Robert Louis Stevenson – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Starts off with Utterson and Enfield taking their weekly walk. Enfield tells a story of his randomly coming home from some “end of the world” and seeing Hyde turna  corner and trample a young girl in the street (contingency of the urban). He offers to pay the family 10 pounds but gives them a 100 pound check signed by Jekyll. Utterson, who knows that Jekyll has recently signed over hsi entire will to Hyde, is worried. He hunts down Hyde, who turns out to be hideous, and asks for his address, which Hyde gives him. Jekyll tells Utterson not to worry. The circle of bachelors hang out quite a bit until one day Jekyll, who has laid off the potion that transforms him into Hyde, buckles under the pressure and kills an MP by the name of Carew. Investigation ensues but the murderer has vanished and only the broken cane is found in Jekyll’s apartment. More time passes has Jekyll tries to ameliorate himself…he employs his friend Lanyon to help him procure the potion that transforms Hyde back into Jekyll. Lanyon suddenly dies of shock. Eventually Utterson breaks into Jekyll’s laboratory to find Hyde dead in Jekyll’s clothes, with a letter that explains everything that happened. Jekyll had started to be overwhelmed by the potion, turning into Hyde in mid-day. He eventually ran out of potion. Jekyll’s narrative ends by saying he does not know what will happen with Hyde, but that his life is over.

Can think of Hyde as the creature of Dr. Frankenstein in a post-Darwinian age. He is in this sense simple the product of Dr. Jekyll: he is the product of his society (the “species”): we can think of this “splitting” as the harmful bifurcation that occurs in organisms as they evolve. [Relate this to Ruskin’s worries that men are being “split” because they are disallowed freedom in “Nature of the Gothic,” and also to Hopkins “splitting,” which reduces the variety of the world into black and white, right and wrong.] Adrian Poole (2005) says that Hyde is specifically the product of the ‘patriarchy’ that dominates the tale. The community is composed almsot exclusively of childless men: Hyde as returned of the repressed à la Picture of Dorian Gray? Problematic.

Formally, is is a short story, a novel, or a novella? Poole argues that Stevenson wanted to “explode” the categories of fiction because he thought the Jamesian dictum–“Art imitates Life”–was bunk; instead, Stevenson’s story etched down to the bare minimum, and beyond, with ellipses, inexplicable entrances and exits, unanswered plot questions, etc.

Urban Space – The city throws people together by chance and the creation of a story ensues: relate to Poe and Dickens: man of the crowd. Can begin to talk about a “geography of chance” in relation to Darwinian evolution: how Darwin migrates the city. Compare portrait of urban space in Dr. Jekyll and Picture of Dorian Gray.

Transcendental Science vs. Material Science : Wallace vs. Darwin : Jekyll vs. Lanyon. A debate over explanations of species variation and the intervention of “God.”

Jekyll the narrator from the end can see all, and Jekyll in the present, while seeing less, still sees more than Hyde. Jekyll can hide from Hyde’s narrative, but Hyde can never hide from Jekyll. Can talk about the power of concealment. Relate to the “becoming-intense” of the secret.


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