Analysed Key Quotations
Starting with this extract (start of chapter 4), how does Stevenson present moments of horror in Jekyll and Hyde?
At the beginning of the extract, taken from the ‘Last Night’ Hyde is lurking in the cabinet in a hope he will not be found by Poole and Utterson. Stevenson describes how “a dismal screech as of mere animal terror” rang through the cabinet as Hyde can hear the two men breaking in. The verb “screech” conveys the fear of Hyde as he is about to be discovered in the cabinet and the comparison of the “screech” to an “animal” may horrify the reader as it reinforces that Hyde is animalistic and inhuman, which builds tension as the reader ponders what Hyde may have unleashed inside the cabinet. Moreover the “animal terror” reinforces the vulnerability of Hyde and may create a sense of horror in the reader as they feel sympathy for the masked Hyde who is being compared to a vulnerable animal. A Victorian reader may also feel revolted that the respectable Jekyll is hiding Hyde, who is being hunted for the murder of Sir Danvers Carew as Jekyll is supposed to be a respectable doctor and Stevenson is suggesting that gentlemen in this era have two sides: a public and a private side hidden from society. This may link to Freud’s theory of personality that our ‘id,’ is animalistic and is caged by society yet still lurks within.
In the extract Stevenson also presents the discovery of Hyde’s body as a horrific moment as he describes Hyde’s body as “sorely contorted and still twitching.” The adjective “contorted” suggests that the suicide has been painful and that Hyde’s body has been distorted out of its usual shape. It may also suggest a struggle between Jekyll and Hyde as Hyde over powers Jekyll and commits suicide, killing them both. The verb “twitching” suggests that Jekyll is still partially alive and creates a grotesque image of Hyde’s body still having “some semblance of life.” This may provoke disgust and revulsion in the reader as Hyde’s body is presented as slowly perishing in a painful fashion. Stevenson successfully conveys the horror of the discovery of Hyde’s body and conveys Hyde’s death as painful and revolting. We are also told that Hyde’s body is the body of a “self-destroyer” which would further shock the Victorian reader as suicide is considered a sin by Christians and they would therefore believe Hyde would be condemned to hell for all of his sinful actions.
Furthermore, Hyde is described as “wearing clothes far too large for him” and he suggests the clothes were “of the doctor’s bigness.” The juxtaposition between “the face of Edward Hyde” and his wearing Jekyll’s clothes foreshadows the discovery in Chapter 9 that they are the same person. Some readers in this chapter may therefore realise that they are the same person which would create a feeling of horror in the reader as we have previously witnessed Hyde killing Carew with “ape-like fury” in chapter 4 and now realise that Jekyll knew and therefore is partially responsible. The Victorian reader would feel a sense of shock that the once respectable Dr Jekyll is in fact Hyde, and would feel revulsion he is capable of murder. This would be particularly unsettling to a Victorian reader who would most likely believe that humans were created by God so this presentation of Jekyll’s dual nature would leave them concerned and confused. Stevenson uses moments of horror to provoke a sense of fear and outrage in the reader, but also to perhaps highlight how civilisation cages the beast within us all.
Stevenson establishes scenes to create horror throughout the novella as a whole. This can be seen in ‘The Story of the Door’ when Hyde ‘trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming.’ The juxtaposition between the verb ‘trampled’ and the adverb ‘calmly’ aids in conveying a sense of horror. Not only is Hyde able to commit this revolting and violent act, but he is able to do it in a ‘calm’ manner. This lack of remorse and repentance would have been especially disturbing to a Victorian readership – adhering to strict moral guidelines, they would have been repulsed and horrified by Hyde’s lack of morality. Furthermore, the girl was left ‘screaming’. This verb only adds to the horror of the incident as it allows the readers to understand the brutality of the act. The readers would therefore be horrified by the cruelty of the actions of Hyde and appalled by his lack of penitence.
Moreover, later in the novella Hyde kills Sir Danvers Carew with ‘ape-like fury’. Carew is described as a ‘beautiful’ man with ‘white’ hair who ‘bowed’ to Hyde. This gives the readers the idea that Carew is an innocent and reputable member of Victorian society. Hyde treats this man with callousness and disdain breaking out into ‘a great flame of anger’. The use of this metaphor implies that Hyde is a mercurial character whose actions are unexpected and frightening. Additionally, Hyde is compared to an ‘ape’. A Victorian readership would have been shocked by this comparison as Darwin had just published his Theory of Evolution stating that men evolved from primitive life forms. Within this, Darwin also acknowledged that people could revert to a more animalistic state. Therefore the comparison of Hyde to a more ‘troglodytic’ life form seems to imply that devolution was a sincere possibility, further instilling a sense of horror into the readers. The contrast between Hyde’s treatment of Carew and Carew’s personal characteristics seem to heighten the horror of the passage and leave the readers feeling shaken by this unprompted outburst.
Finally, Hyde’s transformation into Dr Jekyll in Dr Lanyon’s Narrative, is described in a horrifying manner. Hyde’s features become ‘suddenly black’ and his features ‘melt and alter’. The adjective ‘black’ evokes ideas of evil and darkness and creates a sense of foreboding. The verb ‘melt’ conjures a disturbing image in the readers’ minds – the physical deformity that Hyde is always described with worsens and further distorts, creating a petrifying image. The transformation causes Lanyon’s ‘mind’ to be ‘submerged in terror’. This metaphor could imply that Lanyon is drowning in fear from the horror of what he has just seen. This transformation causes Lanyon’s death from ‘shock’ and the readers are also horrified by what they have witnessed.