‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ ? ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is a novella written by the respected Scottish Author Robert Louis Stevenson, who was born on November 15th, 1850, in Edinburgh. The story was first published in 1886, and has since become the most popular of all his books. One of the previous manuscripts of this novel is thought to have been thrown into the fireplace by himself after his wife criticized it, saying that it wasn’t good enough and contained too much inappropriate sexual content.
Some experts still debate if he really burnt the manuscript or not. Even to this day there is no factual evidence of what really happened, but will remain a part of the history of the novel. The story itself looks at the way an individual is made up of differing feelings and needs; some good and others evil. An interested lawyer, by the name of Utterson, comes to know of the hideous and fierce Hyde, and his bizarre link with the well-known Dr Jekyll, who later in the story pays out a cheque for Hyde’s (his evil side’s) psychopathic behaviour.
Shortly after, an unruly murder takes place, the victim being one of Utterson’s clients, Sir Danvers Carew. To make the situation even more unbelievable, the murder weapon was in fact a cane Utterson had previously given to Jekyll, as a token of friendship. As the book gradually unfolds, the lawyer becomes more and more involved in the strange world of the physician Henry Jekyll, who turns out to have created a drug that is able to separate his good and evil sides. In turn, this makes Jekyll become very likable, but the side effects become disastrous.
At first, he can control his craving for his discovery, though sooner he has unrestrained episodes of turning into the monstrous Hyde, his evil side. The book then pursues Utterson as he investigates with Poole (Jekyll’s Butler) of why Jekyll (or Hyde) is spending excessive amounts of time locked away in his laboratory, and not making an appearance for quite a while, and the reasons for his out of the ordinary actions days before. The novel eventually concludes with a tragic and possibly unexplainable end for the first time reader.
Stevenson’s paternal and maternal sides came from two very different backgrounds. His father’s profession was mainly distinguished as a lighthouse engineer and designer, following in the footsteps of his ancestors. However, Stevenson’s mother’s profession was more academic, and his maternal grandfather was also a professor of moral philosophy and later became a minister. Stevenson’s grandmother from his mother’s side would often read to him when he was a child from the Bible or short stories from previous authors.
Even if Stevenson did inherit his joy for adventure and sea quests from his father, he dropped out of the University of Edinburgh, deciding he didn’t have the skill nor the brains to take on a the challenge of becoming an engineer. After having many arguments with his father, he allowed Stevenson to take up a career in literature, and this is exactly what he did. By the age of 25 he passed his examinations, and took up his time in writing short stories.
These later evolved into more complex structures, and his first novel, ‘Treasure Island’, was completed in 1883. ‘Jekyll an Hyde’ followed three years later, but it is thanks to Stevenson’s mother and her side of his family who gave him the mind and ideas to be able to write such a tale, and not to mention his wife who kept encouraging him not to give up that this novel was ever written. Before the novel was written, it was said that Stevenson would have extremely detailed nightmares, which he ‘pieced together’ to form ‘Jekyll and Hyde’.
There is an account of him dreaming a particular ‘scene’, when his wife awoke him and asked him to be quiet, as she couldn’t sleep. ‘Why did you wake me, I was dreaming fine bogey tale’ his answer would be, to which he would then go downstairs in the middle of the night and write up his ideas. His wife, Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, would say that on some occassions he would be up writing for three hours or more in the early hours of the morning, attempting to put together a story from his fantasy world. The genre can be interpreted as a detective story with a gothic horror twist.
The gothic elements are extremely noticeable in ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, being very similar to the famous Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ and Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’, the pair of these books can possibly be interpreted as predecessors of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. It could be said that Stevenson ‘borrowed’ these elements to help structure his own story, like the novel’s mood is similar to its predecessors’ moods, and the way that ‘Frankenstein’ wanted to push the boundaries of science with fictitious occurrences, just as much as ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ did.
He kept the mood of his story very gloomy; having dark descriptions of people and places of London alike shows this. What shows this method of description well is the way he wants us to imagine Utterson: ‘Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary…. ‘ Every single word which is used to decribe this character agrees with the idea of gloominess; of dreariness. Other features of his gothic work include ideas of terror, madness, and secrets.