What is the setting in the Robert Louis Stevenson novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Setting is defined as the "social environment, place and time" in which a story's events unfold (Literary Devices, "Setting"). The setting of a novel will consist of one general time and location, such as Paris during the French Revolution, but if a story takes place in multiple locations and times, then the setting will encompass those as well. Beyond place, time, and social circumstances, setting will include "geographical locations, weather, [and] immediate surroundings" ("Setting").

Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is set in London during the Victorian era, a very morally restrictive era and the same era Stevenson grew up in. The moral restrictions of the era serve to help develop Stevenson's theme of the dual good and evil natures of mankind.

Beyond being set in London during the Victorian era, there are also more specific details that make up the setting. For example, the novel opens with Dr. Jeckyll's lawyer, Mr. Utterson, and Mr. Utterson's distant relation, Mr. Enfield, walking down a small "by-street," or private side street, in Soho, London. On the side street, they see a very uninviting door that Enfield has seen Mr. Hyde entering and exiting, using a key. Utterson happens to know that on the other side of this building is where Dr. Jeckyll lives.

Other aspects of the setting include where and what time of day individual scenes take place. For example, we learn of Dr. Jekyll's strange will in Utterson's house after dinner, and Utterson first approaches and speaks with Hyde in the courtyard in Soho at night.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of a story is the environment where the story takes place, which often includes a time period and specific location. The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes place in London during the late 1800s, which is considered the Victorian era. Stevenson chose the setting of central London in the late-nineteenth century for various reasons. Victorian London was a rather dark, gloomy city, which adds to the ominous atmosphere and Gothic elements throughout the story. Stevenson also chose Mr. Hyde's home in Soho because of its bad reputation. During the Victorian era, Soho was an infamous location where thieves, prostitutes, and poor citizens congregated. Jack the Ripper was also terrorizing the streets of London during this time period, which adds to the spooky atmosphere of the story. The Victorian era was also a time of scientific discovery and significant breakthroughs, which correlates with Dr. Jekyll's creation. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published during this time period, which dramatically upset religious communities. Overall, Stevenson chose to set the novella during a turbulent time period in the gloomy area of London, which created a tension-filled, uncomfortable atmosphere where a creature like Hyde could terrorize the city. 

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