In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, how does Robert Louis Stevenson create and continue a sense of suspense and intrigue?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Louis Stevenson uses several structural elements to create and build suspense and intrigue in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some of these structural elements follow.

1. Stevenson starts Chapter 1 with a detailed description about a character--actually two characters--other than Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, the namesakes of the story. The reader expects to meet first Dr. Jekyll and then Mr. Hyde but instead Mr. Utterson and Mr Enfield are offered up.

2. He then introduces a narrative of an experience told by a participant--Mr. Enfield--in a horrible event centering on Mr. Hyde's inhuman behavior.

3. Next Mr. Utterson intimates that he has knowledge of the signatory of the bank check and of the physical relationship of the person's home with the building with the strange door entered by the vile Hyde.

All these structural elements create an instant suspense by (1) creating an interesting and intriguing  and trustworthy point of view (or focalizer) into the story (Mr. Utterson) and by (2) setting up a string of questions that inspire the reader to search for answers by turning the pages.

Stevenson continues in this vein of introducing characters or gradually deepening details about the characters and introducing puzzling events, such as Jekyll's peculiar will and Jekyll's that Utterson give Hyde help when Jekyll would be no longer there, as the conflict deepens and the plot unfolds.

The pivotal device for building and heightening intrigue and suspense is the introduction in Chapter 4 of the horrific murder of Sir Danvers Carew. Two things are accomplished at the point. First, the reader wants to know how it comes about that Hyde is tracked down and caught and whether he is made to pay for his crime. At the same time, the reader is horrified for the fate of Dr. Jekyll who at all times is presented as a sympathetic, although flawed and perhaps deluded, character.

Finally, Stevenson explores the emotional and psychological (combined emotional and cognitive) suffering of certain characters, particularly Jekyll and Hyde and Lanyon. All these elements--and the distance from Jekyll that is created by having the narrator tell the story through Utterson's experience of it instead of Jekyll's experience of it--contribute to the sense of intrigue and suspense in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stevenson introduces the fiendish character of Mr. Hyde but does not reveal who he is or how he is connected to the esteemed Dr. Jekyll until the end of the book. At the outset, Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll's lawyer, merely hears of the dastardly deeds of Mr. Hyde and then learns that his old friend Dr. Jekyll has bequeathed everything to Mr. Hyde in his will. Even more mysteriously, Dr. Jekyll leaves instructions that everything is to be left to Mr. Hyde in the case of his disappearance, which adds an extra layer of suspense. It is unclear why Dr. Jekyll would disappear for a length of time. 

Later, Mr. Utterson comes upon Mr. Hyde leaving Dr. Jekyll's laboratory, and he finds Hyde distasteful to the point of inducing nausea. However, Dr. Jekyll refuses to tell his old friend Utterson why he continues to befriend Hyde and wants to leave him his possessions in his will. To heighten the suspense and sense of intrigue, Mr. Hyde is always surrounded by fog, and Mr. Utterson comes upon him in the dark. Utterson can never fully see Hyde's face, and Utterson is wandering about in the literal and figurative fog trying to figure out who Mr. Hyde is and how he is connected to Dr. Jekyll—mysteries that he does not figure out until the end of the book.

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