The Appearance of the Fantastic and its Effects in R.L. Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2013

15 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Significance of Narrative Situation in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
2.1 The Effect on the Reader
2.2 Reliability

3. The Uncanny Effect of the Fantastic in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
3.1 Linguistic Features and Allegories
3.2 Symbolism of Names

4. Conclusion

5. Works Cited

1 Introduction

The double-ganger is the ‘other’, the false, the wrong self. He is a conglomerate of the bad, the dark, the uneven aspects of the self, which have become manifest and which now appear to threaten the prototype existentially by virtue of their mere presence. (Schmidt The Fear of The Other: 28)

In her work The Fear of the Other, Schmidt analyses, inter alia, the motif of the Double as well as its appearance in 19th Century literature in the Gothic tradition. The quotation above expresses the definition of the double-ganger, also described as the wrong self, which is connected with antithetic values opposed to the prototype. Schmidt utilises the expressions such as ‘First Self’ for demonstrating the protagonist and ‘Second Self’ which designates the definition of the dark half or rather the alter ego. While describing the divided self and explaining the relationship between good and evil of the double-ganger, Schmidt rather focuses on the ‘Second Self” and its multiple denotation, as “the Second Selves make their appearances either as instinct shadowlike figures, coming alive in the form of pictures or reversed as mirror images” (Schmid The Fear of the Other: 28).

These aforementioned double-ganger motifs are literary represented in a plethora of English narrations in both English Romanticism and in early 20th Century literature in the Gothic tradition. As social and personal identity crises were augmentative during the Romantic epoch, the literary double “serves to express an epoch’s fear of the collapse of social values”, therefore authors used the double motif in literature in order to “illustrate the issue of the fragmentability of the human soul” (36). While split personality was a feature of the prototype of a double-ganger in the Gothic genre, “the Second Self mostly contains aspects of the demonic, (…), the monstrous, (…) and is bound into a context of moral ambiguity” (44). These features demonstrate the “Second Self” as a diabolical alter ego, who always appears as a self-divided villain, marked by the uncanny and the evil. Schmidt does also involve Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2013) in her work among the selections, which illustrates the motif of the double and self-destructiveness of Dr Jekyll, a Victorian reputable gentleman in London and Mr Hyde, his alter ego, a “displeasing (…) detestable (man who) gives a strong feeling of deformity” (cf Stevenson The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: 13) and commits atrocities. Stevenson’s usage of allegories, narration and the point of view does both manipulate and influence the reader. This term paper shows the effects of the Fantastic through the linguistic features as the narrative situation, his applied word choices and broad imagery. In order to investigate these physical characteristics of the text, the amplification of the uncanny effect and the gothic novel will be analysed.

2. Significance of Narrative Situation in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Stevenson uses multiple narrations in order to create a tense atmosphere of suspense and ambiguity through the juxtaposition of the different of Utterson, Enfield, Lanyon and Jekyll. The novel begins with the detailed description of Mr. Utterson, a lawyer in London and Jekyll’s friend, through a figural narration or rather third-person narrator. During an encounter with his friend Mr. Enfield, the narrative immediately switches to the first person narrative; as soon as he starts telling Mr. Utterson about the “Story of the Door”. Thus through the dialogue and story-telling, Mr Hyde is indirectly introduced to the reader, described as an angst-inducing, hateful man whose ugliness was beyond description (cf Stevenson:13). Nevertheless, the focus on Mr. Utterson’s perspective remains in the following chapter, but the heterodiegetic narration remains limited, as Utterson’s thoughts and the dialogue between him and Lanyon, one of Jekyll’s closest friends, are presented. This allows the reader to follow the story from Utterson’s perspective and in fact to even play the role of the invisible observer. The narrative continues in the fourth chapter “The Carew Murder Case” as a report by a maid. Her testimony is still narrated in third person and alludes to Mr. Hyde’s attack on Sir Danvers Carew, a member of the Parliament and one of Utterson’s clients (cf Stevenson: 27,2013). However, Utterson’s point of view continues as the police calls him, when they find Carew’s purse with his number (cf ibid.). Besides the inserted narrations from “The Story of the Door” and “The Carew Murder Case”, which were based on Enfield and the maid’s individual experiences based on Enfield and the maid’s individual experiences. However, “Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative” is one of the most important and interesting chapters, as it recedes the climax of the story, which reveals himself as the first person narrator. Later in the sixth chapter, Utterson receives a letter with a written instruction on the envelope forbidding him to read its contents “till the death or disappearance of Dr. Henry Jekyll” (Stevenson: 40) in the sixth chapter. Despite his initial amazement, Utterson complies and indeed only unseals the envelope during the penultimate chapter.

As Utterson was represented throughout the story as a detective in search for evidence to solve the mystery, his perspective vanishes at the moment he discovers Hyde’s corpse, whose cause of death appeared to have been suicide by poisoning. Both Utterson’s point of view and the narrated time stops and the reader is introduced to “Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative”.

Lanyon’s confession is told as an epistolary, a technique which Stevenson used in some previous chapters as short paragraphs as well, in order to show the insight of the characters, thereby maintaining the element of tension in the story. The letter, which is written as first- person narration by Lanyon, enables the reader to witness the full metamorphosis of Hyde to Jekyll.

Finally, the protagonist Jekyll summarises his statement in a letter addressed to Utterson, written in the first-person narrative in the final chapter. Scott Allen Nollen notes in Robert Louis Stevenson: Life, Literature and the Silver Screen that “Utterson turns to Jekyll’s narrative and learns the detail of the case” (Nollen Robert Louis Stevenson: Life, Literature and the Silver Screen: 158), which creates an interesting variation of first- and third-person narrator, illustrated by Jekyll’s and Hyde’s insight.

While the focus still rests on Jekyll, hitherto appearing as an experiencing-I and narrating his life story, he starts mentioning his duplicity and describes his bewilderment every time he metamorphoses into Edward Hyde. A few lines downstream, he mentions his “Second Self” Hyde and starts referring to himself Jekyll in third person as well: “It was Hyde after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired (…)” (Ibid. 72). With the protagonist Jekyll naming his alter ego, the narrative is switched to the latter i.e. Hyde, who then assumes the role of the protagonist and first-person narrator, to provide the reader insight into the events of the first chapter in Hyde’s point of view about his first incident and atrocity of a girl. Due to the fact that it is Jekyll, not the alter ego Hyde, who describes his split personality in the letter to Utterson, it is also Jekyll whose strength wanes the more he elaborates on his metamorphosis; conversely and simultaneously his alter ego Hyde grows stronger. The plethora of diverse narration and switching between first- and third-person narratives may indeed obfuscate the storyline, however it keeps the reader captivated by the eventual transition of Jekyll to Hyde. Indeed this is achieved by the way the protagonist gradually distances himself from the Jekyll persona through the third-person reference, and eventually Jekyll disappears altogether in the letter, replaced by the Hyde alter ego. The last paragraph draws a confession from Jekyll, that “this is the last time, short of a miracle, that (he) can think his own thoughts or see his own face (now how sadly altered!) in the glass” (Stevenson, 83), illustrating the weak subconscious of the protagonist being taken over by Hyde, and simultaneously serving as the protagonist’s shot. The letter concludes with an apparent brief reprise of the Jekyll persona in the form of rhetorical questions, which is abruptly ended with the transition to Hyde’s perspective:

“Will Hyde die upon the scaffold? Or will he find courage to release himself at the last moment? God knows; I am careless; this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns another than myself. Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.”

An unknown third-person narrator, focusing on Utterson’s point of view, represents the first eight chapters as embedded narrations. Utterson’s character serves as a detective, manipulating and routing the reader in a cryptically, mysterious case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde. Even the last two chapters, which appear as epistolary, are found and read by Utterson. However Jekyll’s final statement is represented as an omniscient I-as-protagonist, who shares his innermost feelings to the reader, where his evil side comes to the fore and ends his narration in the letter by declaring his own death: “I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end” (84).

2.1 The Effect on the Reader

As mentioned earlier, Utterson is called attention about the case of Hyde by Enfield in the beginning of the story, which later on serves as a detective novel. This way, the reader is simultaneously introduced to as well as purposely misled regarding the case of Hyde. The first chapter introduces the enigma and angles one’s attention, once the name of the culprit Hyde and his dark description appear. Later, the suspense is upped a notched, when Utterson opens Jekyll’s holographic will. The association between Jekyll and Hyde gives the reader a hint as to why Hyde was even mentioned, as it is said that if Jekyll’s “disappearance or unexplained absence for any period exceeding three calendar months,” the said Edward Hyde should step into the said Henry Jekyll’s shoes without further delay (…)” (Stevenson: 14). Thereby allowing both Utterson and the reader to speculate and form theories. Scott Allen Nollen points out, “Jekyll uses Hyde to escape the Victorian code of respectability -as a way of expressing his evil urges.” (Nollen: 161). As the reader goes along with the lawyer’s point of view from the first chapter on, one could suggest that the reader jumps to prejudiced conclusions about Hyde’s actions first before he does about Jekyll’s persona. Distance, that has been established between Jekyll and Hyde through Utterson’s view serves as a misleading device for the reader and thereby conceals the fantastic truth about the existence of Jekyll’s alter ego. As Nollen mentions “Stevenson’s narrative structure maintains a sense of mystery; readers in 1886 did not realize that Jekyll and Hyde were one man until the latter stages of the story.” (Ibid. 162). The reader does not know the truth until the last two chapters, wherein not only is this fundamental truth revealed but also through the change in narrative voice.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


The Appearance of the Fantastic and its Effects in R.L. Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Romance – Realism – Fantastic: Modes of Writing in the 19th Century
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Reliability, Effect on the reader, Allegories, linguistic features, literature, jekyll, hyde, Stevenson's
Quote paper
Nhung Phan (Author), 2013, The Appearance of the Fantastic and its Effects in R.L. Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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