Literary Devices in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde”

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Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is a novel that consists of a wide range of concepts to strengthen the context of the story. The most apparent examples from the first few chapters are, that of the contrast between good and evil i.e duality of man, foreshadowing and the sense of supernaturality. This essay will examine several of these ideas, how they interact and enhance the themes and messages of the story itself.

Starting off we meet Mr. Hyde, “a pale, dwarfish man” “of no particular age”, and we meet Dr. Jekyll, a “large, well-made man of fifty” with a “large handsome face”. The way Stevenson describes them as opposites makes us think that they are two people with contrasting personalities. A pale dwarfish man simply dehumanizes the manhood of Hyde, as dwarfish means a person with genetic disorder resulting in atypically short stature and disproportionate limbs. In addition, the author is not aware of Hyde’s age, referring to immortality and eternal youth. On the other hand, Jekyll is defined as a good looking person with a specified age. The author uses a heavy contradiction in characterizing Jekyll and Hyde, representing two concepts at the same time; the duality of humankind and foreshadowing. This is first seen, when the lawyer says, “And then by a return on his former subject, he conceived a spark of hope. ‘This Master Hyde, if he were studied,’ thought he, ‘must have secrets of his own; black secrets, by the look of him; secrets compared to which poor Jekyll’s worst would be like sunshine”. Through this line, Jekyll has been addressed as a ‘poor man’ to generate pettiness towards him and also suggests that Jekyll is boundless for any actions. Later in the statement, Hyde’s secrets are said to be black foreshadowing a sinful event that might take place in the future, which implies Hyde’s personality to be incriminating or shameful. At the same time, towards the end of the line, Jekyll’s secrets are compared to the sunshine, pointing out Jekyll’s personality to be more powerful and bright. Another, instance, where Hyde is portrayed negatively and future events have been foreshadowed can be noticed, on pg7, when Mr. Utterson says, ‘He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable”. This shows that Hyde’s appearance and personality terrify others – they always remember seeing him. The fact that his appearance is ‘haunting’ shows how unforgettable he is. Mr. Hyde is perceived as a cruel, ugly, vicious man who commits wild acts of violence against innocent people. He is the embodiment of ‘evilness’. You can observe, the repetition of ‘something’ twice in the same sentence affirming the atrocious nature of Hyde. Also, the use of short sentences creates tension/haste or a sense of urgency in the piece, foreshadowing a frightful event.

In the previous examples, the concept of foreshadowing has been overlapped with the duality of humankind, but there is an instance where the author uses setting to only demonstrate foreshadowing. The writer describes Mr. Utterson’s usual Sunday by saying, “‘That evening Mr. Utterson came home to his bachelor house in sombre spirits and sat down to dinner without relish.‘It was his custom of a Sunday, when this meal was over, to sit close by the fire, a volume of some dry divinity on his reading-desk until the clock of the neighboring church rang out the hour of twelve when he would go soberly and gratefully to be”. Certainly, the setting is very gloomy, as sombre spirits anticipate lacking color and the author mentions that Mr. Utterson is in low spirits, is eating his food tediously (without relish), inferring to the absence of joy. The following line goes on discussing how he sits close by the fire and reads a spiritual book which is referred to as dry divinity. Here, the author is trying to foreshadow that Mr. Utterson clearly does not like the idea of reading that book because it has been described to be monotonous. However, after this diction, the author declares that Mr. Utterson sleeps once the clock of the church rings. There is a heavy contrast in both of these perceptions about the same person, suggesting a sense of obscure element regarding the nature of the person, foreshadowing ambiguous events to take place in the future.

The last concept which was considerably prominent in the first few chapters is supernaturality, slightly overlapping with foreshadowing. Firstly apparent when Mr. Utterson met Hyde and said, “Mr. Hyde appeared to hesitate, and then as if upon some sudden reflection, fronted about with an air of defiance; and the pair stared at each other pretty fixedly for a few seconds. ‘Now I shall know you again,’ said Mr. Utterson. ‘It may be useful”. This line articulates that a daring or bold resistance to any opposing force compels Mr. Utterson and Hyde to hold strong eye contact, reflecting upon the supernaturality because of the use of mystic language. Furthermore, the dialogue depicts the concept of foreshadowing because the last line definitely suggests that this won’t be the last time the reader will spot Mr. Utterson and Hyde. Another phrase where supernaturality is strongly reflected is, following the previous quote, “The other snarled aloud into a savage laugh; and the next moment, with extraordinary quickness, he had unlocked the door and disappeared into the house.” The writer uses zoomorphism to connote Hyde’s laugh, through the use of this technique the author suggests Hyde’s laugh be similar to an aggressive growl with bared teeth. This is almost supernatural, has a negative connotation to it and this would make the reader simply think that Hyde is highly intrusive and quarrelsome. Hyde is implied to ‘disappear’ into his house, the use of ominous language in this sentence also adds to the latter concept. This combines to make the reader feel intrigued and weird because it hints warning and withdrawal/ avoidance from answering any more questions directed by Mr. Utterson.

Finally, the last example from the text that I’ve chosen, conjuncts all the concepts in my opinion. It is essentially a description of Mr. Hyde, “Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing, and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him. Firstly, the strong contrast and negative connotations are very noticeable in these lines, the author mentions that Mr. Hyde is a mixture of evil and shyness but at the same time bold. He communicated in a low pitched and broken voice but as suggested previously, was also illustrated to be bold. These techniques are highly effective in associating the lines to the concept of duality of mankind as by using contrast the writer is trying to convey that Hyde is confident but at the same time does not speak up and has a destructive mindset i.e dual personalities. The second concept of supernaturality can be felt, when Stevenson, calls Hyde to have a contortion without any abnormality, the degree of the usage of ominous language and peculiar tone, precisely links to the concept of telepathic. In addition, towards the end of the quote, the author also mentions that Mr. Utterson was unable to complete reporting about Hyde’s traits entirely because of the intense hatred gathered and ‘unknown disgust’ portraying that Mr. Utterson held a hidden feeling of fear towards him and concealed hatred, which is mystifying and misleading for the reader because the audience will built opinions about Hyde based on the person he has inferred to be according to narrator. Thus, the sense of supernaturality has been conveyed in these ways. Moving on, the idea of foreshadowing is elucidated through keeping the end of the narrative unfinished. The last line has a great emphasis on how Mr. Utterson couldn’t entirely express his abhorrence towards Hyde possibly because of mounting fear and disgust towards him. The built-up bitterness for a character foretells a negative event (such as a feud) that might take place later in the story.

To conclude, the three concepts chosen for discussion were strongly reflected in a variety of instances from the book and were apparent through the use of literary devices adopted by Stevenson.


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Literary Devices in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde”. (2022, Apr 01). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/literary-devices-in-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/

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