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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


Why might Mr. Hyde be a mister rather than a doctor like Jekyll in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

England in the Victorian era was a highly stratified society, where the "working class" were looked upon with disdain by the upper classes. Those like Mr. Hyde, who lived in Soho, represented the lowest caste of human beings and were thought to exhibit crude, animalistic behaviors unfit for civilized society. Though the man and creator from which Mr. Hyde sprang is a doctor, had Hyde been endowed with the title doctor, he would necessarily be identified with a different class. Though not all men endowed with the title mister belonged to the underclass (for example, Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield), a designation of doctor equal to Jekyll's would preclude Mr. Hyde's being associated with the poor and the prostitutes who indulged those desires over which Dr. Jekyll exercised self-control.

What might a feminist critic make of the absence of strong female characters in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Despite the fact that Great Britain was under the rule of Queen Victoria during the Victorian era, women had very few rights in the eyes of the law. They were often seen and portrayed as delicate objects, and their sexual desires were not recognized. The first female to appear in the novella is the young girl who is trampled by Mr. Hyde. The second is a helpless bystander who witnesses a murder, and the third is a hysterical servant. None of these females have any agency to protect themselves, intervene in a crime, or solve the problem of their missing master. They are essentially accessories, props that adorn the story for the sake of the male characters. A feminist critic would maintain that these representations of females are the product and reflection of the patriarchy in which British (and European) culture was entrenched.

In Chapter 10 how does Dr. Jekyll account for his decision to begin the work of creating Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

In Chapter 10 Dr. Jekyll recounts that his scientific work trended more and more toward "the mystic and the transcendental." These scientific aims, which were deemed heresies by his peer Lanyon, led him to come to an understanding of a dual nature in humanity. He remarks in his letter that "it was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together." While the slur faggot did not come to denote a homosexual until the early 20th century, when Stevenson was writing, the term was used to refer to bundles of wood made to start a fire. Additionally the word was associated with the punishment of a heretic by fire. Dr. Jekyll might have struggled with his religious upbringing (one he had in common with Stevenson) and his tendency toward the mystic. This struggle led him to ask, "How, then were they dissociated?"

In Chapter 10 how is the symbol of clothing developed in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

After Dr. Jekyll reveals his struggle with a double self, he states that he became conscious of "the mistlike transience of this seemingly so solid body in which we walk attired." Prior to this revelation, many references are made to Mr. Hyde wearing Dr. Jekyll's clothing, as is the case when Mr. Hyde is found dead in Dr. Jekyll's cabinet. In these instances clothing is used to assume or hide identities; however, in Dr. Jekyll's confessional letter, Stevenson extends this symbol to say that not only are clothes used to conceal some unpleasant reality or deception, but so is the very body in which a person walks. People's flesh itself is a kind of clothing that obscures their real, duplicitous nature. A person appears as one body, but the body is a transient container for a divided soul.

In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, how does the Victorian climate of temperance give rise to Dr. Jekyll's experimentation?

Dr. Jekyll's compulsion to experiment with chemistry so that he can create Mr. Hyde can be read as the direct consequence of Victorian values that advocated self-denial, self-control, and extreme piety. Men were expected to live up to the ideals of Christian morality; yet the very need for a moral code exists because men are flawed and inclined toward "Cain's heresy." Dr. Jekyll, finding it impossible to adhere to this strict morality and struggling with his dual nature, is able to rebel against social norms only by inventing Mr. Hyde so that he may act out Dr. Jekyll's passions and desires.

In Lanyon's narrative how does Stevenson build tension and suspense around the arrival of Mr. Hyde to Lanyon's home in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

In his letter to Lanyon, Dr. Jekyll says that it is best if the visitor arrives at midnight, after Lanyon's staff are asleep. This raises questions in the mind of the reader about why this mysterious person must steal around under the cover of night. When the mysterious person arrives at Lanyon's home as foretold by Dr. Jekyll's letter, neither the reader nor Lanyon know with certainty that the person who arrives is Mr. Hyde. Even still, Mr. Hyde knocks quietly, so as not to be detected by anyone other than the man who waits to receive him. One final bit of suspense is thrown in by the presence of the policeman and the visitor's making haste in response. Once the visitor enters, his identity is further withheld until the last sentence of the chapter.

How is the symbol of the door first established in early chapters of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde further developed in Chapter 9?

When Lanyon visits Dr. Jekyll's house in accordance with Dr. Jekyll's written request, he is met by Poole, Dr. Jekyll's butler, as well as a locksmith and a carpenter. Dr. Jekyll knows that the tradesmen will be needed to break into his cabinet. The door, which is described as "very strong, [and] the lock excellent," proves a great challenge for the tradesmen. It brings them near to despair before they are finally able to open the door, behind which Dr. Jekyll's deep secrets are hidden. Once this strong door is penetrated after breaking the lock, Dr. Jekyll can no longer hide. The truth about Mr. Hyde will inevitably be exposed, and this exposure is Dr. Jekyll's final chance at survival.

Given the title of Chapter 1, how could one make the claim that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is, in its entirety, a story about doors?

Given that the first chapter of the novella is titled "Story of the Door," one can assume that doors will figure prominently in the story. The gaze of the chapter is cast upon Mr. Hyde's door in Soho, eliciting a sense of dread in both Enfield and Utterson, while raising questions in the mind of the reader. The mystery of the door becomes the frame of the story. As the story continues, more doors are encountered: Dr. Jekyll's locked door, Lanyon's door upon which Mr. Hyde knocks. Each time a door is opened and passed through, there is a release of control, and as a result something changes as some hidden truth is encountered. Through this symbol, the story becomes an allegory for revelation and transformation that extends beyond the immediate case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

How could the argument be made that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is Utterson's story and not the story of the titular characters?

There are a few ways in which this novella could be understood as Utterson's story. The first clue that it might be read that way is the character's name itself: Utterson. To utter is to say or to tell, and Utterson is the one whose point of view is invoked in the first eight chapters, using a close third-person point of view. Because of this technique, the reader follows Utterson as he collects clues and inquires into this strange case. Another reason why this could be read as Utterson's story is that he is the only main character who is left alive at the end of the novella. The lesson offered by the story remains available only to Utterson and the reader who followed him through the mystery.

How is Hyde's claim in Chapter 1 of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde an example of verbal irony: "No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene"?

When Mr. Hyde offers to pay the family of the young girl whom he trampled in Chapter 1, he does so because "no gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene." He knows that there could be gossip spread through the town if he does not settle the matter with the family immediately; however, this is ironic in a few ways. First is the verbal irony of Mr. Hyde's self-identification as a gentleman. He has just behaved brutishly by trampling a young girl in the street, but he still considers himself a gentleman. On another level Stevenson is offering a bit of commentary on the irony of the Victorian tendency to "avoid a scene" for the sake of appearances. Hyde does not express remorse, nor does he pay the girl's family out of guilt; rather he merely wishes to avoid the critical eye of the public.

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