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“The author not only wrote this novel to present his views on human personality but also because he wanted to shock contemporary readers out of their complacency. Show how parts of Jekyll and Hyde read as a horror story.”
There are many aspect of the horror genre that contribute to making a story scary in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Fighting and violence are evident as well as conflict between good and evil; the supernatural and the transformation; also the weather. These all appear in the novel and each contribute to the horror side of the narrative.
The first element of horror that I will discuss is fighting and violence. This is a very prominent element of horror in the novel. At the start of the book Mr Enfield describes an incident where he sees Mr Hyde trample a young girl “then came the horrible part of the thing for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. It sounds nothing to hear but it was hellish to see.” This was quite a horrific graphic description of Mr Hyde and this is just the start of the build up of Mr Hyde’s character. At this early description of suspense and horror the reader has a sense of the type of character of Mr Hyde and the tension is built up throughout the novel.
A reader will have a sense of anticipated horror and repulsion every time they read about him, knowing what he is capable of. This qualifies the novel to be in the horror genre. Another example of violence and horror is where Sir Danvers Carew is brutally murdered: “And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger. Stamping with his foot brandishing the cane and carrying on like a mad man … and at that Mr Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth and the next moment with ape like fury he was trampling his victim under foot, and hailing down a storm of blows under which bones audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the road way.”
This paragraph, I think, is the most horrific part of the novel. The audience has been waiting for Mr Hyde to do something really bad and tension has been building. Even though the reader anticipates something dreadful, the account of it in no way diminishes the sense of revulsion. It is very graphically described. The reader does not need pictures to have an image of the incident in their mind’s eye. To the people reading this novel at the time it was first written, it would be outrageously shocking, because they would not have read about this kind of thing before. Although atrocities occurred in the nation, the general public would not have heard about them because they would not have been reported and it would have been considered unsuitable material to be reported on. This was the exact reaction that the author was trying to provoke with this contemporary novel.
The next element of horror that I will discuss is the conflict between good and evil. All horror stories have an element of conflict between good and evil; don’t they? This structure is most present between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde because they are one and the same person. The inner conflict of one element struggling to dominate the other is compared in the following passages: “He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing something down right detestable.” This is Mr Enfield’s description of Mr Hyde’s appearance.
He infers that Mr Hyde is evil compared to his other personality Dr Jekyll, who he describes in the following way: “He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar guest and entertainer and whilst he had always been known for charities, he was now no less distinguished for religion.” This quote was taken from a passage when Mr Hyde turns back into Dr Jekyll. From this you can see that the two elements of good and evil are constantly battling over custody of the body. This is also quite scary because it shows the man as an unknown quantity and you never really know who he is. You would never know which element would be dominating his personality from one day to the next. This is an example of the underlying conflict and friction between the two characters which symbolise good and evil. Using the caricature of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde the author is making his reader look at himself because don’t we all struggle with making choices between good and evil?
Transformation is the next element of horror that I will discuss, as it is a key element in all gothic horror novels in this period, along with Dracula and Frankenstein. There are underlying similarities and style that authors use in all transformations to scare their reader. It was almost fashionable at the time for authors of gothic horrors to use transformations in order to frighten the reader. The transformation from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde is never actually seen in the novel. The reader’s imagination is sufficient by now to conjure a picture of horror in the mind’s eye. However, the transformation is described by Dr Jekyll’s butler, Pool: “Changed? Well, yes I think so, said the butler. Have I been twenty years in this man’s house, to be deceived about his voice? No sir; master’s made away with; he was made away with eight days ago, when we heard him cry out upon the name of God.” This is only a description of what Pool has heard although it isn’t very descriptive it leaves you to guess what is happening behind the closed doors at Dr Jekyll’s house. This too is a style used in the horror by genre.
Transformations are also very closely linked to the supernatural and the belief that chemicals can cause Dr Jekyll to turn into Mr Hyde, who is not only the opposite personality but also different in appearance. It is well known that most people fear the unknown and the unexplainable so I would say that the author used this very effectively to create horror in the novel. Transformations and the supernatural go hand in hand and would be under the horror genre
Descriptions of the weather are possibly the best element of horror, which add atmosphere. Almost every horror novel, film or play uses weather to cause tension and atmosphere, the most obvious example being a thunder storm or thick fog. Because this is so common place in horror novels when the narrative describes is we instantly feel anxious, knowing that something bad is about to occur. In gothic horror novels you notice that when someone gets murdered it’s never on a sunny day or a starry night: “I was coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o’clock of a black winter morning.” “It was a wild cold, seasonable night of March.” The use of weather is a subtle way of setting the scene. These quotes were taken from passages following which, some horrific incident takes place.
So, in conclusion, I would say that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde reads as a horror novel with the effective use of all of these elements to contribute to the horror of the person of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The author wanted to shock his reader and he succeeded, even to the present day. Although it uses some classic elements of horror, like the weather and transformations, it was also original and broadens the horror genre for other horror writers.