Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

"Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" was written at a time when the gothic horror style of writing was very popular. Doppelganger novels were also popular at the same time and this book falls into both categories. There were many novels around that time which were similar gothic horror stories; Dracula, Sweeney Todd and Frankenstein so gothic horror was a trend of the Victorians. There are certain aspects of the story which are very strong gothic horror.

On page 7 Stevenson describes how Jekyll felt when transforming into Hyde. Stevenson uses words like, racking pangs, grinding in the bones, deadly nausea and horror. These words are typical of the gothic horror style, especially the word horror, which, along with terror is used frequently throughout the book. Later on in the paragraph Jekyll explains the feeling he gets when he finally turns into Hyde. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body '…innocent freedom of the soul'. From this description of how it feels when he is Hyde, it sounds like he is high on drugs. At that time the Victorians were interested in medicine and drugs and it was legal to smoke cannabis and opium so Stevenson may have been used previous drug inflicted feelings as the way Jekyll is meant to have felt when turned into Hyde. He also has a reference to wine to describe the feeling. Both getting high and getting drunk are inflicted on ourselves by ourselves and we do this to get away from life. Jekyll uses his potion to get away from his normal life where he has to behave in a respectable way to keep a good name for himself. He uses the potion as an outlet for his bad side, which takes form as Hyde.           

A little earlier in the book the transformation from Jekyll into to Hyde is written as a first hand account by Dr. Hastie Lanyon. Again the language in this passage has a gothic feel to it, his face became suddenly black, deadliest terror, horror. All of these add to the build up of what has happened to Jekyll. Lanyon talks about the fact that he is mentally and physically scarred by the event that takes place. Also that now he has seen that happen he feels his life is at its end. I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die. Stevenson emphasises the transformation from Jekyll by giving it such a gothic feel, with a lot of gothic language and also by writing about it twice in the book. It gives it more impact, and the fact that it is the cause of a death adds to this effect that he is trying to achieve.
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All the gothic elements about this book are connected to Hyde; Hyde is the gothic horror element of the book. On page 56, where Hyde commits suicide it s set a night-time, which already gives it a gothic feel. Poole and Utterson are in Jekylls house, Hyde has fled to the cabinet, a small room at the back of the house containing the scientific equipment. Poole is ordered to break down the door with an axe, this reminds me of a common gothic scene with the arms in the air and the swinging of an axe. Throughout the book Hyde is likened to an animal, in most cases, ape-like. Here Hyde is in a panic, which leads him to his own death, A dismal screech, as of mere animal terror. Stevenson throws in the word terror to add the gothic feel. When Poole and Utterson enter the room, it seems to be very serene, as if nothing has happened, or so Stevenson leads you to believe, papers neatly set forth…things laid out for tea. This is to lead you into a false sense of security before unleashing the dead body, to add effect. Stevenson was obviously striving for effect, there are lots of signs. Overall this worked well because when he first showed it to his wife she found the story so horrific that she made him destroy it. When the body is located in the text it is only just dead so there is some sense of life still in the body, this makes it slightly more gruesome, the fact that he is dead but there are also signs of life. The cords of his face still moved with the semblance of life, but life was quite gone.

In the first chapter, which is setting the scene, there are lots of signs of gothic horror. It describes Jekylls house. Jekyll is a rich man and has a nice large house, but like him it has a bad side to it. The bad side to Jekyll is Hyde and the bad side to the house is what is described.

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