mini essay


For this  assignment, you will be using the Broadview edition of  R.L. Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and referring to lectures and/or breakout room discussion.

In class we’ve discussed the relevance of Stephen King’s comment on the function of Gothic/horror films as providing an appropriate metaphor—“night thoughts”—to reflect upon the specificity of “those things [that] trouble … society” and which are meaningful culturally and historically.

In assignement, use King’s comment as a prompt toward a discussion of 19th century “night-thoughts” as represented in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Be as specific as you can and use examples from the text to support your claims regarding late Victorian “night-thoughts” in your mini-essay:

“When the horror movies wear their various socio-political hats…they often serve as an extraordinarily accurate barometer of those things which trouble the
night-thoughts of a whole society” (Stephen King, Danse Macabre, 13).


Regarding night-thoughts in the novel and movie adaption of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my takeaway of the issues that trouble society in the time period in which the story is based is the overall fear of the unknown and what is considered outside of the status quo, particularly that fear from the upper class. The movie does an excellent job of portraying visually the extensive wealth that the protagonist lives in, along with the concern of propriety, imagery and what others will think of them. This especially stood out to me in the movie with Beatrix’s father Sir Charles expressing his disgust of Dr. Jekyll’s public display of affection such as kissing her knuckles. He also expresses his aversion to the discussion of the doctor’s experimentation and would prefer him to settle on a more practical and appropriate practice. This concern of appearance and propriety also extends in the book when the lawyer Mr. Utterson is seemingly obsessed and concerned with the fact that Dr. Jekyll’s fortune would fall to Mr. Hyde. Perhaps this is simply a concern of a good friend, but the lawyer has yet to have much interaction with Hyde and has only heard what others have observed of him and he doesn’t like what he’s heard. Initially my thoughts of the constant comparison and terminology to animals would simply be a result from the time period, however the contrast of beastly behavior could also show how the Victorians see the low class (or even those like Mr. Hyde who are acting impulsively outside of societal norm) they are like animals being the lowest of the low without a consciousness. This fear of beastly behavior is expressed dramatically when Dr. Lanyon becomes deathly ill and passes away simply from seeing Hyde and interacting with him personally. This dramatic flair I think is the juxtaposition between a realist novel and a gothic novel such as this, this fear of animal like behavior as well as Jekyll’s longing to be able to act freely without inhibition and let loose his alter ego goes as far as the horror of separating himself entirely into a small unappealing and disgusting figure such as Hyde. Perhaps the comparison of Hyde to a trapped animal also comes from the Victorians view and abhorrence towards animals being considered unruly, hard to manage and erratic with their behavior.

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