Paying particular attention to Stevenson's description of the city at night, discuss how Stevenson uses descriptive imagery to evoke a mood of dread.Cite a few specific examples.

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kimberlee154 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first chapter, Stevenson uses descriptive imagery to make the reader feel Mr. Enfield's apprehension before Hyde's trampling of the girl. He describes the "black winter morning" (Stevenson 3). "--[S]treet after street, all lighted up as if for a procession and all as empty as a church--" (Stevenson 3). The procession in this grim sentence makes the reader think of a funeral procession and the church empty as if the mourners have gone to the burial site.

Another description is in chapter two in which Mr. Utterson is waiting in the street for Hyde to come home. "[T]he by-street was very solitary and, in spite of the low growl of London from all round, very silent. Small sounds carried far;" (Stevenson 10). The "low growl" is an ominous personification, foreshadowing some approaching base and ruthless creature. The long approaching footsteps are a classic technique of apprehension and anticipation of dread leading up to an appearance of evil.

In the eighth chapter, Utterson follows Poole home and Stevenson again personifies the night as a savage animal to heighten the dread and apprehension of Hyde, the beastly nature of man. He describes a "wild, cold" night, "with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and flying wrack of the most diaphanous and tawny texture. The wind made talking difficult, and flecked the blood into the face" (Stevenson 35).  

yxm1305 | Student

At various junctures in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson uses vivid descriptions to evoke a sense of the uncanny and the supernatural, and of looming disaster. He first employs this technique in the opening scene, when Enfield relates his story of witnessing Hyde trample a little girl—a night when the streets were so empty that he began “to long for the sight of a policeman.”

This notion of the city as a fearful landscape recurs throughout the novel. After hearing the tale of Mr. Hyde, Utterson suffers from dreams in which Hyde stalks through “labyrinths of lamp-lighted city,” crushing children and whispering evil into Jekyll’s ears. In Utterson’s vision, London becomes a nightmare city, a place of terror where Hyde can perpetrate his crimes unchecked. The nightmare city reappears in Utterson’s later, waking description of London. Leading the police to Hyde’s apartment through a foggy pre-dawn, Utterson watches the mist swirl and transform the neighborhood into “a district of some city in a nightmare,” bringing a “touch” of “terror” even to the stolid policemen.

By the novel’s final scene, these cityscapes connote not only terror but also foreboding of even more horrifying dangers. When Poole fetches Utterson to Jekyll’s house, the wildness of the night and the empty streets fill the lawyer with “a crushing anticipation of calamity.” In all these descriptions, Stevenson creates a perceptual dread that reinforces the conceptual horror of his subject matter.

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