An Analysis of the Setting, Imagery and Themes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Often, when books incorporate large amounts of death, destruction, and corruption, the effect can be chilling. With a combination of mystery, corruption, violence, and horror, in just the right amounts, though, author Robert Louis Stevenson has written an even more bloodcurdling novel without any of the mindless violence and death that could have taken away from the overall effect of his book. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he employs powerful word choice, intense imagery, and a dark setting, whichreinforcethe gothic themes that are present in his novel.

The gloomy, ominous atmosphere that the author uses, works to darken the tone of the story and further contribute to its gothic nature. As the main character, Mr. Utterson and his friend Richard Enfield stroll around town on a Sunday, they pass “a certain sinister block of building” (39), in a particularly dilapidated part of town that stands out from the “freshly painted shutters, well-polished brasses, and general cleanliness (38-39) ” of the nicer street adjacent to the dark neighborhood.

Stevenson uses this contrast to accentuate the ominous nature of the environment. The word “sinister” personifies the buildings, describing them as something that only a human can be. This attempt to humanize the dark environment of the story brings it to life.

In addition, Stevenson focuses on one specific detail of the shadowy atmosphere, and that is the door of an old, rundown house: The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and disdained.

Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels, children kept shop upon the steps; the school boy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages (39) This clear image of the doorshows how dead and drab the house must have been.

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The door not having a knocker suggests that visitors rarely come and the “blistered and disdained”appearance of it gives the impression of a spotted piece of wood lacking in color and vibrancy. And unlike the other, more pristine, section of town, this door has obviously been neglected. Paint most likely has not seen its paneled surface for many years. Many have vandalized the door, abusing it with impunity, because no one ever cared about it enough to chase away the random loiterers: the tramps, who tried to steal the mouldings. This neglectful, ignorant attitude towards preserving what is good can be compared to Hyde’s evil that goes unpunished during the course of the novel. In a world of good, here represented by the well-groomed neighborhood, there is always evil.

Throughout the novel, vivid imagery clearly depicts and underscores the evil nature of the antagonist. Right after Enfield and Utterson pass the battered door, Enfield recalls when he witnessed a mancrush a young girl of about eight or nine years old: “the man [later known to be Hyde) trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut” (40). The picture of the girl being knocked to the ground then trampled mercilessly by Hyde could not be clearer in the quote above. The sense of spontaneity of the act is what truly gives the reader a scare. Why would someone trample over a helpless young girl without warning, unprovoked? This question and many others are raised as the reader progresses farther into the enigmatic mystery. Enfield also attributes a crime like this not to something a human would do, but rather something inhuman—”like some damned Juggernaut”. The word Juggernaut, which here describes a powerful, overwhelming force, is used in a simile to compare Hyde, not to another person, but to a force, to something intangible that to which no one man is usually compared. To be compared to evil in the way that he is, this similarity between Hyde and wickedness truly goes to demonstrate how crooked he is. Also, the word ‘hellish’ suggests that something like that is enough to go to hell for. Here, Stevenson does an excellent job of showing the reader what has happened, rather than just telling.

Without good word choice, the novel and imagery would be incomplete. Stevenson uses descriptive diction to almost let the reader see what he is envisioning. In this long-winded sentence fragment, he describes what twilight is like in London: …Mr. Utterson beheld a marvelous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the backend of evening; and there would be a glow of rich, lurid brown, like the light of some strange conflagration; and here, for a moment, the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths (62).

The long phrasing of this sentence reflects the flowing image of night that is projected. ‘Hues’ allow the readers to envision the multitude of colors that the sunset in London might include. The different colors are almost like a “conflagration”, a fire in the sky, so vivid. Stevenson does not forget, though to include elements of gloom in this passage: “the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths.” The words ‘fog and haggard’ add to the negativity and gloom. With this, Stevenson goes beyond the superficial and describes his world in depth. Although the setting of the sun may seem mundane because it occurs everyday, he goes beyond the common, the everyday and brings the reader into a much more vivid world. His language is what brings everything alive.

Overall, Stevenson uses poised, descriptive writing that takes the reader into a completely new world. His imagery, word choice, and undertones of evil help paint a more complete picture of the dark themes he is trying to express.All of the elements of the novel—the word choice, the setting, and the imagery—come together to set an example as to what exactly constitutes a Gothic novel.

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An Analysis of the Setting, Imagery and Themes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. (2022, Feb 23). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/an-analysis-of-the-setting-imagery-and-themes-in-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-by-robert-louis-stevenson/

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