In his novella Jekyll and Hyde Stevenson uses the setting of London to demonstrate the threat of the outside world advances into the inside
In his novella Jekyll and Hyde Stevenson uses the setting of London to demonstrate the threat of the outside world advances into the inside, the two things are intertwined, and also how society has strayed away from religion and morality. This therefore creates fear in his Victorian readers as it is unfamiliar and an example of the uncanny. This could reflect the increasing amount of gothic literature contemporary to Stevenson’s time and also of the many stories of dual nature he grew up in showing him “man is not truly one but truly two”.
One way he does this is by using a motif of fog which lingers in the London sky. Stevenson cleverly uses the fog so that when the characters feel secure and safe it is scarcely there however before something climatic like a murder happens it dominates the sky like an omen, then leaves when the murder is solved. This is indicative of the mystery in the novel and the threat that comes with it although it comes and goes is always lingering, and that there is always a restricted view of what’s going on. In the early parts of the novel the nights are “fine” and “dry” and the “streets are clean” implying a sense of control. However, “a pattern of light and shadow” suggests there is darkness in midst of the light and that only parts of truth can be seen, there is only immoral forces acting upon London. Furthermore, in chapter 4 “a great chocolate coloured pall lowered over heaven” this symbolises that only death and sinister activities take place in the streets of London and the death of nature and religion, society has turned to science. It’s the start of a whole new world however it’s not a good one as its full of corruption that heaven doesn’t want to be a part of. The colours used reflect the industrial revolution which further emphasises the increasing advanment of science in society and how Jekyll would risk his life for science. This also alludes to the increasing advancement of the outside world into the inside and how the two are becoming more and more intertwined. A Victorian audience would find this disturbing as at the time some sciences were unusual so believed to be immoral and dangerous (devolution/ Bringing things back to life) as it was new, unheard of and ungodly. This would have horrified a Victorian audience, an aim of the gothic genre. Therefore, Stevenson presents setting through the fog.
Stevenson also uses London and its building to symbolise dual nature in one’s mind and how Victorian society would repress their immoral sides in order to reach the unreachable social expectations. In the extract when Utterson and Enfield are walking, a building was described to be a “sinister block” and “showed no windows” and the door was blistered and “distained” This implies how people would shut out the sides to themselves that they didn’t want to present to others or maybe that they’re trying to shut out the outside world as they fear it, resulting in them repressing their dark sides. A Freudian interpretation would be that by repressing their dark sides it will have a negative affect on them later in their lives for instance the threat of the outside will eventually come for them. Jekyll’s situation indicates this, he had a dual nature and he wanted to separate his good and his bad sides resulting in the creation in Hyde. But it also results in him repressing parts of himself and eventually he dies. Furthermore, Stevenson also uses Jekyll’s house to present the setting. The house was split into two with the main part symbolising the respected righteous side of man and a “block at the bottom of the garden” which represents the malevolent immoral side of mind however the are joined together as it is still one house therefore demonstrating how there are two side to man and society needs to accept it and find a way to balance it instead of repressing it which Jekyll does and he eventually dies. (I wanted to mention john hunter but I’m not sure how). Jekyll’s house was divided to show how he represses his shameful hidden unconscious desires. The house had a “dingy windowless structure” and a “sense of strangeness” presenting a sinister atmosphere and how Jekyll has blocked out the outside world, and his dark side, which resembled the outside world. The “dusty windows” were “barred with iron” further emphasizing how Jekyll has repressed and crushed the unconscious parts of his mind and the metaphor “house of voluntary bondage shows how he hides away this house is a vessel for hiding his unconsciousness and hidden self like how Hyde is a vessel for hiding his hidden self. However, in the end the duality in the setting highlights duality in mind and however much you repress it and try to appear honourable immorality will still exist in your mind.
Stevenson also uses setting to describe the threat and conflicts of the outside world indicating the threats and conflicts in Victorian society creating fear and terror in Stevenson’s Victorian readers. This is demonstrated when the “wind was continuously charging and routing these embattled vapours” implying how the wind was being ruthless and attacking manmade object like “cabs” to “crawl”. It is clear what is dominant and what is inferior in society. It also shows that there are secret forces acting in London making it a place of sinister activities and hidden secrets. Furthermore, this could be indicative of the industrial revolution which came with the threat of inequality and social divides which is evident on both the streets in London and in the story of Jekyll and Hyde. As well as that a popular romantic belief is being expressed here, that manmade things are no match to nature. The industrial revolution and the pollution that comes with it connotes secrecy and the gothic genre while romanticism connotes liberty and emotion, and they are two very different things yet they are intertwined in Victorian society. This could reflect malice and righteousness in both society and in the human mind. Therefore, creating a sense of battle and conflict in society and the human mind. This also iterates how Jekyll believes man in not “truly one but truly two”, this would terrify a Victorian reader as they would recognise parts of themselves in the outside world but society condemns the outside so they end up repressing those sides of themselves and then, like with Jekyll result in negative effects later in life, for instance Jekyll’s death. Therefore, Stevenson present the setting as threatening to create fear in his readers again referring to the gothic genre.
In conclusion through Stevenson’s description of the setting he creates fear in his reader alluding to the gothic genre, and he present the threats in Victorian society and dual nature in society and in human mind.