illustration of a face with two separate halves, one good and one evil, located above the fumes of a potion

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

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The Plot

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Robert Louis Stevenson said that the plot of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (first published without “The” as the first word in the title) first came to him in a nightmare and that, after waking up, he wrote the first draft in three days. Stevenson introduces the mystery of the evil Mr. Edward Hyde—the central puzzle of the story—early in the novel, but he does not provide a solution to the mystery until the very end. The reader’s first encounter with Hyde is at second hand, in a story told to Gabriel John Utterson, a lawyer friend of Dr. Henry Jekyll, by Richard Enfield, who saw Hyde trample a child. Because Jekyll recently has changed his will to leave all of his money to Hyde, Utterson is intrigued and begins to investigate. He fears that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll and plans to murder him.

When Sir Danvers Carew, a respected member of Parliament, is murdered and Hyde is implicated by a witness, a manhunt begins, but Hyde cannot be found. Utterson begins to suspect that more than a murder is involved when he discovers that the handwriting of Jekyll is identical to that of Hyde, except for the slant of the letters. His suspicions deepen when he learns that Dr. Hastie Lanyon has developed hard feelings toward his old friend, Henry Jekyll. Although Lanyon is dying, he refuses to see Jekyll again.

The mystery that surrounds the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde is revealed gradually by means of a letter from Lanyon that is to be read by Utterson after Lanyon has died; however, Lanyon’s letter contains another letter that is not to be opened until the death or disappearance of Jekyll. When Poole, Jekyll’s butler, tells Utterson that Jekyll has disappeared and that Hyde is locked in Jekyll’s laboratory, Utterson and Poole break down the door. They find only the body of Hyde and a note from Jekyll requesting that Utterson read Lanyon’s letter.

The letter recounts a request by Jekyll to bring some chemicals to him. Hyde appears in Jekyll’s laboratory, and Lanyon sees Hyde swallow the chemicals and become transformed into Jekyll. The shock of witnessing the transformation apparently hastened Lanyon’s death. When Utterson opens the accompanying letter, from Jekyll, he discovers that Jekyll has been obsessed with a theory of the duality of good and evil in all human beings and that he has discovered a formula that transforms him into his evil side. When he begins to change into Hyde without the chemicals, however, Jekyll despairs, for after he exhausts his supply of chemicals he can no longer transform himself back. As he completes the letter, he changes back to Hyde the last time and kills himself.

Form and Content

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a disquieting story about the efforts of an individual to escape his own nature. The novel offers an account of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a Scottish scientist who, after years of attempting to accommodate both his moral side and his pleasure-seeking side, becomes convinced that a separation of the two would be desirable.

In his laboratory, Jekyll develops a chemical potion that is designed to accomplish the separation and drinks it. After a “grinding of the bones” and a horrible nausea, he begins to feel “incredibly sweet” and free. Looking in the mirror, Jekyll observes not himself but Edward Hyde, a smaller and younger person than himself. Jekyll delights in the division of himself and in his new liberty, but he soon begins to lose control of Hyde, who can assume Jekyll’s form at will. The novel follows Dr. Jekyll’s struggle with Mr. Hyde, who becomes increasingly evil and whom Jekyll refuses to acknowledge as a part of himself.

The enormous popularity of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has aided the perpetuation of a persistent view that it is a simple fable of the division between the good and evil that exists in everyone. The complexity of Robert Louis Stevenson’s imaginative story of an individual’s conflict with himself, however, is evident in its multiple narratives. Through the presentation of various points of view, Stevenson escalates knowledge of events from the peripheral to the more intimate and at the same time deepens the insight into the psychology of Jekyll.

The first narrative, Richard Enfield’s horrified reaction to Edward Hyde’s trampling of a little girl, provides the first evidence of the existence of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. Enfield, a “well-known man about town,” finds Hyde unaccountably detestable. He also relates the reactions of others present: the women, whom the sight of Hyde makes “wild as harpies,” and a doctor, who like Enfield is sickened by Hyde and wants to kill him. Enfield confides his narrative to his cousin, Gabriel John Utterson, an attorney who is a friend of Jekyll and who practices self-denial in order to strengthen his own moral fiber. Utterson, through whose perspective the story is told, listens to accounts of Jekyll and Hyde told by other characters and sometimes observes Jekyll and Hyde directly. A tolerant person, he believes that Jekyll has perhaps been guilty of some foible in his youth and is being blackmailed by Hyde. Upon meeting Hyde, he too feels disgust and nausea.

The third narrator is Dr. Hastie Lanyon, who has written a letter to Utterson. A bold Scottish doctor, Lanyon has become estranged from Jekyll because of Jekyll’s “fanciful” theories. Dr. Lanyon is the first to ascertain that Jekyll is Hyde and that Jekyll is in Hyde’s control. His observation of Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde literally shocks Lanyon to death.

Jekyll’s narrative, a letter read after his death, is the one for which all others have been preparation. The most subjective account, the letter reveals his concerns that led to his experiments and the conclusions that he reached about them. Of great interest is his personal reaction to Hyde.

Places Discussed

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*London. Great Britain’s capital and leading city is the general setting for the novella. The story depends for its effect on a suitably gothic atmosphere, and its portrayal of London is one of the great triumphs of the work. However, in the view of many scholars, Stevenson’s London is based more on his native Edinburgh, Scotland, than on the actual London of his time.

The story’s London is full of ominously empty streets and glaring lamps; it is silvered by ghostly moonlight or drowned in impenetrable fog. Its streets echo with sinister footsteps, and it is a place of questionable neighborhoods, strange houses, and dubious doors. Fog penetrates the very interiors of houses; biting winds whip sparse trees against railings, and even in the daylight, fog and mist can create ghostly and frightening phantasmagorias. In this story, London is mostly a city of the night, a place in whose darkness or under whose lurid lamps a child can be trampled or a dignified old man be murdered. Stevenson creates the overwhelming sense that just beyond the warm hearths and respectable characters’ sitting rooms there lurks a dark and dangerous place.

Jekyll’s house

Jekyll’s house. London residence of Dr. Henry Jekyll. Like Jekyll himself, his house is possessed of a dual and bifurcated nature. Indeed, almost every detail of the house reflects symbolically his character and situation. Jekyll’s “official” house has a respectable and handsome facade, a door that is opened by an old and decent servant, and an interior that is expressive of wealth, comfort, and security. This house, or the public part of his house, is a perfect expression of the front that the eminently respectable Dr. Jekyll presents to the world.

In his investigations, the lawyer Gabriel John Utterson learns that what he has taken to be Jekyll’s house is actually only one part of a larger residence. The respectable house that Utterson first knows is connected through a back door and a small yard to a mysterious and sinister part of the house that is at once attached to, and separate from, its imposing opposite side. Every aspect of this dark side of the residence reveals something about Jekyll’s own other side. It is a dingy, secretive, disorderly place that contains a laboratory (once a dissecting room) and a kind of inner sanctum which is referred to as the “doctor’s cabinet.”

It is also worth noting that the small yard that connects the two sides of Jekyll’s residence was once a garden but is so no longer. Finally, the dark side of Jekyll’s house has its own front side and door that seem at first unconnected to the other side of the house; they are blank, ugly, sordid, and ominous. It is through the entrance on this side of the house that Mr. Hyde comes and goes. In coming to understand the strange two-sidedness of Dr. Jekyll’s house, Utterson approaches and foreshadows an understanding of Jekyll himself.

Utterson’s house

Utterson’s house. London home of Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer. This house is comfortable, safe, respectable, and sterile. It is a place from which everything unconventional, imaginative, or odd has been expelled. It reflects Utterson’s dry bachelor ways and his masculine professionalism. Utterson’s house is the embodiment of Victorian respectability that Jekyll worships in his Jekyll form but rebels against in his Hyde form.

Lanyon’s house

Lanyon’s house. Home of Dr. Hastie Lanyon, Jekyll’s friend and medical colleague, in London’s Cavendish Square. This fashionable house reflects Lanyon’s stature as a physician and his general success. In this comfortable and hospitable home, Lanyon sees to his growing medical practice and entertains his friends. Like Utterson’s house and one side of Jekyll’s home, Lanyon’s residence is a symbol of a repressive but brittle respectability. When Lanyon witnesses Hyde’s transformation back to Jekyll within his own home, the sight utterly destroys all that he and his house represent.

Hyde’s house

Hyde’s house. Squalid residence of Mr. Hyde in London’s dismal Soho district. When Utterson finds the house, he experiences it and its neighborhood as a kind of dingy nightmare. The house is a dark and wicked place, but it reveals a few hints of Hyde’s connection to Jekyll.

Historical Context

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Benthamism, also known as utilitarianism, became an important ideology in Victorian society. The term came to be associated with a philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, expressed in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, that was adopted by a large portion of the Victorian middle class, affecting their habits and beliefs. By the 1820s, Benthamism gained a number of disciples who promoted his theories in theoretical debates. Supporters gained political power in the 1830s when approximately one hundred were elected to the first reformed Parliament in England.

At the core of this philosophy was the belief in "the greatest happiness for the greatest number," a phrase borrowed from Joseph Priestley, a late eighteenth-century Unitarian theologian. At the heart of this belief was the supposition that self-interest should be one's primary concern and that happiness could be attained by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. In Victorian People and Ideas, Richard D. Altick explains that "utilitarianism was ... wholly hedonistic; it made no allowance for the promptings of conscience, or for ... the forces of generosity, mercy, compassion, self-sacrifice, love. Benthamite ethics had nothing to do with Christian morality."

Another equally important movement in the Victorian Age was Evangelicalism, a form of Protestant pietism. Evangelicalism focused less on doctrine and more on the day-to-day lives and eventual salvation of its followers. It set rigid patterns of conduct for its practitioners to follow in order that they might find atonement for their sins. Altick notes that "the Evangelical's anxious eye was forever fixed upon the 'eternal microscope' which searched for every moral blemish and reported every motion of the soul." The religion is also noted for its inspiration of humanitarian activities during the Victorian age.

London at the End of the Nineteenth Century
Michael Sadler describes London in the latter half of the nineteenth century in his Forlorn Sunset (1947):

London in the early sixties was still three parts jungle. Except for the residential and shopping areas ... hardly a district was really "public" in the sense that ordinary folk went to and fro ... There was no knowing what kind of a queer patch you might strike, in what blind alley you might find yourself, to what embarrassment, insult, or even molestation you might be exposed. So the conventional middle class kept to the big thoroughfares, conscious that just behind the house-fronts to either side murmured a million hidden lives, but incurious as to their kind, and hardly aware that those who lived there were also London citizens."

Irving S. Saposnik in his article on Stevenson notes that during this period, London was:

much like its inhabitants, a macrocosm of the necessary fragmentation that Victorian man found inescapable ... [It] represented that division-within-essential-unity which is the very meaning of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As both geographic and symbolic center, London exemplified what Stevenson called it in New Arabian Nights, "the great battlefield of mankind."

Reverend William Tuckniss describes London at the end of the nineteenth century as a place where:

the seeds of good and evil are brought to the highest state of maturity, and virtue and vice most rapidly developed, under the forcing influences that everywhere abound ... London then may be considered as the grand central focus of operations, at once the emporium of crime and the palladium of Christianity. It is, in fact, the great arena of conflict between the powers of darkness and the ministry of heaven ... It is here that they join issue in the most deadly proximity, and struggle for the vantage-ground.


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The story is set in the 1870s, in London, England. The city, the buildings, and the people (whether servants or working-class or educated) are all historically consistent. The reader gets the distinct impression that the author may have walked streets like these, with foot traffic at any and all hours as people of nearly every living standard go about their business and leisure. He may have visited houses and buildings like those he describes, some showing improvements and social advancements, others neglect and decay.

The only fantasy element in the story is in the nature of Dr. Jekyll's research with mineral salts. This too is actually historically consistent, as the science of pharmacology was expanding at that time. While the doctor's bag in the 1880s contained no more potent substances than alcohol, iodine and opium, there was study being made of the efficacy of other medicinal substances. Studies by private researchers brought ether, for example, into medical use though it was not always handled with appropriate discretion.

Literary Style

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Point of View
Stevenson continually alters the point of view in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which creates suspense and reinforces the novel's concentration on duplicity. The novel opens with a focus on John Gabriel Utterson, Dr. Jekyll's friend and attorney, and his gradual uncovering of the horror that lies at the heart of the story. Then the narrative immediately shifts to Utterson's friend and relative, Richard Enfield, who first informs Utterson of the existence of Edward Hyde. Enfield expresses the problem faced by those who encounter Hyde and try to describe him when he comments, "I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why ... He gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point ... I can't describe him." Others who see him are struck by a "haunting sense of unexpressed deformity." The characters' inability to gain a clear vision of Hyde reflects his nature. Hyde represents Jekyll's dark side, an integral part of his soul that he had repressed for years. In his assessment of Hyde, Jekyll insists, "This too was myself." Yet readers do not gain a full understanding of Hyde or Jekyll until the end of the book when Jekyll makes his confession.

In his overview of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stewart F. Sanderson comments on the construction of the narrative: "The pace of the narration, the deft way in which details supporting both the action and its unravelling are interwoven throughout the narrative, and the economy with which the story's terrifying atmosphere is created, combine to form a work of extraordinary psychological depth and powerful impact."

Irving S. Saposnik, in his book on Stevenson, also praises the novel's narrative construction:

The three separable narrative voices—Enfield, Lanyon, Jekyll—are placed in successive order so that they add increasing rhetorical and psychological dimension to the events they describe. In contrast to other multiple narratives whose several perspectives often raise questions of subjective truth and moral ambiguity, these individual narratives in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde provide a linear regularity of information—an incremental catalogue of attitudes toward Hyde's repulsiveness and Jekyll's decline.

Several critics have praised the novel's style. Stephen Gwynn, in his book on Stevenson, insists that the novel is "a fable that lies nearer to poetry than to ordinary prose fiction." In his lecture on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Vladimir Nabokov comments, "Stevenson had to rely on style very much in order to perform the trick, in order to master the two main difficulties confronting him: (1) to make the magic potion a plausible drug based on a chemist's ingredients and (2) to make Jekyll's evil side before and after the"hydization" a believable evil." Nabokov suggests that Stevenson accomplishes these goals through his use of setting and symbolism in the novel.

Stevenson provides setting details that gain symbolic significance in the novel. His description of London helps set a mood of suspense and suggests a foreboding sense of evil. In the morning fog, London becomes

dark like the light of some strange conflagration; and here, for a moment, the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths. The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses, with its muddy ways, and slatternly passengers, and its lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful reinvasion of darkness, seemed ... like a district of some city in a nightmare.

Stevenson's description of the section of Soho where Hyde resides is especially ominous. As Utterson and Enfield walk through the city at the beginning of the novel, they find themselves in "a busy quarter" of London and pass a "certain sinister block of building" that "bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence." The door to Hyde's quarters, in front of which the two men pause, is "blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess ... The schoolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages."

Stevenson uses other symbolic devices in the story, including the names "Jekyll" and "Hyde," which are of Scandinavian origin. Hyde comes from the Danish word hide which means "a haven" and Jekyll comes from the Danish name Jokulle, which means "an icicle." Nabokov argues, "Not knowing these simple derivations one would be apt to find all kinds of symbolic meanings, especially in Hyde, the most obvious being that Hyde is a kind of hiding place for Dr. Jekyll, in whom the jocular doctor and the killer are combined." Utterson's name closely fits his austere nature and relates to one of the novel's themes—the repression of personality.

Nabokov finds another important symbol in the story. The reader eventually learns that Jekyll's dissecting room, which he altered for his experiments, has become Hyde's quarters and the place where the transformations take place. Nabokov notes, "The relations of [Jekyll and Hyde] are typified by Jekyll's house, which is half Jekyll and half Hyde."

Saposnik concludes,

the topography of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde may be seen as a study in symbolic location, a carefully worked out series of contrasts between exterior modes and interior realities. Like much of Victorian life and letters, most of the story's action is physically internalized behind four walls. Utterson's ruminations, Lanyon's seduction, and Jekyll-Hyde's death all occur within the protective confines of what Stevenson in an essay termed "The Ideal House."

This Victorian home sheltered its inhabitants from public scrutiny.

Saposnik notes that as the action becomes more internal, so does the psychological direction of the novel:

Although the reader's first views of the house are external, the action soon directs him to the hall, then to the study, and finally to the ominous experiments behind the closed door of the former dissection laboratory. As Poole and Utterson break down the last barrier to Jekyll's secret, they literally and metaphorically destroy his one remaining refuge; by invading his physical sanctuary, they force him into a psychological admission whose only possibility is death.

Literary Techniques

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The story is told from several perspectives. It opens in the third person, with the focus largely on the perceptions of Mr. Utterson. There are several important letters that help to reveal the horrible truth about Mr. Hyde, one of great importance by Dr. Lanyon; and the last thirty or so pages are Jekyll's "Full Statement of the Case." In this fashion, the author manages, in a quite credible manner, to conceal the dual identity from the reader until near the end of the plot.

Another vital feature of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the style. While Stevenson is renowned for an elegant writing mode in almost all of his works, in this story it is of particular significance, most notably in the passages of description, such as this early picture of Hyde: "Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave the impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering, and somewhat broken voice." Style is also essential in the creation of cold, damp London nights and, indeed the entire atmosphere of gloom and evil. Establishing the appropriate tone is of the essence for a narrative of this sort: An air of realism must be maintained to countervail the fictive aspects of the plot.

Ideas for Group Discussions

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Since there are so many parallel narratives, in a variety of forms (print, cinema, television, stage), it might be interesting to compare some of these treatments of dual identity with Stevenson's work.

1. Is there any justification at all for Jekyll's undertaking the daring experiment?

2. Several prominent readers, Henry James, for example, found the device of the drugs confounding and somewhat difficult to accept. Does this aspect of the plot seem unacceptable? Is there another way in which Stevenson could have solved the problem of transformation?

3. Although Hyde actually commits only one murder, does the author successfully create a sense of pervasive evil in this character?

4. Did the fact that you knew the basic outline of the plot before reading the text in any way lessen the effect of the climax on you?

5. Apart from the transformation itself, clearly in the vein of science fiction, is there any other aspect of the narrative that seems to strain credulity? For example, are the behaviors of all the characters realistic?

6. Is the tone of the story maintained satisfactorily all the way through the text? Could more have been done to intensify it?

Literary Qualities

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This is a good reading exercise for students who can read at a fifth grade level or better. Like most works in an older style, it is more understandable when read aloud. With an ordinary dictionary available, any middle-school or junior high school student can plow through the stiff, formal prose. There are phrases used throughout which are now regarded as literary cliches, such as: "his blood ran cold in his veins" and "with a heavy heart." These give a sense of the time that has passed between the writing of topical, popular fiction with a contemporary setting, and the present day when this novel seems antique.

It is known that Stevenson read works by Dostoevsky, and also Edgar Allen Poe, and their influence upon Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is clear (particularly for Poe's story, "The Imp of the Perverse"). It would perhaps have been better for him to learn more from the works of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), as the humor in Stevenson's novels is thin and underdeveloped. This contained world of the Presbyterian city-dweller has every bit of horror that can be seen in the 1999 feature film The Matrix, but none of the self-deprecating humor.

This short novel seems to be strongly influenced by the first modern horror novel written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in 1818. It is impossible to be certain of every book read by Stevenson during his short life, but it seems likely that the horror story of the scientist who creates a human monster may have become in Stevenson's fevered mind a story of a scientist who makes himself a human monster. Stevenson learned as a child from his nanny, and never forgot that torment is the price of sin, and regret is not enough to redeem a sinner.

Social Concerns

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It is difficult for a modern reader, surely familiar with the Jekyll/Hyde dual identity, to imagine the shock of those in Stevenson's time who had no notion of the phenomenon and who believed, until near the close of the text, that there are really two people involved. The social class of the main characters is significant. They are all "gentlemen," the only exception being Jekyll's servant Foole. This fact makes it possible for Hyde, who dresses like an upper-class person and who has adequate funds, to be as independent and free in his dire actions as he is.

The gentility of Mr. Utterson, Dr. Lanyon, Mr. Enfield, and Jekyll himself sets the tone of the novella: Only the highest moral behavior should be expected of people in this class of society. Thus, the disgrace that Jekyll works to avoid is all the more devastating and motivates his suicide at the end of the plot. Also, the class of the main characters emphasizes the degradation of Hyde when he enters the lower-class regions to perpetrate his foul actions.

Social Sensitivity

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This novel will come as a refreshing change for readers and movie-goers accustomed to stories about self-indulgent and licentious characters. It is no longer currently fashionable for authors to write from the point of view of characters who value self-restraint and courtesy above achieving personal goals. Readers who have never read the works of Dickens or Tolstoy may find this short novel a good start to the study of classic novels.

Though this is a story about an educated, upper-class snob who learns to his horror that he has shameful, base drives like anyone else, the author has transcended his own elitist culture. There is no hint that the child trampled by Hyde, or the witness to the murder Hyde commits, are anything but our fellow humans, worthy of respect though they are female, lower-class and poor.

The physical appearance of Mr. Hyde bears some resemblance to the racist descriptions of stereotypical "Irish" persons in newspapers and political tracts of the late 1800s, and to non-British Caucasians. To this extent, the author does not transcend his own elitist upbringing. Mr. Hyde is supposed to represent the "base drives" from which Dr. Jekyll would like to free himself, and so he has the physical appearance that racists scorned in the so-called "lower orders." Social Darwinists regarded the Irish people and non-British Caucasians as less highly-evolved than the British and Northern Europeans. (Fortunately for fiction readers this particular form of racism has become less common in English language fiction since the World War II.)

It is also worth noting that in this story there is not a single person of color, nor a foreign-born character, nor a native speaker of a language other than English. This is just barely plausible for a story set in London in the 1870s. At the barest minimum, one of Jekyll's friends could have been born and raised in India under the British Raj. Though Stevenson is describing a very circumscribed society, men of wealth and power walked the same grubby streets at the same time of day as the workers and prostitutes of London.

During his 1879 trip to America, Stevenson traveled in a second-class cabin, making several visits to the steerage, where he was appalled and fascinated by the passengers and their traveling conditions. He carefully noted his observations in a journal that became the basis for a non-fiction book. Stevenson incorporated his observations and perceptions into much of his writing, but few autobiographical elements appeared in his fiction.

Compare and Contrast

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1886: Britain annexes upper Burma after the Anglo-Burmese war, but revolutionary forces will try to regain control for several years.

Today: The British Empire exerts its influence over only a handful of colonies, protectorates, or trust territories.

1886: Das Kapital by Karl Marx is published in English.

1887: "Bloody Sunday," a Socialist demonstration, erupts in Trafalgar Square.

1926: Joseph Stalin becomes dictator of the Soviet Union. His reign of terror will last for twenty-seven years.

1991: On December 17, president Mikhail Gorbachev orders the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and a new Commonwealth of Independent States is formed by the countries that formerly made up the USSR.

1882: The Married Woman's Property Act passes in England, granting women several important rights.

Today: Women are guaranteed equal rights under the law.

1901: Queen Victoria dies and the Victorian Age ends. She is succeeded by Edward VII and the beginning of the Edwardian Age.

Today: The British monarchy has been damaged by several scandals including the reported infidelities of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, their subsequent divorce, and her subsequent death.

Literary Precedents

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Probably the most relevant influence was Edgar Allan Poe, whose story "William Wilson" deals with dual identity. However, the direct origin of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as Stevenson claimed, was a dream, in which the basic outline of the plot developed. The same type of grim narrative can be found in the excellent short stories "Markheim," in which the central character has a sort of alter ego, and "Thrawn Janet," a tale of demonic possession. Also, perhaps the Faust legend, which Stevenson knew, was something of an influence. Of course, the folk tales and weird myths told to the young Stevenson by Alison Cunningham to entertain the ill child played a large part in the development of such phenomena in the author's unconscious mind — being released in impressive literary form many years later.


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This novella has invited more adaptations than anything else that Stevenson (or almost anyone else wrote). The semi-Faustian aspect of the work seems to have "charmed" a number of producers. There is even a musical version, staged in 1995, which has achieved moderate success. An early stage version was written by T. R. Sullivan and was used by several film producers as a basis for later cinema versions. The first of these was the Vitagraph silent production, in 1908, directed by Sidney Olcott, who also wrote the screenplay. Four years later, Independent turned out another silent version, with James Cruze as director and in the leading role. Perhaps the best silent interpretation was the 1920 film starring John Barrymore, directed by John S. Robertson and produced by Famous Players-Lasky. Twelve years later, the version that many critics believe to be the finest was created by Paramount. It won Fredric March an Oscar for the leading role and cast two female parts for Miriam Hopkins and Rose Hobart, who contributed a more sexual aspect to the film than had appeared earlier. Rouben Mamoulian directed and produced the movie for Paramount. In 1941, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released another highly praised rendition, directed by Victor Fleming and starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner. A British version appeared in 1959, entitled The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (also titled House of Fright). It was produced by Hammer and was directed by Terence Fisher. In a television film of 1972, Jack Palance starred as Jekyll/Hyde, Anthony Perkins took the role in a 1989 version entitled Edge of Sanity. The 1996 cinema rendering places much more emphasis on a female character; it stars Julia Roberts and John Malkovich — its title is Mary Reilly.

Media Adaptations

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• There have been several film, television, and audio versions of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The six silent films that were made from the novel were produced from 1908 to 1920. The most notable of this group was the version produced by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, starring John Barrymore and Nita Naldi in 1920. In 1932 Paramount Publix Corp. produced a version starring Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman starred in the most famous film version, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's production in 1941. An educational version was released by Sterling Educational Films in 1959.

• The four television productions include an adaptation by director Charles Jarrott in 1968, starring Jack Palance as Jekyll/Hyde; one by David Winters as a musical in 1973, starring Kirk Douglas; another by Alastar Reed in 1981, starring David Hemmings; and a version by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, starring Anthony Andrews. Hollywood also produced an animated version.

• Several versions have appeared on cassette in abridged as well as complete form. Naxos Audio Books produced an audio compact disc of the novel.

For Further Reference

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The Complete Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson. Edited by Charles Nieder. New York: Doubleday, 1969. Includes Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a substantial introduction by the editor.

Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Edited by Richard J. Anobile. New York: Avon, 1975. A reconstruction of the 1931 Paramount film in book form. Over 1,500 frame blow-up photos shown sequentially and coupled with the complete dialogue from the original sound track. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in film adaptions of classic novels in general, and of this novel in particular. The introduction is very informative, and the editor states plainly that this film version is the only one fine enough to be called a "classic film."

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Greenwich Unabridged Library Classics: Treasure Island, The Maste of Ballantrae, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped. Chatham River Press, 1983. Includes illustrations and also a foreword by Karen Burke.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Altick, Richard D., Victorian People and Ideas: A Companion for the Modern Reader of Victorian Literature, Norton, 1973. Gwynn, Stephen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Macmillan, 1939.

Halevy, Elie, England in 1815, Barnes and Noble, 1968.

James, Henry, "Robert Louis Stevenson," in The Century, Vol. XXXV, No. 6, April 1888, pp. 868-79.

Kiely, Robert, "Robert Louis Stevenson," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 18: Victorian Novelists after 1885, Gale, 1983, pp. 281-97.

Nabokov, Vladimir, "Robert Louis Stevenson," in Reference Guide to English Literature, 2d ed., edited by D. L. Kirk-patrick, St. James Press, 1991.

Noble, James Ashcroft, Review, in The Academy, Vol. XXIX, No. 716, January 23, 1886, p. 55.

Sadler, Michael, Forlorn Sunset, Constable, 1947.

Sanderson, Stewart F., "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Overview," in Lectures on Literature, edited by Fredson Bowers, Harcourt, 1980.

Saposnik, Irving S., "Robert Louis Stevenson, Chapter 6: The Anatomy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," in Twayne's English Authors Series Online, G. K. Hall & Co., 1999.

Smith, Curtis C., "Robert Louis Stevenson," in Supernatural Fiction Writers Vol. 1, Scribner's, 1985, pp. 307-13.

Stephen, Leslie, "Robert Louis Stevenson," in Studies of a Biographer, Duckworth and Co., 1902, pp. 206–46.

Stern, G. B., Robert Louis Stevenson, British Writers Vol. 5, British Council, 1982, pp. 383-98.

Tuckniss, Reverend William, Introduction to London Labour and the London Poor Volume IV, 1862.

For Further Study
Charyn, Jerome, "Afterword: Who Is Hyde," in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bantam, 1981.
Charyn offers a psychological study of Jekyll/Hyde and concludes that the character remains ambiguous.

Daiches, David, Robert Louis Stevenson, 1947.
An early work on Stevenson. Daiches provides a penetrating analysis of several of Stevenson's works including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, focusing on the author's technique.


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Eigner, Edwin M. Robert Louis Stevenson and Romantic Tradition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1966. Relates The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the tradition of the nineteenth century prose romance. As evidence, Eigner considers the novella’s narrative structure, the theme of pursuit, and the struggle of the hero against self.

Geduld, Harry M., ed. The Definitive “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” Companion. New York: Garland, 1983. An anthology offering a wide spectrum of approaches from commentary to parodies and sequels. Appendices list the main editions; recordings; staged, filmed, and televised versions; and published and unpublished adaptions.

Jefford, Andrew. “Dr. Jekyll and Professor Nabokov: Reading a Reading.” In Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Andrew Noble. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Evaluates the main points of writer and teacher Vladimir Nabokov’s eccentric reading of the work. Provides a brief summary of Nabokov’s lecture.

Maixner, Paul, ed. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” In Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981. This selection of opinions from Stevenson’s contemporaries, while often superficial and out of date, is of historical interest. Includes a rejoinder by Stevenson to his critics.

Swearingen, Roger G. The Prose Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson: A Guide. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980. Supplies details regarding publication and Stevenson’s sources of inspiration. Draws on letters, memoirs, and interviews to discuss the circumstances surrounding the writing of the work.

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