Alfred C. Ward (essay date 1924)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ward, Alfred C. “Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘The Merry Men.’” In Aspects of the Modern Short Story: English and American, pp. 102–15. London: University of London Press, 1924.

[In the following excerpt, Ward asserts that “Markheim,” although it strains the reader's credibility, is successful as a parable with a stated moral.]

Stevenson's earliest short stories (the “New Arabian Nights” series) ran in the pages of magazines in 1878; nine years later, Kipling's “Plain Tales from the Hills” (his first prose volume) was published. It is with these two collections—belonging, roughly speaking, to the eighteen-eighties—that the cult of the short...

(The entire section is 2525 words.)

Ann Gossman (essay date 1962)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Gossman, Ann. “On the Knocking at the Gate in ‘Markheim.’” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 17, no. 1 (June 1962): 73–6.

[In the following essay, Gossman discusses the influence of Shakespeare's Macbeth on Stevenson's “Markheim.”]

In defense of the revealing small incident in fiction, Stevenson writes: “This, then, is the plastic part of literature: to embody character, though, or emotion in some act or attitude that shall be remarkably striking to the mind's eye.”1 This paper will seek to demonstrate that in “Markheim” Stevenson uses the act of knocking at the door to achieve those emotional effects that De Quincey ascribes to...

(The entire section is 1085 words.)

Joseph J. Egan (essay date 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Egan, Joseph J. “‘Markheim’: A Drama of Moral Psychology.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 20, no. 4 (March 1966): 377–84.

[In the following essay, Egan discusses “Markheim” as a moral fable in terms of the psychological exploration of the main character.]

Though “Markheim” has been called the “greatest of all Stevenson's short-stories,”1 criticism of this tale has seldom gone beyond a summary of the plot. Ann Gossman alone has commented on the craft of Stevenson's story,2 but her article is too brief to serve as a complete and thoroughly satisfying statement of “Markheim”'s artistic and thematic elements. The purpose...

(The entire section is 3040 words.)

Irving S. Saposnik (essay date 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Saposnik, Irving S. “Stevenson's ‘Markheim’: A Fictional ‘Christmas Sermon.’” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 21, no. 3 (December 1966): 277–82.

[In the following essay, Saposnik surveys the critical debate over the identity of the visitant in “Markheim.”]

For a story of its relatively short length, “Markheim” has produced more than its share of critical confusion. Much of this confusion centers around the identity of the visitant, and whether it be God, angel, or devil. Most of the critics share the belief that it is a “good” spirit and base this opinion on the final brightening of its countenance into a “tender triumph.”1...

(The entire section is 2617 words.)

Edwin M. Eigner (essay date 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Eigner, Edwin M. “The House of God.” In Robert Louis Stevenson and the Romantic Tradition, pp. 126–33. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.

[In the following excerpt, Eigner discusses the Christian ethics expressed in “Markheim” in comparison to the Christian mores of the Russian writers Fedor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy.]

The idea we have just been considering, the theme of the disguised significant self, occurs elsewhere in Stevenson. There is, in fact, a regular disguise motif running through much of the early fiction, appearing in Prince Otto, in The Black Arrow, and in several of the stories from The New Arabian...

(The entire section is 2536 words.)

Masao Miyoshi (essay date 1969)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Miyoshi, Masao. “Masks in the Mirror: The Eighteen-Nineties.” In The Divided Self: A Perspective on The Literature of the Victorians, pp. 294–96. New York: New York University Press, 1969.

[In the following excerpt, Miyoshi views the notion of duality in “Markheim” as the embodiment of Markheim's conscience.]

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) was by no means the first product of Stevenson's fascination with the dual personality. From childhood he had been familiar with the legend of Deacon Brodie, daylight cabinetmaker and moonlight burglar, and a full twenty years before Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde he was already working on a play based on...

(The entire section is 721 words.)

C. F. Keppler (essay date 1972)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Keppler, C. F. “The Saviour.” In The Literature of the Second Self, pp. 106–09. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1972.

[In the following excerpt, Keppler discusses the symbolism of the visitant in terms of Christian ethics.]

In another group of examples the good second self resembles in technique the second self as Tempter; he is a more subtle Saviour than the ones we have thus far considered, realizing that the major task of salvation must be done by the person being saved, and enticing him by one means or another toward the inward state with which such self-salvation is synonymous. Naturally, as the second self who pursues in order to save is bound...

(The entire section is 1311 words.)

Irving S. Saposnik (essay date 1974)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Saposnik, Irving S. “A Single Glimpse, A Few Sharp Sounds.” In Robert Louis Stevenson, pp. 60–2, 75–9. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1974.

[In the following excerpt, Saposnik offers a psychological reading of “Markheim,” concluding that Markheim's surrender to the police “is neither good nor evil.”]

Stevenson's reputation rests on his unquestioned abilities as a storyteller. Working with both short and long fiction, he produced stories and novels that are generally considered to be the creations of a first-rate narrative talent. Stories such as Jekyll and Hyde and novels such as Kidnapped were immediately able to give him the...

(The entire section is 2516 words.)

Theodore Ziolkowski (essay date 1977)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ziolkowski, Theodore. “Image as Symbol: The Magic Mirror.” In Disenchanted Images: A Literary Iconography, pp. 187–90. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.

[In the following excerpt, Ziolkowski considers mirrors in “Markheim” as symbols of the character's confrontation with his own conscience.]

We see how well the lesson of narrative stance was learned when we move ahead to two remarkable works that appeared in 1877: Robert Louis Stevenson's “Markheim” is recounted in a dispassionate third-person that identifies itself with the consciousness of the hero; Maupassant's “The Horla” narrates itself in the form of a journal. In both cases,...

(The entire section is 1137 words.)

J. R. Hammond (essay date 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hammond, J. R. “The Short Stories.” In A Robert Louis Stevenson Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Essays, and Short Stories, pp. 73, 79–83, 96–7. London: MacMillan, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Hammond analyzes “Markheim” as an allegory for the psychological duality of man.]

Stevenson published four volumes of short stories during his lifetime: New Arabian Nights (1882), More New Arabian Nights (1885), The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887) and Island Nights Entertainments (1893). A final collection, Tales and Fantasies, was published posthumously in 1905.

He had graduated to writing...

(The entire section is 1917 words.)

Harold Orel (essay date 1986)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Orel, Harold. “Robert Louis Stevenson: Many Problems, Some Successes.” In The Victorian Short Story: Development and Triumph of a Literary Genre, pp. 115–18, 122–23, 127–37. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Orel discusses “Markheim” in conjunction with the tales “Ollala” and “Thrawn Janet” as representing some of Stevenson's most successful horror stories.]

Let us assume that the outline of Robert Louis Stevenson's eventful, and not always happy, life is familiar to most readers. Let us also assume that it will not change dramatically because of the discovery of hitherto unsuspected biographical...

(The entire section is 6246 words.)

John Herdman (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Herdman, John. “The Double in Decline.” in The Double in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, pp. 129–31. London: MacMillan, 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Herdman inspects the motif of the Doppelgänger in “Markheim.”]

Stevenson's first attempt on the true double motif is the story “Markheim” (1885), in which, as in Poe's ‘William Wilson,’ the double figures as a projection of the protagonist's conscience. The story is undoubtedly related to Crime and Punishment, which Stevenson greatly admired, and probably also to The Brothers Karamazov; and the ambition of the theme is perhaps too much for its diminutive scale. The early pages of...

(The entire section is 1195 words.)

Barry Menikoff (essay date 1993)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Menikoff, Barry. “Introduction: Fable, Fiction, and Modernism.” In Robert Louis Stevenson: Tales from the Prince of Storytellers, pp. 29–35. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993.

[In the following excerpt, Menikoff discourses upon “Markheim” as an allegory for “the struggle of good and evil for the heart of man.”]

Unquestionably the single story that most exemplifies duality in man, apart from Jekyll and Hyde, is “Markheim,” originally published as part of a collection of “horror” stories in a volume titled The Broken Shaft. Stevenson used the form to focus attention on the divided self, and its implications for...

(The entire section is 2198 words.)

Susan Garland Mann and David D. Mann (review date 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Mann, Susan Garland and David D. Mann. Review of Robert Louis Stevenson: Tales from the Prince of Storytellers, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The Huntington Library Quarterly 57, no. 1 (winter 1994): 87–91.

[In the following review, Mann and Mann compare an earlier version of “Markheim” to a more recent version of the story reprinted in a collection of Stevenson stories edited by Barry Menikoff.]

Because Robert Louis Stevenson is an acclaimed popular writer, many literate people know something about his life: his courageous fight against lung disease, his marriage to an independent-minded American woman, and his wanderlust, in search of a place that...

(The entire section is 1999 words.)