Jekyll and Hyde

Jekyll and Hyde Introduction

 ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is about man’s dual nature:

- The novel is about a respectable doctor, called Henry Jekyll, who transforms into the evil Edward Hyde.

- Although it is fictional, the novel reflects the strict values of Victorian society, in which people were expected to be restrained and appear respectable at all times.

1.    Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is about human nature – and how everyone has good and evil inside them.

2.    If people explore their dark side, it can lead to problems – but hiding and denying leads to problems too.

Robert Louis Stevenson was interested in man’s different sides:

- As a child, Stevenson was influenced by the strict Christian beliefs of his nanny, Alison Cunningham.

- Stevenson was particularly fascinated by the life of Deacon Brodie, a respectable cabinet maker who led a secret life as a robber.


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Background Information

Victorian gentlemen attempted to hide their darker side:

- In Victorian middle and upper-class society, it was important to look respectable. As a result, people hid their true feelings, especially if they were immoral or improper. ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is set in London.

- Reputation was very important to Victorian gentlemen. If they were seen doing anything which wasn’t respectable, their good name would be ruined.

- To protect their reputation, people often kept their sinful behaviour and less respectable desires a secret.

- They didn’t like to talk about anything that might damage their reputation or upset their apparently civilised society.

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Stevenson's Timeline

1850: Born in Edinburgh.

1867: Went to Edinburgh university – studied engineering.

1871: Wanted to become a writer, decided to study law – father’s advice.

1873: Disagreed with Father’s religion – became an atheist.

1878: Published first novel, ‘An inland voyage’.

1880: Married Fanny Osbourne.

1886: Published ‘The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.

1889: Moved to Samoa – never returned to Britain.

1894: Died, age 44.

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Dr Henry Jekyll: Well respected doctor and scientist. He starts to act strangely and stops seeing his friends when he secretly experiments with his alter ego.

Mr Edward Hyde: The evil side of Jekyll. A merciless and violent character who makes people feel uneasy and disgusted.

Mr Gabriel Utterson: A lawyer and Jekyll’s friend. He is very rational and sets out to solve the mystery of Jekyll’s odd behaviour.

Dr Hastie Lanyon: Also, a doctor, used to be close friends with Jekyll, but they fell out over Jekyll’s controversial scientific ideas.

Mr Richard Enfield: Utterson’s relative and friend. They enjoy spending time together even though they don’t have anything in common.

Poole: Jekyll’s butler, he has worked for him for 20 years and knows him well. He is concerned by Jekyll’s strange behaviour.

Sir Danvers Carew: An elderly gentlemen and member of the parliament.

Mr Guest: Utterson’s clerk. Notices that Hyde’s handwriting is almost identical to Jekyll’s.

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Chapters 1 - 3

- Utterson and Enfield walk past a neglected building which reminds Enfield of a crime in which a man named Hyde trampled a young girl.

- Enfield explains that he put pressure on Hyde to pay for his crime. Hyde went into the building and came out with a cheque signed by Dr Henry Jekyll.

- Utterson is concerned by Jekyll’s will, which leaves everything to Hyde. He visits Lanyon and discovers that he and Jekyll have fallen out.

- Utterson meets Hyde and really dislikes him. It turns out that the building Hyde went into when Enfield saw him is the laboratory at Jekyll’s home. Utterson concludes that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll.

- Utterson attends a dinner party thrown by Jekyll. Utterson questions Jekyll about Hyde, but Jekyll asks him to let the matter drop. Jekyll makes Utterson promise that he’ll carry out the instructions in his will.

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Chapters 4 - 5

- A year later, a maid witnesses the violent murder of Sir Danvers Carew by Hyde. Utterson takes the police to Hyde’s home in Soho where they find the murder weapon. Hyde is nowhere to be found.

- Utterson goes to see Jekyll, who looks very ill. Jekyll claims that he’ll never see Hyde again and shows Utterson a letter from Hyde which backs this up.

- However, Utterson is concerned when Poole tells him that no letters had been delivered to the house that morning.

- Later, Utterson shows Guest the letter, who points out the similarity between the handwriting of Jekyll and Hyde.

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Chapters 6 - 8

- There is still no sign of Hyde, and Jekyll becomes more like his old self. But a few months later he hides himself away from his friends again.

- Utterson visits Lanyon, who’s very ill. Lanyon refuses to talk about Jekyll. He says he’s had a terrible shock and expects to die soon.

- Jekyll writes to Utterson to say that he can’t see his friends any more. Lanyon dies and leaves Utterson a letter to read after Jekyll’s death or disappearance.

- Utterson and Enfield walk past Jekyll’s house and see him sitting in the window. They invite him out, but a sudden look of terror comes across his face and the voice that responds sounds like Hyde.

- Poole comes to Utterson’s house because he is very worried about Jekyll.

- They break in and discover Hyde dead on the floor – poisoned.

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Chapters 9 - 10

- Lanyon’s letter explains that Hyde drank the potion and transformed into Jekyll in front of him. The shock that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person caused Lanyon’s death.

- Jekyll’s confession reveals that he had turned into Hyde, he then wrote to Lanyon asking for help to retrieve ingredients.

- Jekyll writes that he came from a respectable family, but ashamed of his darker desires.

- Created a drug that allowed him to transform between himself and alter ego.

- Eventually ran out of drugs which meant he was Hyde permanently.

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Victorian Gentlemen

‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is about a group of gentlemen.

- The ‘gentlemen’ was an important figure in Victorian society.

- A man’s social class was one part of being of being a gentleman also gentlemen were from the upper-classes of Victorian society.

- His profession was also important – army officers, church ministers, doctors and lawyers might all be counted as gentlemen. Some middle-class men (such as bankers and successful merchants) also aspired to be gentlemen.

- Being gentlemen brought many beliefs. It gave you a chance to enter well-paid professions like medicine and law, and gain the respect of rich clients.

- It was also important for your children. A gentleman could use his contacts to arrange good marriages for his daughters and well-paid jobs for his sons.

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