceeded away is shown again later on in chapter I page 11, we can see this by his description of his house
“For close on a generation no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages.”
This links to a quotation which I had made earlier on during the essay about Mr. Utterson which adds to the mystery because it makes you wonder about how someone can have a key to a house that has been in disrepair for years and then have the ability to pay out 100 pounds, because of these illogical clues the reader will then be drawn into the book more in order to figure out these clues.
In conclusion we can tell the Dr Louis Stephenson had effectively used the clues during the first chapter of this book because firstly there is a large amount of references to later clues scattered throughout the book, secondly most of the links to the clues we can see here are not vague and the links between them are strong and solid.
We can also see from this that Stephenson had created an immense sense of intrigue because of firstly the setting he chose, which was the dark, late night when all the criminals are roaming. Also he had increased the sense of intrigue by having the main character have an illogical sudden fear of the streets. He also uses the typical setting of a crime scene, which is dark, early morning when few people which people see as dangerous, by doing this Stevenson had therefore managed to draw in more people into his novella.