In this novel there are several themes, however the theme of ‘London’ is one of which is key importance and significance. London is the setting of the story, and to an extent it is the foundation or basis from which the rest of the story evolves.
The focus of the story is on the duality of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll represents the everyday rational thinking, well-mannered, respectable middle class citizen. However, Hyde represents and symbolises the inner side to most humans, he is the evil inside of Jekyll. I noticed that there were hints to this at various stages in the novel, however I believe a key one is on page 31 where it says, “Now that the evil influence had been withdrawn, a new life began for Dr Jekyll.” This phrase gives emphasis to the facts the Jekyll is also Hyde, but at the same time showing their differences. Even though they are physically the same person they are two separate entities.
This is a connective to the theme of London as this city is one of which has respect both internally and externally of Britain, in the Victorian day and age. This refers to the figure of reputable Dr Jekyll. None the less London also has the element of being a ruff, dangerous and gloomy city that symbolises the evilness of Mr Hyde.
Due to the fact that Jekyll is seen to be respectable, well liked and warming we never really look for the Hyde beneath his surface. Hence we do not try to find the evil in something, which seems so indefinably good. Again this is relative to London because when people visit London they go to the nice, indulging places and do not see the grim side of things.
London is used as a foundation to the novel as is enables readers to feel a sense of emotion, tension and tone. This builds up the atmosphere and we get a feel for the mood and characters feelings as a result, for example on page 23 it says, ” The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses… like a district of some city in a nightmare.
This gives the reader a ‘chilling’ affect and allows them to almost feel as though they are present. This is a reflection on the dark and grim side of this huge city. A quote which shows Dr Jekyll had a reasonably good standard of living comes from page 16, ” Round the corner from the bystreet, there was a square of ancient handsome houses…” a little further on it continues “at the door of this, which wore a great air of wealth and comfort”. This builds up Jekylls profile before we are even introduced to him as a character and puts into our minds that this is a man who is known only for good. From this we can see that you are partly judged and viewed on your assets and the location in which you live.
Another reason why London is so essential to the reader is given a profile partly due to the way the environment looks. For example; the difference in the appearance of buildings in London helps to create an idea of what a specific place is like. I.e. the Victorian London with two very different sides. This once again relates back to the idea that London symbolises the characters of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll is supposedly has decent looks whilst Hyde is defined as being ” pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation” (16). Hence this shows how the duality of humans can also be reflected by a location, in this instance I refer to Jekyll and Hyde in London.
I believe that the author Robert Louis Stevenson used London as the setting of the story for a couple of reasons. I think that the first reason is that Stevenson was aware of Victorian London and what it was like. The second reason is because Stevenson knew that many people could relate to London as it is widely visited and talked about. This in affect is a writers ‘tool’, which helps to draw the reader into the novel. It also helps because it means that the writer does not have to ‘set the scene’ himself, it has already been done. Settings help to identify what the story is about, along with the way in which it is written.
Overall I believe that London is a key element to this tremendous novel, and if the story was based on any other city I do not believe that it would have had the same impact on the readers. In conclusion London is the spine to this book, which helps emphatically because it gives a good base for the theme of duality, which another key part of the novel.