Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has become one of the most famous monster stories ever written. It explores the duality of human nature through the characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Bear in mind that although the story is well-known today, its first readers would have been shocked by the revelation that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person.
The novella’s structure is complex. Although the main events are told in chronological order, the final two chapters are presented in the form of letters written by Dr Lanyon and Dr Jekyll, each telling a new version of the events and introducing the plot twist and climax. There are many examples of flashbacks and foreshadowing.
One of the main characters is Mr Utterson, the dry and respectable lawyer. We watch the events unfold from his perspective. The other main characters are Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, who initially seem to be very different from one another; it is only at the end that we discover that they are the same person, and Mr Hyde is a representation of Dr Jekyll’s evil side.
The story’s setting is Victorian London. The physical setting gives us clues about the characters’ social positions and states of mind. The social setting is important because Mr Utterson and his friends are concerned with maintaining the social order.
The main part of the novella is told by a third-person narrator, who follows the perspective of Mr Utterson. However, the text is unusual because it contains a number of letters and letters-within-letters, which are used to tell parts of the story. The final two chapters, in particular, are first-person narrations by Dr Lanyon and Dr Jekyll.
The language might seem difficult or old-fashioned due to the age of the text. The narrative has a formal style. Symbols such as the mirror or doctor Jekyll’s house and laboratory reflect some of the novella’s main themes.