PRE-1914 Prose Assignment: How does Robert Louis Stevenson create mystery and suspense in 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'?

Essay by dogo.writeHigh School, 10th gradeA+, July 2006

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Robert Louis Stevenson originally wrote 'Jekyll and Hyde' as the darkly complex tale it still is today. Stark, skilfully woven, this fascinating novella explores the curious turnings of human character through the strange case of Dr. Jekyll, a kindly scientist who by night takes on his stunted evil self, Mr. Hyde. Anticipating modern psychology, 'Jekyll and Hyde' is a brilliantly original study of man's dual nature - as well as an immortal tale of suspense and terror. First published in 1886, 'Jekyll and Hyde' was an instant success and brought Stevenson his first taste of fame. Though sometimes dismissed as a mere mystery story, the book has evoked much literary admirations, and some likened the novella as "a fable that lies nearer to poetry than to ordinary prose fiction." Gothic horror was growing in popularity in the 19th century and this included 'Jekyll and Hyde' along with several other novels with the gothic horror theme.

For example, the Gothic phenomenon in popular culture consisted of: Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula', Mary Shelly's novel 'Frankenstein' and Stephen King's novel 'The Dark Half' and his more recent short novel, 'Secret Window'. Most of these novels were written before 'Jekyll and Hyde' and so were, consequently, very likely to have influenced Stevenson slightly whilst he wrote his short story. Stephen King still acquires success from the genre in the present day, as the desire from readers for a traditional horror novel still exists thanks to the perpetual interest in the mysterious, unexplained and impossible themes that is always incorporated into this type of novel.

Even today, this classic Victorian mystery story consistently ensnares new readers. Yet, most people these days are aware of the eventual outcome of the story and sometimes, despite the fact that they have never read the novel nor seen any...