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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 41 - 50


Why, even after Lanyon witnesses Mr. Hyde's transformation in Chapter 9, does The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde require Chapter 10?

At the conclusion of Chapter 9, both Utterson and the reader know Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll are one and the same person. They know that through a chemical concoction Dr. Jekyll has been able to transform himself into Mr. Hyde. Yet they don't know why he would do such a thing, or what has caused Dr. Jekyll to enlist the help of his friends Lanyon and Utterson in his experiment. Dr. Jekyll's confession of all the circumstances surrounding his science simultaneously reveals the need for this experimentation and allows him to be out in the open about his duplicitous nature.

How does The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde negotiate concepts of reason versus passion?

In many instances The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde negotiates the dichotomy of reason and passion. Living in a post-Enlightenment world, Stevenson would have been taught to see reason as the only true path to knowledge and the revered tool of the morally upright. Passions, especially in the Victorian era, were seen as distractions that must be quelled lest they lead men to sin. Yet the Gothic side of the romantic movement included a preoccupation with passions and the irrational. Dr. Jekyll's desire to indulge his passions leads to Mr. Hyde's running rampant. In his letter to Lanyon, he writes "My honour, my reason, depend upon you," indicating that if Lanyon doesn't help him transform from Mr. Hyde back into Dr. Jekyll, his faculties of reason will be sacrificed forever to his passions.

Aside from Dr. Jekyll, how do other characters in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde confront the tensions between reason and passion?

When Poole goes to enlist the help of Utterson, he describes certain feelings elicited by sightings of Mr. Hyde. He says his encounter with "that masked thing," who he suspects is Mr. Hyde, sent a feeling "down my spine like ice. O, I know it's not evidence, Mr. Utterson ... but a man has his feelings." Poole claims to be "book-learned," pointing to a formal education that would value reason as a path to knowledge. Yet he relies more heavily in this instance on his feelings. Lanyon also asserts a belief in the superiority of reason over passion or feelings when he says that he felt from his letter that Dr. Jekyll had gone mad, "but till that was proved beyond the possibility of doubt," Lanyon was compelled to seek the truth. These characters' responses to mysterious events in the story draw out the tension between reason and passion.

In Chapter 8 ofThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, how does Stevenson establish pacing?

In Chapter 8 the tension continues to build as Poole and Utterson attempt to break down the door of Dr. Jekyll's home after hearing a strange voice coming from inside. In the paragraph where Poole swings the axe repeatedly to open the door, Stevenson uses only three sentences to describe the action of five swings of the axe. He punctuates these sentences with many commas and semicolons and uses conjunctions rather than end punctuation to keep the reader's eye moving quickly through the words. This is just one example of how Stevenson uses sentence structure and stylistic choices to establish pacing in his novella.

Which incident is the climax of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

It can be difficult to determine when certain key plot points occur in a narrative as unconventional as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Though there is a high point of action when Poole and Utterson break into Dr. Jekyll's laboratory and discover the deceased Mr. Hyde, one can make the case that the climax is the moment when Lanyon witnesses Mr. Hyde's transformation back into Dr. Jekyll. Though the transformation Lanyon witnesses occurs before Poole and Utterson's discovery in the sequence of events, Lanyon's tale comes after in the order of the narrative, suggesting that it is indeed the climax. Additionally many of the questions set up during the rising action are answered at this point. Who or what is Mr. Hyde? What is his connection to Dr. Jekyll? What has happened to Dr. Jekyll? These questions remain unanswered in the previous chapter where Mr. Hyde is discovered in Dr. Jekyll's cabinet.

What meaning can be gleaned from the allusion to the tale of Dr. Fell in Chapter 2 of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Dr. Fell was a disliked professor about whom one of his students spontaneously composed a rhyme when challenged to a translation exercise on the spot. The rhyme went: "I do not like thee, Dr. Fell, / The reason why—I cannot tell/ But this I know, and know full well,/ I do not like thee, Dr. Fell." When Poole asks Utterson, "or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell?" the reader is meant to connect the rhyme to Poole's feelings about Mr. Hyde. Can Poole tell why he does not like Mr. Hyde? Is there a legitimate reason or not? Discovering the reason for this dislike then becomes the work of the characters and the reader.

How does the classic archetypal theme of humans versus nature surface in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

The classic archetypal theme of humans versus nature surfaces in a couple of ways, as both an internal and external struggle. The internal struggle of human versus nature is embodied in Dr. Jekyll. He, as a man aware of his divided self, struggles against the very divided nature, so much so that he has to separate part of himself. He himself wants to be one way, but nature has made him another. The theme of human versus nature also manifests externally. In his efforts to remedy his internal struggle, Dr. Jekyll manipulates nature's design through chemistry in an attempt to resolve his conflict through the creation of a Gothic double.

How does Stevenson engender sympathy for Dr. Jekyll after the truth about his experiments and Mr. Hyde are made known in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Stevenson addresses the need to have the reader sympathize with Dr. Jekyll by offering Dr. Jekyll's confession in Chapter 10. While heretofore the reader has been made aware of the circumstances of the case, there has been no access to Dr. Jekyll's inner thoughts. Upon gaining access through his letter, the reader sees a conflicted man who, despite his trespasses, makes a sincere attempt to reverse the consequences of his actions. Stevenson allows the reader insight into Dr. Jekyll's condition by revealing that his "blood was changed into something exquisitely thin and icy" upon waking as Mr. Hyde, thereby revealing Dr. Jekyll's humanity. When the reader sees that Dr. Jekyll's response to encountering Mr. Hyde is akin to that of the other characters, the reader has sympathy for the character. Passages in Chapter 10 also reveal a very repressed and unhappy character who creates Mr. Hyde out of desperation. This letter serves not only to resolve the case for Utterson but also to give the reader some personal resolution.

Can Mr. Hyde be rightly classified as the villain in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

While Mr. Hyde is certainly the antagonist to Dr. Jekyll, there is a degree of ambiguity around his status as a villain. Though Mr. Hyde commits terrible crimes, including murder, and can be reasonably suspected of many unnamed transgressions, is he to blame for his actions? Some would argue that Mr. Hyde could behave in no other way because he was created to indulge what Dr. Jekyll wanted. This argument is similar to the argument that absolves the Monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, on the grounds that he was created out of Dr. Frankenstein's will. While Dr. Frankenstein did not foresee deviant behavior in his creation, Dr. Jekyll created his Gothic double for the very sake of deviant behavior. Perhaps it is Dr. Jekyll who is the real villain.

In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde who, if anyone, is the hero?

While there are few candidates for the role of hero in this tale, it can be argued that Dr. Jekyll fits the bill not of a traditional hero but rather of an antihero. The antihero trope is one that allows protagonists both good and not-so-good qualities. Essentially they are allowed to be human beings with more than just the one "tragic" flaw typically associated with traditional heroes. While Dr. Jekyll makes some horrible mistakes in the name of indulging the flawed parts of his character, he is driven to do so out of desperation. Dr. Jekyll's impulse to indulge something denied by social norms is not a feeling unfamiliar to many readers. In the process of coming to understand both the good and evil in himself, Dr. Jekyll becomes a hero when he rebels against what can be perceived as a hypocritical or unforgiving Victorian code of ethics.

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