Essay Question Set:
Explore the contrasts within and between characters in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Macbeth.
How does the writer introduce the mystery of evil?First Clues: what does the title of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde tell us about what the book will be about? Why does the writer set up a contrast in the title? Does it set out some of the major themes of the book?
How are Macbeth and Jekyll introduced through location? Light and Dark Spaces. Write about:
a. why does the writer introduces a contrast between a respectable street and a unrespectable house (The Story of the Door)? Symbols of outer evil = inner evil (witches’ ugly appearance; ‘sinister’ looking house). Consider the ways evil lurks in the midst of respectability.
Why do Shakespeare AND Stevenson show their main characters through other characters’ points of view before we meet them in the flesh? Shows importance of public opinion, respect? Contrasts the ‘self’ they show to other people/ with the private self that is later revealed? What kinds of men are Utterson and Enfield? Do you think they contrast with Hyde?
Why does Stevenson choose a mystery structure? The true nature of the main character is only glimpsed vaguely, secretively and through others’ points of view? Stevenson introduces Mr Utterson first THEN has yet another character, Mr Enfield introduce the first dramatic event. Think about the way the mystery genre works (uncovering the layers, evil=difficult to look at, could be damaging). Blackmail and importance of reputation is a typical theme of detective stories (see Sherlock Holmes stories ‘Milverton’ – about a blackmailer who is murdered, which pleases Holmes, and ’A Scandal in Bohemia’). What do you think Stevenson wanted the reader to feel/think about public (peer) pressure, private desires and blackmail? How does he establish this theme? Why are Enfield and Utterson reluctant to ‘name’ Jekyll or speak of the crime? Think about how peer pressure can be a force for good, reducing bad behaviour. Are the bystanders guilty of ‘hushing up a crime’? OR are they trying not to create scandal/commit slander (slander= the crime when we speak ill of a person, libel=the crime of writing bad things about them).
What effect does Hyde have on others (Enfield and the crowd)? Is Stevenson making a simple contrast between good and evil as Shakespeare does in Macbeth? Or is he showing good/evil are mixed in human nature? Does he show that evil is ‘infectious’ (like a disease), or that people are so revolted by it that they want to ‘kill it’. Or is his message unclear (ambiguous)? How do the bystanders and Sawbones react to Hyde’s crime (do they take him to court and see that he is justly punished?). If not, why not? If Hyde is not punished, will he become bolder in his crimes? Are the bystanders then partly guilty of Hyde’s next crime?
If you liked this, you'll love the post on Freud and The Pleasure Principle - ALL Jekyll and Hyde, or perhaps, Hubris.
The author, Melanie Kendry, is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post.