How does Stevenson create a sense of horror, mystery and tension in the first two chapters of his novel ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde’?
In this essay I am going to be showing the many different methods and techniques in which Stevenson creates a sense of horror, mystery and tension in his novel ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. In order to do this I am going to look at the ways used to create these elements in a range of themes. The themes I will explore are character description, description of places, the atmosphere, actions of the character, foreshadowing, and information held back from the reader.
There are a number of times in this novel when Stevenson creates more than one of the elements using character description. The first time he does this is right at the very start of the novel during the description of the main character, Mr. Utterson. This description adds to the horror, the mystery, and the tension. By using the adjectives that he has when describing Mr. Utterson, it adds to the sense of horror. He is described to be ‘cold’ and ‘scanty’. These adjectives are not used to complement him, and would usually be used to portray a cruel or nasty person. Another example is when Mr. Utterson is described as ‘A man of rugged countenance, never lighted by a smile’.
Not only does this add to the horror, but also adds to the mystery because a rugged appearance is not something you would associate a lawyer, which is a line of work that people constantly look their best. It is strange that his ‘rugged countenance’ is never lighted by a smile. Stevenson shows that there is a bit of mystery in Mr. Utterson’s description as he says that despite all names he is given, he is also ‘Somehow lovable’. This is very weird because you would not normally describe a lovable person the way Stevenson did. An element of tension is added now when we are informed that he is usually ‘The last good influence in life of down going men’. We are told of the kind of people that Utterson deals with in his trade, and it appears to give the impression that the rest of the book is going to be about one of these down going men that Utterson does business with.
Another character is described, Mr Hyde. His description definitely adds elements of horror and mystery to the novel. It is mysterious because in a situation most would have feared; Mr Hyde has a ‘sneering coolness’. Horror is added to the novel by Mr Richard Enfield’s description of the character on several occasions. He is described as ‘A Juggernaut’, ‘Like Satan’, ‘Deformed’, Dwarfish’, ‘Hardly human’, ‘Troglodytic’, and having a ‘Radiance of a foul soul’. That description certainly adds to the horror and also to the tension in that the reader is left unsure exactly what part this character plays in the novel and wondering what he will do next. Lastly, Doctor Jekyll’s description adds to all three elements. An old friend of Dr Jekyll’s, Dr Lanyon, said he was going ‘Wrong in mind’ also describes his research as ‘Unscientific balderdash’. When he says that Dr Jekyll is going wrong in the mind, this adds to the horror of the novel because it is very irregular. Mystery is added as well for the reason that Dr Lanyon is described as a very good friend of Dr Jekyll, yet is very much so, against his research.
I am now going to look at another way in which Stevenson created the three elements of horror, mystery, and tension, by using description of place. The houses down the street in London that both Mr Enfield and Mr Utterson walk through, compared to the house that is relevant in the story adds to the elements. The description of this street is small and quiet, yet ‘Drove a thriving trade on weekdays’. ‘Freshly painted shutters’ were on each house, as well as ‘Well polished brasses’. The street had ‘general cleanliness’. All of this seems perfectly normal, and could well be any given street in London. However, the description of Mr Hyde’s house is very different, and adds to all three elements being discussed. Stevenson describes the house as a ‘Sinister block of building’.
The word ‘sinister’ is associated with evil, which does not give a nice impression of this house already. There is a mention of the house having ‘No window’ This gives the impression that inside it is dark, and darkness is also associated with evil which adds to the element of horror. His name ‘Hyde’ is played on as it is implying that he is hiding away from other people by secluding himself in a dark house. Stevenson again plays on the name Hyde in that he points out there is ‘no bell or knocker’. This looks like he wants keep himself out of contact with the public. By saying this, it is adding to the mystery element because the reader is unsure why he is wanting to ‘Hyde’ himself. Once again, this adds to the horror as well as the mystery because everyone has some sort of social life, but in his case, he seems to want to avoid having a social life, which is very inhuman.
There is a mention of tramps in some of the doorways; this is completely different to the rest of the houses in the street as the people in the doorways are saleswomen. It shows mystery as because of the huge contrast between this house and the rest of the street, this is because usually all of the houses in a street are the same in most ways, they are not too different from one another, and have the same class of residency. Me Hyde’s house is described as ‘Scarcely a house’ The element of horror is added here again, as he is described as not living the life of a human, and not living like one either. It appears that anything that is associated with him is not normal, or is not as it appears. This adds to the tension in that whenever something is to do with Mr Hyde, the reader does not know what is going to happen next.
Another theme that I am going to be looking at is the atmosphere in the novel and how it relates to the three elements I am studying. Mr Enfield’s story describes the atmosphere a lot; he says it was ‘ A black winter’s morning’. The fact that it is morning is irrelevant, but he points out that is was dark, which is once again, associated with evil, therefore adding to the element of horror. He also says ‘There was nothing to be seen but street lamps’. This adds tension to the novel because there is nobody out, but something is going to happen. We know this because there would be no other reason for him to tell the story. There is a bit of mystery in the atmosphere now, this becomes evident when he says that someone lives there, and then goes back on himself by saying ‘And yet it is not so sure’. Even more mystery is added when Doctor Lanyon gets a bit hot under the collar while talking about why he fell out with his good friend Mr Utterson.
Stevenson says ‘This little spirit o temper’, which shows that he got annoyed due to the disagreement between them. This is mysterious because after being such good friends, they fall out over one scientific disagreement. The reader is left in suspense because they are awaiting the reason for them falling out. Once he returns home, another element of horror is added. It says ‘ To the great dark bed’. This is another reference to dark and evil. Mystery, tension and horror are all added to the atmosphere surrounding his nightmares. ‘His imagination was engaged, or rather enslaved’ meaning he could not think of anything else other than the incident, this adds to the horror element. ‘Even in his dreams it had no face’. This adds to the mysterious factor of the book because in a dream, things that you do not know for definite, are normally filled with the image you have imagined it would look like, but in this case, there is nothing at all. Also this adds to the tension in that the reader may have an image in their heads but do not know exactly what he looks like, but still don’t know actually how he looks.
The reader doesn’t know because Richard Enfield could not describe it, and Mr Utterson couldn’t even begin to imagine what his face looked like. The atmosphere described when Mr Utterson starts searching for Mr Hyde gives a sense of horror and mystery. ‘Under the fogged city moon’, this quote adds to the horror because the moon is often used when talking about creatures of the night, and the fog adds mystery because it prevents good vision down the eerie street in London. A tense atmosphere became apparent when he writes ‘And at last his patience was rewarded’, a quote to describe the night could be ‘The streets as clean as a ball-floor’. The reader is waiting to hear of Utterson’s reward, which they are expecting it to be the finding of Mr Hyde. Mr Utterson hears ‘odd footfalls’ whilst searching for Mr Hyde, and the readers presume it is going to be Mr Hyde, so Utterson will, at long last, see him face to face.
I will now be looking at how Stevenson establishes a feeling of the three elements; horror, tension and mystery, with the actions of characters. The first element that I noticed which was mysterious was found early on in the first chapter of the novel. It is a confusing quote; ‘It was a nut to crack for many what these two could see in each other’, this adds to the mystery, because it implies that they have little or nothing in common, and Mr Utterson is said to have a selective group of associates. Richard Enfield tells the story about Mr Hyde and the young girls’ collision. The action itself does not add a lot at all, but if the story was left out then it would have had a massive affect on the rest of the book and would have made it harder to understand. In the story, it is not the actions that are made that add the elements, but the action that two people wanted to complete. The crime that the man performed wasn’t that bad at all. Richard Enfield and the Doctor wanted to kill the man even though the crime wasn’t that bad.
‘I saw the sawbones turned sick and white with the desire to kill him’ Murder is a dreadful act to carry out on anything, let alone another human being, so this adds the element of horror to the novel. There was nothing wrong with the handing over of the money, only that when he gets the cheque, there is somebody else signs it. Richard Enfield says to Utterson ‘And signed with a name that I cannot mention’; this is very mysterious in that why would someone give that amount of money to a man who was so hateful, and adds more mystery as to who actually signed the cheque.
Towards the beginning of the book Mr Utterson is described as very strict, giving him a routine that he stuck to and a set of rules. He did not follow his routine when he was told the story of Mr Hyde. This adds a sense of mystery, as he is strict, therefore whatever he does it must be important. Stevenson says ‘When he would go soberly and gratefully to bed. On this night, however…’ this is obvious he did not follow his set routine. Another character action that adds more mystery concerns Doctor Jekyll’s Will. Mr Utterson should have assisted in the making of the will, but the novel says ‘Mr Utterson had refused to lend the least assistance in making it.’ It is slightly mysterious because a lawyer generally helps their client write out their will, but Mr Utterson did not.
This next theme I am going to look at is foreshadowing. The first time that I notice foreshadowing is when Mr Utterson and Richard Enfield found Hyde’s house. There are some similarities between the house, and the owner of the house. I mentioned previously that his house was described as ‘scarcely a house’ and Hyde was described as ‘Barely human’. The character has not been described to us yet because of the foreshadowing in the description of the house, you begin to get a rough image of him anyway. The second example of foreshadowing comes in the story told to us by Richard Enfield.
This is foreshadowing in that Mr Hyde’s actions in this story are only a guide of what he is capable of. This is only the start of My Hyde’s evil ways, and as you read on in the book, you expect him to commit worse crimes than he has already done. Not only did he trample on a young child, he also murders an MP, Sir Danvers, later on in the book. ‘For the man trampled over the child’s body’. This adds an element of horror because the crime alone is despicable, and the reader is disgusted, but there are worse things to come when he commits crimes of a more serious nature. Tension is added because every time there is a mention of Mr Hyde, the reader is waiting to hear of his next unearthly crime.
The last theme that I am going to study is the information held back from the reader. The first time I notice a piece of information is held back from the reader is the name of the anonymous person that signed the cheque in Richard Enfield’s story. He knows who the other person is but doesn’t say anything, Mr Utterson knew who it was so did not need to be told. The only person who does not know the name of the person that signed it, therefore information is held back from the reader. It becomes clear that Mr Utterson knows who signed the cheque when he says ‘If I do not ask you the name of the other party, it is because I know it already’.
The name is not mentioned by any one of them therefore adding mystery to the story. Another piece of information held back from the reader is the ‘unscientific balderdash’, which caused the argument between the two good friends, Dr Jekyll and Dr Lanyon. The reader is not informed of the reason why they fell out, which adds more mystery. One more piece of information that is held back from the reader is the face of Mr Hyde. There are many descriptions of Mr Hyde, but never anything about his face. Even when Mr Utterson asks ‘Will you let me see your face?’ we still do not get a clear description of what it is like, or any idea why it is deformed. The reader is still waiting for a description of his face so a sense of tension is added.
In conclusion to this novel, Robert Louis Stevenson successfully creates a sense of horror, a sense of mystery, and a sense of tension using events such as character actions, character descriptions, also places and objects are described including the will. The points I have put across in this essay all use quotes and examples to show how he has created the three elements in question, and how they have contributed to his novel. Stevenson’s reason for creating these elements is to make the novel as exciting as he possibly could, and they make the reader want to read on.