How is the paranormal made to seem normal? ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, a gothic novella, uses lots of realism to try to make the story believable. In ‘Portobello Road’ as well as absolute realism, the conversational style of story telling helps the reader believe.
In the stories, different styles of language are incorporated. In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ a very formal vernacular is used and journalese and legalese are also used whereas in ‘Portobello Road’ a much more modern vernacular is used and although it is a ghost story, it is set in modern London, in broad daylight. This is unusual because most ghost stories of that era were set in castles, haunted houses and graveyards. The authoress has set an extra task for herself by doing this. Muriel Stark uses documentary evidence, for instance letters, to encourage the reader to believe, as well as telling the story as a friend in a modern, relaxed vernacular. In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, although some parts are hard to believe, the majority is easily believable as it contains lots of realism.
A large part of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is the melodramatic leap from the mysterious to the paranormal. ‘Portobello Road’ also contains melodrama; Needle is telling the story and the reader has no idea she is dead and then it suddenly comes out of the blue. She mentions her death and then carries on as normal, and the reader sidelines this fact as the story continues. Though there is a lot of melodrama in both of the stories, this is disguised by the realism. In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, the author mentions specific places in London, to give a sense of place, which the everyday person would recognise (such as Soho etc). Also mentioned are everyday occurrences such as pea-souper fogs. In ‘Portobello Road’, places are also mentioned (i.e. Portobello Road market, Kent, Edinburgh, Africa).
Both stories are also made believable by the main characters presenting the stories to the reader. In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Mr Utterson, the lawyer and the person who represents us the reader, tells the story. When he opens the letters, or opens doors, we the reader are right behind him, egging him on. Needle tells the story in ‘Portobello Rd’ and we, the reader, can relate to her. We relate to the fact she has gone through life without a proper job by just earning enough or luckily finding money. She is a drifter who just drifts through life, just like a ghost. We also relate to her bitchiness to Kathleen. When she sees her friend Kathleen ageing and she herself is not, she says, “Poor Kathleen- I hate to say how she looked.” Though she says this, she is probably secretly enjoying it, as most women would.
The environment also plays a big part in both stories, adding to the realism as well as the believability and the understanding. Both are set in London, the capital of the known world, and both mention certain items to their advantage. In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ we see Soho and Cavendish Square mentioned, as well as Georgian streets, houses, doors, gas lamps and the chiming of bells, all of which add to the realism. In ‘Portobello Road’, we hear mention of jolly painted villas, Portobello Road market (a most unusual setting for a ghost story), Kent and of foreign countries such as Zimbabwe.
Characters also make a huge impact on the understanding and believability of a story. In both of the stories, the authors use the characters to help the reader enjoy and believe their story.
In ‘Portobello Road’ we have Needle who shows human emotions and delightful bitchiness to which all of the readers can relate and also uses irony: she says how they all look older and of course ghosts don’t age. Then we have George, who thinks the other characters have changed for the worse and in the end, he pays for the death of Needle by cracking up. All of this also adds to the large amount of realism in the story.
In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, we have firstly Jekyll, who suffered an emotionally deprived childhood, on which he blames his sins. There are verbal clues to Jekyll, ‘Je kill’ in French and German and in the book hear of a, “tendency for irregularities”, and “I concealed my pleasures.” Then we have Mr Utterson, the man who represents us, the reader, and who is a respectable lawyer. We all have evil inside of us, but Mr Utterson controls this evil by effort, conscience and self-discipline. He drinks gin instead of vintage wine and despite enjoying the theatre, does not go. Another character is Enfield, the person who first sparks curiosity and creates a sense of normality and finally Lanyon and Hyde. Lanyon’s death leads to the unfolding of the mystery explained in more documentary evidence. Hyde has an aura of hatred and evil personified as a human who once everybody sees, everybody dislikes.
In ghost stories, the monster has never been close to us and where we live, making us feel safe. Bram Stoker brought ‘Dracula’ to Whitby moor, but in ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, the monster is not just near us, it is inside of us.
There is a moral in both stories; in ‘Portobello Rd’ the moral is that George pays for the death of Needle by cracking up. In ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ the moral is that unrestrained reliance on science could be dangerous, or it is the battle between black and grey.
After reading the books, I enjoyed ‘Portobello Road’ more. I found it more easily believable. I think this was because of the modern, conversational language used and the fact that it was nearer my time zone. Viewed in a 19th century context, ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is also believable, but I didn’t find it as convincing.
I enjoyed both stories and I think the style and the language contribute to these two totally different stories in a big way.
After reading both, I have realised we don’t need chemicals to change from good to evil, we all have an evil side, but it is only exposed when encouraged.