Narration in Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

Term Paper, 2012
10 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. Narrative Situation
2.1 Narrative Structure
2.2 Effect on the Reader

3. Reliability

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliographie

1. Introduction

This term paper deals with the analysis of the narration in the novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” written by Robert Louise Stevenson in 1886. First, I will analyze the narrative situation by elaborating on the narrative structure of the story and its effect on the reader. Then I want to examine the reliability of the different narrators in the book. In the end I will summarize my results by drawing a short conclusion.

2. Narrative Situation

In the following, I will explain the multiperspectival narrative situation in the novel by pointing out the different perspectives, namely those of Enfield, Utterson, Lanyon and Jekyll. Afterwards, I will analyze the effect and the purpose that this narrative construction has on the reader.

2.1 Narrative Structure

The beginning of the novel is told by an authorial narrator who “offers a godlike panoramic view from an Olympic position outside and above the story” (Meyer 66). Also the characters are introduced by this omniscient voice, for example Mr. Utterson who is described in a very detailed way. Furthermore, on the first page, the thoughts of people (here Mr. Utterson’s and Mr.Enfield’s) are presented which is also a hint for an omniscient perspective. During one of their “Sunday walks” (1), Mr. Enfield tells “a very odd story” (1) to his friend Utterson in first-person narration. Because Utterson is the one who is addressed we already see the story from his point of view. The fact that he, and also the reader, is not satisfied by Enfield’s explanation sets the story going (Niederhoff 32). From chapter 2 onwards, the story is told by an undefined narrator but the reader goes along with Utterson’s perspective. He functions as a reflector, due to this, we see the scenes through his eyes (Meyer 67).

In chapter 4 The Carew Murder Case, a maid tells that a “crime of singular ferocity” (14) happened in London. The account is also told in the figural narrative situation by an invisible narrator but the event is presented through Utterson’s point of view. The question arises how the lawyer is connected to the maid’s experiences. But it can be suggested that she must have told the story several times, not only to the police: “she used to say, with streaming tears, when she narrated that experience” (14). Probably this is how Utterson heard about the incident. Another answer is that he was called by the police because he was somehow involved (15).

Besides Mr.Enfield’s Story of the Door and the maid’s report of the Carew Murder, two other narrations are inserted into the main one, namely Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative and Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case. In addition, many documents, such as Jekyll’s will, play an important role for the narrative structure of the novel: “the novel is composed (…) of ten disparate documents identified only as letters, incidents, cases and statements” (Thomas 160). Garrett also points out: “What is most striking about them is, rather, the ways they are all shaped to fit together like the pieces of a puzzle (...)” (60).

In chapter 6, the letter in which Dr. Hastie Lanyon confides to Utterson what he had found out about Jekyll is introduced. Since Utterson is not allowed to open it until the death of Jekyll, we have no insight until chapter 9 which is called Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative, and consists of the letter. Therefore, Lanyon is the first-person narrator who explains his own death and “reveals the identity of Jekyll and Hyde, leaving to Jekyll’s the task of explanation.” (Garrett 60).

The last chapter, Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case, also starts immediately with the letter Jekyll left for his lawyer Utterson and thus is in the first-person narrative situation. He is the experiencing-I, but during his narrative, he switches several times from first to third person. Firstly, he talks in the first person about himself, regardless of whether he is Jekyll or Hyde, but then he suddenly starts to mention Hyde and sometimes himself in third person: "(…) where Jekyll perhaps might have succumbed, Hyde rose to the importance of that moment.” (51). A few lines later, he explains, "He, I say – I cannot say, I."(52). Only when he turns into Henry Jekyll again, he speaks in the first person once more. In the last sentence he even speaks of himself as Henry Jekyll in the third person: "as I lay down the pen, (...), I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end."(54). Also Garrett stresses this feature: “As narrator and author of his “Statement”, Jekyll is “I”, but as protagonist or object of his narrative he is sometimes “I”, sometimes “he” or “Jekyll”, while “Hyde” is sometimes replaced by “I”” (Garrett 62). The scientist distances himself from both of his identities, he “cannot take authority for his own actions or even for his own words” (Thomas 75). The more power Hyde takes over him, the more he distances himself verbally. According to Thomas, the “end of Jekyll and Hyde is the fragmenting of the self into distinct pieces with distinct voices, not the bringing together of those pieces into some unified character who speaks with a single voice.” (73) and Saposnik calls the last chapter the “culmination of the multiple- narrative technique” (724). Finally, Jekyll’s letter ends with his own death: “(…) the voice of Jekyll is silenced, replaced by the texts he has written.” (Thomas 73) and it is also “the last document Utterson and the reader view” (Clunas 178), so we do not learn the full story until the lawyer does.


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Narration in Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
University of Trier
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narration, robert, louis, stevenson, strange, case, jekyll, hyde
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Anna Theresa Wendel (Author), 2012, Narration in Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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