Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Key themes, Ideas and quotes

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  • Created on: 29-04-17 11:35

Key Theme; The duality of human nature (1)

"The large handsome face of Dr Jekyll grew pale to the lips, and there became a blackness about his eyes." 

Jekyll's change of demeanour is distrublingly quick, almost as if the concealed part of him is pulsing deep within him. the juxtaposition of Jekyll's "handsome" face with his "pale" lips and black eyes shows that the man's dual nature is not just a mental conflict, but also a physical one. "Pale" has associations with the death that comes later in the novel, as if to subtly foreshadow later events. The "blackness" of "his eyes"alludes to the darkness of hyde's soul. As Jekyll's lips "grew pale" and a blackness "came...about" his eyes, the reader gets a sense of evil spreading over him uncontrollably. 

"The rosy man had grown pale; his flesh had fallen away"

Here, the reader is shown the transformation of Lanyon and his physical deterioration as he discovers Jekyll's secret. "Rosy man" has associations with vibrant colour and a natural, healthy lifestyle, which juxtaposes "pale" and it's deathly connotations. The alliteration of the fluid "f" sound underlines the fact that Lanyon's flesh is literally slipping away from his bones, much like when Jekyll morphes into Hyde. The fact that Jekyll's secret affects more than just himself also hints at the dualistic nature of the novella - there is always two sides to one story. 


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Key theme; The duality of human nature (2)

"I drew steadily neaer to the truth...man is not truly one but truly two" 

The repetition of "truly" links to "truth" earlier in the statement - Jekyll is indeed correct, and should not be judged for his discovery; it is the simple truth. This is also stressed in how "stesdily" he came about this conclusion, as if he has been trying to conceal and repress this secret for a while now and can no longer fight the darker urges within him, and this may sympathise with the reader. Jekyll also mentions that he is "doomed" after stating his dual nature, which suggest religious judgement from God, with associations of fear and danger concering his other half. This also presents images of the soul as the battlefield for an 'angel' and a 'fiend', ecah struggling for mastery. Jekyll's potion only succeeded in emrging his dark side - Hyde, who has no angelic counterpart. 

"I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life" 

In Jekyll's letter to Utterson, Stevenson explores Jekyll's fascination of duality as he believes it is a condition that affects all men, and the battle played out in every one of us with teh character of Hyde repressed within Jekyll. The use of "profound" creates a sense of intensity - this may reflect the emotions Jekyll is trying to convey within his letter when he is telling his secret, as if he was completely engrossed with these thoughts and feelings. The fact that he is "committed" suggests that it is a realisation he has come to terms with. This is true as, before Utterson reads Jekyll's letter, Hyde had completely taken over Jekyll, yet this seems to show that perhaps Jekyll let him do so, and this particular part of Jekyll's character allows Stevenson to convey to the readers that there is darker urges in all of us that threaten to overtake. 

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Key theme; The duality of human nature (3)

"Hyde was knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh" 

By focusing on familiar aspects of the body - being born, being married, having bodily parts - his words help the readers to imagine Jekyll's strange experience. The novel goes out of it's way to paint Hyde as animalistic, an evilness that sticks to Jekyll as if he was part of his own self. This presentation of Hyde is a complete contrast to Jekyll's well mannered, respected persona. The strong imagery of Hyde being "caged" in Jekyll's flesh gives a feeling of entrapment, as if Hyde is trying to resist the cage of Jekyll's body, only furthermore certifying our suspicions of a dualistic nature between the two. The strength used in the imagery created only emphasises the closeness of both characters; thus stressing the sense of two elements and aspects of one's soul. 

"I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame," 

Jekyll is explicit- he was equally himself when he was submitting to his desires and committing dreadful acts as he was when he was engaging in good. Alliteration in "no more myself" stresses the word "myself" - Jekyll's self is dual and features both "shame"and knowledge, both himself and Hyde hidden behind these connotations. "Laid aside" and "plunged" are active, dynamic descriptions - Jekyll vigorously pursues "shame", yet doing good is laboured and tiresome, almost as if towards the end of the novel, Jekyll has finished trying to resist Hyde and wholly succumbs to him. 

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Key theme; Good vs Evil (1)

"the man trampled calmly over the child's body and left her screaming...it wasn't like a man, it was some damned Juggernaut"

The first depiction of Hyde's evil nature, and here Stevenson deliberately inflicts it on a child to increase the reader's fear of Hyde's character. Here, it presents on exmaple of Hyde's destruction of innocence with violence. The contrasting "man" against "child" is threatening, but the oxymoronic "trampled calmly" shows Hyde is naturally comfortable with violence, and almost overthrows this threat with an even deeper feeling of fear. Referencing to the "child's body" dehumanises the victim, and the image of her "screaming" is a powerful sensual depiction of Hyde's cruelty. "Damned" refers to Hyde's sinful nature, with the image of "Juggernaut" suggesting a violent, powerful force surging forwards in an unstoppable manner. 

"The smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair,"

Jekyll no longer controls Hyde's appearances, and Jekyll's sudden transformation causes extreme physical reaction from Utterson and Enfield, emphasising how horrid it must be. The sibilance in "smile was struck" quickens the pace with which the pleasant "smile" is replaced by "abject terror and despair". "Smile" is a gentle image, and is removed forcefully and violently when it is "struck out". Hyde causes a physical reaction in all he meets, usually through brute force of some kind, which is what causes Jekyll to be cast with such a terrified expression as his usually sensible, respected demeanour is being transformed into one of complete evil. "Succeeded" has associations with victory - there is a clear sense of a battle between good and evil, and here evil is victorious. 

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Key theme; Good vs Evil (2)

"something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature...something seizing, surprising and revolting" Lanyon struggles to articulate exactly what Hyde is, much like many of the other characters do upon witnessing Hyde's appearance. The sibilance in "something seizing, surprising" is a traditionally gothic sound, creating a sinister tone of fear, terror and menace. Hyde's effect on Lanyon is all-consuming - it controls his body, shocks his mind and disgusts his morals. As Lanyon calls Hyde a "creature", it gives his animalistic characteristics, but the repetition of "something" demonstrates that he cannot identify exactly what makes him so hideous.

"'O God!' I screamed, and 'O God!' again and again." The level of disbelief in the evil displayed before him leads Lanyon to desperately call out to God to protect him. Lanyon, Utterson and Enfield are known throughout the novel as rational, coherent and eloquent. Lanyon's repetitive cry of "O God!" is both an uncontrolled scream of horror but also a direct plea to God for protection. Lanyon is desperately seeking support from God and religion in the face of supreme evil, yet God cannot provide it, as Lanyon dies from the horror of what he sees. Essentially, evil defeats religion; defeats goodness.

"...and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death." Jekyll's description of his transformation to Hyde alludes to something disturbingly natural and powerful. The physical agony Jekyll experiences when turning into Hyde makes it clear that Hyde is the unnatural state, yet allusions to "death", "birth" and the associated nausea that comes with it could suggest that Hyde and evil are part of the human life cycle, binding each instance of birth and death together as one. Turning into Hyde is not just physically destructive - he also destroys the "spirit" with his "horror". 

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Key theme; Repression/Secrecy(1)

"Cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment," The description of Utterson introduces a stereotypical 19th century British gentlemen - private and unemotional with a reserved personality. The adjectives used to describe Utterson emphasise the sort of life Jekyll later rejects - they have associations with a boring, lacklustre lifestyle where the current way of life is never questioned. "Cold" and "embarrassed in discourse" highlight the value placed on privacy - it is this cloak of secrecy that allows Jekyll to ecperiment uninterrupted. 

"desire to carry my head high...Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures." Jekyll has a desperate desire to be socially acceptable and behave in the sombre way society expects, hence he represses his own desires. The alliteration of "head high" stresses the fact that society demands people maintain their reputation and dignity. For Jekyll this is stifling. The idea that Jekyll would wear a socially respectable persona has associations with a costume. He is acting part Jekyll, yet his character is actually Hyde - this is where his "pleasures" lie. "Concealed" has associations with being hidden away, straining to break free.

"Before the course of my scientific discoveries...I had learned to dwell with pleasure," Whilst Jekyll becomes a slave to Hyde, he began his "course" with the intention of simply separating the two sides of man, not the pursuit of evil. Jekyll discovers Hyde, not creates him. "Scientific discoveries" and "learned" suggest that Hyde already existed - Jekyll simply uncovers him. Jekyll's intentions were pure. The image of "pleasure" alludes to wholesome motives, not the pursuit of horror. The dependance on Jekyll's "discoveries" of science creates a sense of silence and isolation about him, and leaves the reader unsure how much they have been allowed into the intimacy of his mind. 

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Key theme; Repression/Secrecy(1)

Much of the suspense associated with the novel is suspenseful solely because it is deliberately kept secret or repressed by the characters. The novel's secrets come out in spits and spurts; Enfield shares his story with Utterson, but he is only persuaded to share Hyde’s name at the end. Utterson, upon hearing Hyde's name, does not reveal that he has heard it before, in Jekyll's will. From that point on, most of the story’s revelations are made not through conversation between characters but rather through a sequence of letters and documents, addressed, sealed and enclosed in safes, so that they need to be put together like a puzzle at the end.

Each man seems to be isolated from the other, and there is a sense that this masculine world has been hushed by the need to maintain social reputation. The men avoid gossip, seem almost to avoid speaking completely about anything of substance, and while many of the men describe themselves as friends, their relationships are most defined by the things they keep secret from each other. There are many occasions in which one man will start to talk and then silence himself and keep the remainder, often the most important or personal detail, to himself. The weight of unsaid information is heavy, which only emphasises that one may be repressing these urges. Furthermore, this suggests that the human composition isn't double but infact on of repression and darker urges, as if repression only strengthens that which is being repressed; perhaps one cannot live without the other. 

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Key theme; Science vs religion

"when that masked thing jumped from among the chemicals...I give you my bible-word it was Mr Hyde!" Science/religion clash in a destructive manner - Poole turns to religion to make sense of it. Hyde is non human "thing" and is "masked", hidden from society. He is "among the chemicals", dangerous scientific experimentation that could challenge religion as well as certifying that he is anything but natural. Religion is needed to try and make sense of this; Poole gives his "bible-word", as if turning to religion may save him from the evilness of hyde unleashed, through science, by Dr Jekyll. 

"half full of a blood-red liquor, which was highly pungent to the sense of smell, and seemed to contain...some volatile ether."  Lanyon's description of what he finds in Jekyll's cabinet is disturbing - Lanyon cannot make sense of it, and it is depicted a clearly dangerous. The fear of science stemmed from its unknown qualities - "seemed" and "some" show even Dr Lanyon cannot make sense of Jekyll's experiments. Jekyll's scientific exploration links to violence. "Blood-red" alludes to hyde's bloodshed, and "volatile" mimics the unstable nature of Jekyll and Hyde. "Highly pungent" shows Jekyll offending the senses as well as our morals. His behaviour is literally and metaphorically rotten. 


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Key theme; Science vs religion (2)

"The trembling immateriality, the mist-like transience, of this seemingly solid body in which we walk attired"  Jekyll considers a further aspect of the dual nature of man. Whilst humans may seem strong, we are in fact insignificant and temporary in this world, and this holds a seemingly deeper inner battle within one's self. The sibilance of "seemingly so solid" stresses the irony of the human condition. We are anything but solid, but don't wish to accept this trut - we are always dependant on something else. The image of humans being "attired" has dramatic associations. We wear costumes to hide vulnerabilities, and our "walk" is simply a perfomance. Jekyll embraces human frailty and fragility. The image of "trembling immateriality" highlights physical insignificance, and "mist-like transience" emphasises our fleeting impact on the world. Jekyll's aim is to explore these ideas. 

"A new province of knowledge...and your sight shall be blasted to stagger the unbelief of Satan." Having helped a friend, Lanyon is offered a chance to leave Hyde or to observe something staggering and evil. Lanyon, usually so rational, chooses evil. The use os "new" holds a subtle underlining of threat. It will open unknown consequences, with fame and power as a motive, specifically for Jekyll. The speed evil consumes good is clear - it will be "blasted" in order to "stagger", suggesting that it is moving at such a pace it can literally transform someone. Scientific exploration is as equally devestating as original sin. "New province of knowledge" alludes to the devil tempting Eve, yet Hyde's evil will "stagger the unbelief of Satan", depicting him as worse than the devil. 

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key theme; Science vs religion (3)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde creates a tension between the world of science and religion, and seems to suggest the limits of reason in its inability to understand or cope with the supernatural phenomena that take place. The result of Jekyll's explorations—Mr Hyde—is something beyond simple religious beliefs, which shocks and overwhelms the sensitive intellectual dispositions of the other characters and leaves Dr. Jekyll permanently removed from his educated, medical self. The laboratory is the main setting of the mysterious events in the story, but far from being a place of science and medicine, the lab is deserted and strange, more Gothic than a place of science. In this setting the novel seems to hint at the insufficiency or even obsolescence of science. Jekyll, once a man of science, is leaving all that behind, leaving it unused, as he seeks new, unknown knowledge and truth.

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Symbolism - Weather

The streets of Utterson's London are obscured by the weather, just as the mysteries of Mr Hyde’s crimes and existence, and his relationship with Jekyll, are themselves obscured. The mist makes the layout of the streets hard to follow, and makes the Gothic façade in chapter one jut ominously from the others. Effects of light are used to forewarn and indicate the coming of Jekyll's transformations and Hyde’s violence, and the moon sheds an eerie light over the most suspenseful moments. The London fog serves to shroud or veil the city and make it eerie. Fog = obscurity, and the literal fog emphasizes the metaphorical fog surrounding the true identity of Hyde - "for even in the houses the fog began to lie thickly"

The weather patterns of London seem perfectly suited to dastardly deeds done dirt cheap. Although there is "brilliant" moonlight early in the evening (which makes the maid feel at peace with all mankind), a really ominous fog rolls in when all hell is about to break loose.You've also got firelight, lighted lamps, and light in general as the counterpoint to fog because of their safe, illuminating qualities.Stevenson uses the weather to present two conflicting side to Jekyll’s personality by describing that the “weather was continually charging their embattled vapours” - “embattled” suggests literal conflict which foreshadows the conclusion of the novella. “charging” complements conflict of the inevitable take over of Jekyll into Hyde. 

“To combat the reinvasion of darkness” - stevenson presents light as forlorn, although desperate, and is attempting to “combat” the inevitable take over of darkness, represented by the character of Hyde. This may relate to darker urges colliding with respectable manner. 

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Symbolism - Jekyll's house and laboratory

Jekyll has a well appointed home, characterised by Stevenson as having a "great air of wealth and comfort", which contrasts to his lab being described as "a sinister block of buildings...marks of profound negligence." The decaying facade and air of neglect quite neatly symbolises the corruption of Jekyll through Hyde, as both buildings belong to Jekyll yet one seems to have a more "profound" impact on the novel and the readers as the other, symbolising the take over of Jekyll into Hyde. The buildings are ajoined but look onto two different streets - the casual observer can't detect that it is a whole, just as they can't detect with Jekyll and Hyde. 

Jekyll’s house is described as having an “open fire” in the front hall. This represents Jekyll as it is warm, inviting and hugely welcoming – all things that match Jekyll’s character. We are also told that the street on which his house sits is filled with similar houses – yet his is the only one kept clean and tidy and whole, upholding Jekyll’s character as we know he is concerned with making himself look good to other people, which his house certainly does. Hyde, on the other hand, is secretive and doesn’t so much lurk in the shadows as lives only in the night. He doesn’t hide from other people but he doesn’t encourage interactions. The lab door sums up his character perfectly. Unlike the main house it juts out on an alley street, its windows are covered and the door bears no knocker. The windows emulate Hyde’s private nature, he doesn’t want people prying into his business. The lack of a knocker shows he doesn’t want or expect guests. The untidiness of the doorway similarly keeps people from visiting. The text, as mentioned, describes the lab as a “sinister block of buildings”- there is something off about them, just like we are told there is something off or “deformed” about Hyde’s appearance. Here, setting in the form of the house, serves to reinforce the characters of Hyde and Jekyll and further highlights the theme of good versus evil.

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Setting and narrative methods

Setting is important in the initial chapters where Utterson’s dream makes the minotaur and his maze a metaphor for Hyde and his London. We have already had descriptions of Hyde as a ‘juggernaut’ something huge and threatening. This image is built up further with his comparison to the minotaur, a monstrous beast that was used to control and terrorise the Greek town of Minos. Hyde similarly terrorises the occupants of London as he will trample and destroy any who get in his way – the little girl and Sir Carew. London’s twisting medieval streets and fogged new streets become the maze in which the minotaur was kept. You never know when the minotaur or Hyde might appear to hurt you. Setting then becomes a metaphor for the playground of evil.

Stevenson uses structure to build tension; the narrative is limited as Utterson is deciphering things gradually, and only leaves the truth at the end. This is used to provoke a personal reaction  from the readers - it makes us piece the bits together as if the story is a jigsaw.  The chronical order also gives a sense of time passing, and in this way, Stevenson keeps the suspense upheld throughout the novella. 

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This is amazing!!!!!




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