How does Stevenson create mystery and suspense in the opening 8 chapters of ;The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’? Essay Sample
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Introduction of TOPIC
Jekyll and Hyde is the dark story written by Stevenson about one man with a split personality, or the ‘beast inside the man’. It was written in 1886 and is thought to be based on the characters Burke and Hare; needless to say it caused outrage at the time, as shortly after the book was released Jack the Ripper terrorised London and shared the same characteristics as the evil Mr. Hyde.
Stevenson was brought up by his nurse, and she told him there were only two types of people that existed in the world: good and bad, i.e Jekyll and Hyde. Despite the fact that people were shocked by the idea of a respectable doctor meddling with science and enticing another evil side or beast of himself, the book was still hugely popular and even today when people refer to someone slightly crazy or with drastic mood swings they are said to be “like Jekyll and Hyde!”
The story begins with the introduction of Mr. Utterson; a serious, rspectable yet quite lonely man, as Stevenson writes “he drank gin when he was alone and although he enjoyed the theatre, he had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years” and ” a man of utter countenances that was never lighted by a smile”. He is introduced with great care and detail to portray him as a trustworthy man-“the last good influence in the lives of downgoing men” to the reader. After all, who wouldn’t trust a quiet renowned and respected lawyer? His thoughts being put into our minds lead us to see the story unravel as he does and make the same-unfortunately incorrect- assumptions as he does.
In fact, all the characters are introduced very quickly, with the first chapter being entitiled’Story of the Door’. The story of this door leads us right into the story of Mr. Hyde, all the time building an atmosphere of mystery with deliberate language describing the scenery; one building is described as “two storey high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey” making the building sound menacing. The ‘door’ story is set in the gothic settings of old town Edinburgh come sinister alleyways of London. As Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield are taking a walk one day they pass the much anticipated door. Stevenson manages to create mystery through description and dialogue, with Utterson bringing it up; “Did you ever remark that door? It is connected in my mind, with a very odd story.” Immediately we are focused on it and wondering just what the story is. It has already made itself very different and conspicuous to its surroundings, despite its plain and shabby appearance-“equipped with neither bell nor knocker,blistered and distained” in an area where shop fronts were like “rows of smiling saleswomen, freshly painted shutters,well-polished brasses and general cleanliness.”
The contrast marks the door out as odd , and the use of ‘smiling’ shows the area could have two sides, two personalities, which could be seen as a sign of things to come, and shows there is something different about it, making it seem mysterious and provoking the reader to ponder where the door leads to and who lives there. As Mr. Enfield tells his ‘odd story’ about Hyde, we increasingly learn more about him and his effect on people-and he certainly isn’t described as ‘nice’. Typically,the story happened at night on a silent dingy street on a dark night (which could be mirroring Hyde’s dark personality-emphasises the horror designed to be associated with his name), and he is described to have trampled on a young innocent girl; something to shock the reader.
Stevenson goes as far as to compare him to “Satan” and the situation “Hellish”, clearly showing Hyde is an evil man and there is something unearthly and not right about him, which creates a semantic field of the supernatural. Who would have thought a man so monstrous and detested could have been a well known man with the respectable profession of a Doctor? What kind of Doctor has “women kept off him with force, for they were wild as harpies” and makes men “turn sick and white with the desire to kill him”?
In chapter two theres is another description of this sort “and still the figure had no face which he might know it; even in his dreams it had no face”. All this descriptive and elusive writing creates mystery on his appearance and character, although many elements of his personality are revealed as evil All these adjectives used make Hyde something almost untouchable and unreal, the type of monster you read about in horror stories and Greek legends. The reader is left in the dark, thinking only who Mr. Hyde could be and what link he has to the other characters in the story, yet feels a sense of dissatisfaction as the two characters agree at the end of part 1 to “never speak of this again”. However, the reader gets a clear feeling that references to Mr. Hyde aren’t going to end there, and that there is more to this Hyde person than is said.
Stevenson continues to entertain and keep readers guessing with a few clues and the the build up of tension and suspense in the mystery surrounding Hyde and his importance. And Hyde’s presence and importance is always very much there and clear; he’s mentioned frequently and in each chapter, and in the second chapter we get to meet him- a great build of suspense as we are eager to find out for ourselves if he is as ‘hellish’ as he is said to be. The description of him doesn’t disappoint, and Stevenson doesn’t concentrate much on his physical attributes, but t
he atmosphere and aura surrounding him: “pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity
Mr Utterson has the typical reaction to Hyde, Stevenson writing “not all of these could explain the hitherto disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr Utterson regarded him” and “If ever I read Satan’s signature upon a face,it is that of your new frend” [Hyde-Jekyll’s ‘friend’] which creates tension and suspense through curiosity. Chapter 3 sees a description of Dr, Jekyll upon the description of Mr Hyde as well, and as he is mentioned Jekyll is said to have “grown pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes” showing even the mention of Hyde can arouse the evil side in a man and shows the depth in darkness of Hyde’s character-something Victorian readers were morbidly fascinated but equally scared by. Jekyll goes on to describe his situation as a ‘very strange one’ which deepens readers and Utterson’s suspicions that he is being blackmailed, and the line “if I am taken away” provokes even more suspicion towards Mr.Hyde.
There’s a gap in time between chapters 3 and 4, and Hyde’s disappearance seems to have eased anxiety, i.e, made people drop their gaurds, as in chapter 4 comes Hyde’s worst crime yet: a murder.
There is a great build up to the murder, everything in the scene being affected by it, the weather (pathetic fallacy) being foggy “the fog rolling over the city” indicating a mist of uncertainty and mystery about events and representing the character of Mr.Hyde, who we still know little about. A woman is the only witness in the scene and this makes the event even more dramatic, because now not only does something horrific happen but someone as feeble as a woman had to watch it as well! Writing and ideas like this create mystery as it makes Hyde seem worse and the way the murder was described creates horror. Hyde is again portrayed as an animal ‘ape-like’ making him seem irrational and giving a more ‘raw’ effect. The fact a woman witnessed the murder was particularly shocking as were the views in Victorian times and this would have shocked audiences.
The victim of the murder-Mr.Carew- was also extremely well known and respected; the fact Hyde would kill someone of such great importance reveals a lot about his character and shows us that he has definitely not calmed down as we thought he had. The murder is described in detail as well; ‘bones were audibly shattered’adding to the horrific effect. We don’t completely understand Hyde’s motives for this though, as it was mentioned Carew was carrying a note but we never find out what this contained as the note wasn’t found with Carew’s body. Could it have been something concerning Hyde he didn’t want read? Even at the end of the story this is never fully understood but could be a clue if the contents of the note were read.
Jekyll seems to have been greatly affected by the murder, though him and Carew weren’t particularly close (another clue?). At first he appears to be happier, but then he becomes a recluse again, even more so than before, surely this is a bit too drastic to be put down to mood swings. Stevenson uses the door previously mentioned at the beginning of the book as a symbol for Jekyll’s hibernation to his house- the door being locked when Utterson visits it,making the reader get a sense that something is being hidden and they want to know just what, with it symbolising the solution to everything that’s happening; as being shut away, locked behind the mysterious red door, like a stop to everything because Hyde is nowhere to be seen.
When Utterson visits him he sees the mans appearance has much changed, and his house has a dinginess and eeriness about it, certainly not ‘homely’. Stevenson takes inspiration from gothic literature to keep readers on edge for this home visit; “even in houses the fog began to lie thickly” and “light falling dimly through the foggy cupola” more uncertainty and mistery again using pathetic fallacy. This room is described as ‘a large room’ with a ‘dingy windowless structure,’ the surroundings setting the scene as mysterious and unusual, and reflecting his mood as he was ‘looking deadly sick’. This creates mystery, particularly with the use of words such as ‘dimly’ and ‘foggy’ casting an uncertain haze over the readers mind and leading them to wonder why he is looking sick.
Tthe fog lasts all the way to the last chapter, and there is more influence from the Gothic literature in perhaps the most description of the story: “It was a wild, unseasonable, cold night of March, with a pale moon”,”the wind flecked blood into the face” is a more sinister way of describing rosy cheeks and use of the word wild makes the situation daunting and more out of control, like Jekyll and his mad experiments into the unknown world of science. Readers are completely hooked and gloomily anticipating what all this is leading to and consequently tension is increased. This is the climax of suspense, and Stevenson ensures this by describing ‘the streets were unusually bare of passengers’ and ‘he had never seen London so deserted’ which- linking back- contrasts with the description of London at the start of the book, and suggesting to the audience this is what the story has been leading up to. This could also be reflective of Mr.Utterson’s mood: at the start of the book he was trusting and reliable, at the end he is untrusting and unhappy.
Throughout the novel clues are dropped, although you only really realise their significance once you’ve read the book. For example, in chapter 6 Jekyll addresses a letter to Utterson, in which he writes ‘ you must suffer me to go my own dark way” and describes himself as ‘ the chief of sinners.’ Again linking to the whole idea of Satan and Hyde being similar. Meanwhile the reader is left wondering what exactly it is he’s done that’s so terrible, pondering with the thought of blackmail, but also the worse crime of covering a murderers footsteps. Utterson presumes Hyde is feeling trapped with the blackmail from Hyde, and the thought crosses our minds as well.
The clues get bigger as the story unravels, like Utterson witnessing the actual transformation of Jekyll to Hyde. This revelation scares him and Mr Enfield, yet he still believes Hyde is a separate person, blackmailing Jekyll. The biggest clue of all is at the end, the anticlimax, in chapter 8. It’s obvious something big is about to happen and there are clues everywhere that show this. Enfield confirms the door that has remained secret for so long is the back entrance to Jekyll’s house and tells of Jekyll’s demands for powders. Suddenly the blackmailing idea doesn’t seem to add up.
Theres a steady stream of signs after this to keep the reader on their toes and wanting to read on, at the very climax Jekyll locks himself in a room which would be suspicious enough even without the sound of Mr Hyde’s voice; strangely enough Poole has seen a man in the room that is small and rat-like, quite the opposite of tall proud Jekyll. The absence of Jekyll and presence of Hyde makes the reader believe that Hyde has finally done it and killed Jekyll like has been suspected through the story. Clues keep the reader constantly thinking and on edge, and this creates mystery and suspense as different thoughts are crossing their minds all the time.Even after the ‘last night’ nothing is properly revealed so a certain element of mystery is maintained even after the story finishes.
Obviously the novel would have been much more gripping for Victorian readers because nowadays the ending of the story is very well-known so the clues aren’t as effective; but for a Victorian audience the storyline of a man messing with science enough to entice his evil side would have shocked yet engaged them completely. Stevenson uses well placed clues that are enough to make readers suspicious, but not quite enough to give them a certainty on the outcome. Every chapter leaves a question which can change your idea on the secret between the link of Jekyll and Hyde, and nothing is ever fully explained. Even nowadays, despite the famous storyline secret, the story is still as enjoyable as ever as people can look out for the clues to Hyde’s identity. People enjoy being scared by the unknown, and Jekyll and Hyde certainly has plenty of that.