This section looks at the Structure and Setting of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Robert Louis Stevenson lets us as readers become detectives through the character of Utterson. We are prompted to ask three key questions throughout the Novella:
Who is Hyde?
Why does Hyde have a grip on Jekyll?
Why did Lanyon and Jekyll argue?
The book focuses on repercussions of events and characters use dialogue to deduce what is happening this adds to our sense of mystery as readers.
Most of the narration comes to us as readers through conversations had by the characters, rather than witnessing the events first hand.
Letters are also used by Stevenson to allow us to piece together the events of the novella. Stevenson uses this epistolary style to re-establish and explain what has happened with Dr Lanyon’s letter and Dr Jekyll statement. The reader reads these letters alongside Utterson and we don’t get his reaction to the revelations so are left with our own impression of the events.
The title of the novella starts with ‘strange case of’ and the first chapter is called ‘Story of the door’, this shows us from the very beginning Stevenson is inviting in his readers to the mystery of the story.
Carew’s murder is told from the point of view of a maid who we are told is “romantically given” this allows us to question her account of events.
Stevenson uses the setting of London to expose different parts of the city, which represent different things – order versus chaos (Jekyll’s respectable London versus Hyde’s repugnant London).
Descriptions of buildings and the weather are also used to heighten tension and add to the suspense.
Many of the novel’s key events involving Mr Hyde happen in the dark, which adds to the sense of mystery and intrigue. Other settings – old buildings, Jekyll’s laboratory, for example, are all used to build up tension and suspense throughout the novella.