Dr Jekyll e Mr Hyde

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Robert Louis STEVENSON (1850-1894)
Life & main works :
• Born in England;
• Poor health > childhood in bed;
• Calvinist family;
• Adolescence > he travelled a lot (in search for a more friendly climate) (Germany, France, Italy)
• CONFLICT WITH THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT (respectable Victorian world);
==> He REJECTS his family’s religious principles and the love for respectability
• Married an American woman > they moved to Australia, Tahiti
• Popular novelist:
o Short stories
• Main characteristics in his works:
o Strange titles
o Exotic settings.
• Less ironical than Dickens (who used also more rhetorical devices and concrete language to talking about also ideals -as corruption in London fog-).
• TITLE: unusual; “case” refers to the semantic field of investigation > CRIME, DETECTIVE STORY.
The people involved are the two mentioned here.
“Dr” in England refers only to a medical doctor; here the doctor is a scientific man who does chemical experiments.
“-kyll” and “Hyde” have symbolical meanings: Dr. Jekyll will commit suicide for killing his evil part, Mr. Hyde, who hides himself behind the gentle and respectable Doctor.
• TYPE OF WORK: scientific, GOTHIC novel
• PLOT: see the book
• Halfway between London (England ) and Edinburgh (Scotland), two capitals with a double nature: the respectable one and the poor, criminal slums. >> DOUBLE NATURE
• Jekyll’s house: the front > respect the proprietor’s good side; the rear > evil side.
• NIGHT, DARKNESS, FOG > mysterious, anguishing atmosphere
Multi-narrational structure > complex series of point of view.
Four narrators:
• Mr. Utterson: He’s a friend of Jekyll and he has the role of a detective (similar to Sherlock Holmes)
• Enfield: he’s Utterson’s distant relative with whom he has a strange relationship (>>central theme of the DOUBLE)
• Lanyon: superficially a good man but he reflects Jekyll because at the end his curiosity prevails and allows him to be tempted by forbidden knowledge and he dies.
• Jekyll: who narrates in first person only in the last chapter, where he reveals his final decision.
• LANGUAGE: rather formal
o Dr. Henry Jekyll: He’s a respectable man, with a virtuous life. He’s a scientist.
He is searching for a potion (he finds it) that could separate the good from the evil present in each person because he wants find happiness and so to eliminate the sense of guilt that a good person feels when the evil side of him/her prevails. > see the passage of “JEKYLL’S EXPERIMENT” – first paragraph, page 116.
He’s handsome (=good-looking), with white and well-shaped hands, his body is proportioned. He wears fine clothes.
At the beginning he’s higher and larger than Hyde, because his life is controlled by this good side, but then his evil side tends to predominate and Hyde becomes bigger than Jekyll.
He’s a kind of “Victorian Faust”, because he has a sort of pact with his internal evil that at the end controls him. >see the passage of “JEKYLL EXPERIMENT” – line 54, page 117.
o Mr. Edward Hyde: (see the passage of “JEKYLL EXPERIMENT” at page 116, lines 45-87)
He’s the dark, sinister and evil side of Jekyll, the result of his potion.
He’s a criminal and he acts during the night.
Initially Jekyll still control the situation but day by day Hyde prevails.
He’s smaller, slighter and younger than Jekyll.
He’s pale, dwarfish (=nano), with dark and hairy hands. He gives the impression of deformity; his body is not exercised. At the beginning he’s smaller than Jekyll but then he grows in stature.
Jekyll, when becomes Hyde, feels an extraordinary flow of energy. Initially he felt no repugnance for this monster, it (Hyde) was welcome, because it was one of tha real and defined images of his spirit. Hyde feels himself free because he has no conscience.
But at the and he comprehend that suicide is the only way to stop Hyde’s control of his life.
People were terrified by Hyde because all mankind is constituted by both good and evil, but Hyde was only the pure evil.
Probably his description derives from Darwin’s studies of man’s kinship to the animal world. He’s the primitive, the evolutionary forerunner of civilized man (Jekyll).
He’s the symbol of repressed psychological drives.
o No women; the only relationships are professional ones; the men are all bachelors and belong all to the same respectable world >>MALE PATRIARCAL WORLD OF VICTORIANISM

Men must accept the incongruous elements of their personality (Kekyll doesn’t do that and dies)
>> hypocrisy, antithetical values and sexual repression of Victorianism; Victorian compromise;
Calvinism of the author’s family (pessimistic, it underlines the guilt of a person and so it favourite the division of the self).
o Man’s SALVATION is based on the annihilation of one part of his nature if he lives in a civilized society.
o GOTIC aspects (typical of the literature in 1880s-1890s) (setting, plot);
o Jekyll’s discovery may symbolize the artist’s journey into the unexplored regions of the human psyche.
• TITLE: the door is probably the door of the rear of Jekyll’s house, where Hyde lives. (lines 99-101)
o Mr. Utterson’s description (lines 1-17)
o His strange friend Mr. Enfield and their Sunday walks (lines 18-32)
o The place of one of these walks: a busy quarter of London and the building with the door(lines 33-52)
o The story of the door narrated by Mr. Enfield (lines 54-114):
• One night, at three o’clock. A “little man” “trampled calmly over” (=calpestò) a girl of 8-10 years old (lines 60-72)
• Mr. Enfield stops this terrifying man. The girl’s family turns out (=“viene fuori”). The doctor arrives. They all has a grate desire to kill this man. (lines 73-86)
• Controlling their desires, they menace (=minacciano) to ruin his reputation, but he seems not frightened and asks how much money they want. 100 pounds. He goes into the door of the busy quarter and comes with 10 pounds in gold and a cheque, signed with A RESPECTABLE NAME. They thought it was forged (=false) (because a man like that cannot be a respectable person; a name like that seemed not suspect (=sospettabile); and he cannot have rubbed someone at that hour so calmly), but when they gave in the cheque, they had the prove it “was genuine”. (lines 87-114).
• SETTING: a Sunday morning, a street of a busy quarter of London;
The story of the door is set at 3 o’clock in one morning in the same street >>MISTERIOUS, ANGUISHING.
• NARRATOR / POINT OF VIEW: Third person narrator, omniscient (lines 1-60); Mr. Enfield, a first person narrator, internal, omniscient but reticent (lines 60-114). Narrator’s point of view in both cases.
o Description (lines 1-32; 35-53);
o Narration (lines 33-34; 54-114);
o Delayed info (the reason why Mr. Enfield is there at that hour; the “little man”; the name of the cheque) >> SUSPANCE;
o Some repetition in the last part that create a sense of anguish in the reader.
The language is REALISTIC, VIVID (a lot of details), EVERYDAY SPEECH, but REFINED (abstract adjectives and high words – ex. “mortify” line 8-), typical of a GENTLEMAN, not of a poor person.
The tone is anguishing, mysterious (delayed info and repetitions)
o Mr. Utterson: he’s a lawyer of a good family. Very tolerant (lines 10-12); he looks serious but only in the evenings > probably he is shy. People respect him (lines 14-15). He chooses his friends not by his inclinations, but by their being his relatives or someone that he known for a very long time.
>> in general he’s a POSITIVE character.
o Mr. Enfield: Mr. Utterson’s friend and one of his relatives. He’s of a good family too (he’s “the well-known man about town”). Strange relationship because they seem to have nothing to do or to talk about and nothing in common. They always have a Sunday walk together, even if during that they never talk and they seemed bored.
o The girl: probably she’s of an unrespectable family because she’s alone in a bad street at 3 o’clock in the morning.
o The doctor: (lines 82-86). Mr. Enfield presents him as a “sawbones”(=dispregiativo; “sega-ossa”). He’s probably from Edinburgh and he’s cold, but he hates the bad man too, as the other persons.
o The “little man”: We know he’s Hyde. But here it isn’t said. “little” is for his dimensions. He’s defined as “IT wasn’t like a man. IT was like some damned Juggernaut”, “like Satan”. He’s cold, detached, he has the control of the situation, even if he seems to be a bit disturbed by the menaces and the hate for him.

o Gothic aspects;
o In the city there is something very strange and mysterious that frightens people;
o HYPOCRISY: people doesn’t report the man to the police, they ask for money;
o NO JUSTICE: money can do everything.
JEKYLL’S EXPERIMENT – Chapter X (the last)
o Lines 1-17: PHILOSOPHICAL part. Explanation of the reasons of Jekyll experiment;
o Lines 1-44: the discovery of the potion and the reasons of the decision to use it;
o Lines 45-87: the first transformation; HYDE.
o Lines 88-112: the first retransformation; JEKYLL. What happened to Dr. Jekyll using these potion. The results.
• NARRATOR: Jekyll, in first person narrator.
o First paragraph: ABSTRACT language; PHYLOSOPHICAL tone
o Second part: CONCRETE language; PASSIONATE, EMOTIONAL tone.
• CHARACTERS: see the presentation of the novel.
o Jekyll’s discoveries were incomplete: using the potion he had understood that this process of division of the self doesn’t give happiness and there is no possibility to turn back. Day by day the evil side will take the power and kill the good side.
When Jekyll drinks the potion he suffers the pangs of dissolution (lines 45-48, 91-93)
>> the division of the self implyes pain, sufferings.

o Jekyll is REMORSEFUL. Indeed he doesn’t reveals the substances of his potion.
o THE MIRROR (see also “Cat in the rain”, “Il fu Mattia Pascal”, “Gelusalemme liberata”,..) as a sign of division of the self. Here Jekyll in the mirror sees for the first time his evil side, Hyde.



  1. ermy

    The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde : plot, the ambivalence of the setting, narrative technique??

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