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How does Stevenson create a sense of Horror? (Extract from Chapter 2 – Utterson’s nightmare)


Stevenson creates both a sense of horror in this extract and throughout the 19thCentury gothic novella, seen even more dramatic by Victorian audiences than audiences today. From the gothic setting and the foreboding characters to raising questions about our own psyches Stevenson creates a sense of horror both in the story and at the questions raised.


In the extract, Stevenson, through the everyman investigative figure, “Utterson” which allows the horrors in the novella to speak for themselves, compares Mr Hyde to a “human Juggernaut”, and again the simile, “like some damned Juggernaut”, earlier in the novella. The comparison alludes to the unstoppable destructive power in Hinduism, a sense of horror created by the lack of power to stop this evil force, while the harsh adjective “damned” suggesting that Hyde is beyond redemption. 


Stevenson continues to use satanic comparisons to Hyde throughout the novella, the onomatopoeic verb, “hissing”, having biblical connotations of evil and temptation; the simile, “like Satan” also comparing him to the devil; creating a sense of horror.


Stevenson who compares Hyde to the devil not only produces a sense of horror through the repulsion of his character but also produces a sense of horror by his suggestion that there is all a, “hellish” Hyde within our own psyches. This is shown through the lack of description surrounding Hyde’s physical features, “I can’t describe him”, allowing him to make the reader complicit in his description, everyone seeing Hyde differently as everyone has a different version of evil and a version of Hyde within them. This horrifying suggestion is carried on within the extract, “the figure had no face”, a metaphor both literally and metaphorically; literally Utterson has not seen Hyde and metaphorically Stevenson may be suggesting that evil, symbolically Hyde, changes and mutates depending on desires and opportunity. 


Stevenson also uses the recurring motif of dreams and nightmares in the novella to illustrate Hyde’s and evil’s existence within us, as dreams are created within our minds much like evil and even the novella, “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” itself as Stevenson took much inspiration from his dreams. Stevenson also emphasises this sense of horror by implying your lack of ability to escape dreams and evil, “these two phases haunted the lawyer”, the verb “haunted” having supernatural connotation creating a sense of horror as well as Utterson possibly drawing parallels with Jekyll who is unable to escape entrapment and evil much like us.


The embodiment of evil within dreams could also be seen as even more horrifying through evil’s breech of alluded security, “the curtains of bed plucked apart”. The verb, “plucked” having connotations of being deliberate emphasises the feeling of horror. Stevenson also uses the Victorian convention of not putting one single year, instead, “18-” making the reader feel a sense of horror at the feeling that their own world and security is able to be penetrated by evil and Mr Hyde. 


Stevenson also uses language to create a sense of horror describing scenes that most Victorian readers would describe as graphic. The description in the extract, “crush a child and leave her screaming”, has ambiguity between the trampling of a child and the rape of a young girl. Both crimes provoke a sense of horror and is emphasised by the violent, onomatopoeic verb, “crush” and the noun, “child” which has connotations of innocence evoking a sense of pathos in the reader. Elsewhere in the novella, “the body jumped upon the roadway”, the graphic description showing the brutality of the murder providing a sense of horror, the dehumanisation of the victim shown through the impersonal noun, “body”  mirroring Hyde’s thoughts equally providing a sense of horror at Hyde’s lack of remorse or conscious. 


Stevenson continues to use language and imagery throughout the novella, creating a sense of horror via the often gothic settings. From the, “darkness of the night” in the extract giving a sense of foreboding to the recurring motif of the, “fog” immersing London, “even in the houses the fog began to lie thickly”, symbolising evil, corruption and Mr Hyde growing in strength and getting into peoples’ minds.


The personification of London also creates a sense of horror, “the low growl of London” the verb, “growl” having animalistic connotations of foreboding, danger and combat yet later in the novella it could be argued that London is weaker and evil and Mr Hyde has taken over the onomatopoeic verbs, “muffle” and “smother” alluding to a weaker and victimised London and therefore the people in it, causing a sense of horror.


The sense of horror is also created through Stevenson’s description of the buildings an extended metaphor for characters’ and human psyches also present a sense of horror; te description, “thrust forward its gable”, the violent verb, “thrust” giving a sense of danger; the metaphor could also symbolise Mr Hyde’s not fitting in with society or Victorian convention. “Handsome houses, now for the most part decayed” also portray a sense of horror a possible metaphor for the decay not only of Dr Jekyll and the growing strength of Mr Hyde within him but also the decaying psyches of society and their ever growing corruption, a suggestion creating a sense horror for readers in all centuries. 


The corruption suggested in society by Stevenson is also created by the alluded duality of the novella’s characters and settings. “Mr Richard Enfield”, described as a, “well-known man about town” which could be alluding to promiscuity a very different side to the well respected man of Victorian society. This duality is also continued within the extract, “his imagination also was engaged, or rather enslaved” Utterson possibly being portrayed as curious and almost envious of evil and Mr Hyde. The revelation that duality is amongst us and that everyone has evil in them creates a sense of horror at our own society and not just at the society in the novella.


The sense of horror created by duality provided by Stevenson could have been inspired from where he grew up, Edinburgh, with the old town, known for brothels and corruption, and the new town, known as being rich and respectable. Stevenson’s life as a student possibly living a double life between the old and new town a key inspiration for the novella as well as Jekyll’s double life.


Stevenson also uses sentence length to show duality: long sentences for Dr Jekyll, symbolising his respectful man of high status contrasted with Stevenson’s use of short sentences when referring to Hyde showing him to be primitive and a man of crime and corruption.


Stevenson also uses punctuation to create a sense of horror, his use of asyndeton in the extract, “nocturnal city; then of a figure of a man walking swiftly; then of a child running from the doctor’s; and then these met,” provides pace and creates a sense of horror throughout driving the scene to an inevitable end. 



Stevenson also raises questions regarding human evolution and de-evolution alluding to Darwinism, creating a sense of horror, playing on people’s fears of returning to a primitive form as well as shocking the Victorian audience going against religion and the Christian creation story. Stevenson alludes to Hyde being a primitive form of human, “ape-like fury”, having animalistic connotation emphasising this as well as Hyde being described as having a sense of, “deformity” about him. Stevenson could possibly be suggesting that we are all have an evil primitive human repressed in our psyches and that without control we could all  de-evolve, a horrifying suggestion in itself.


Stevenson also uses repression to create a sense of horror with the recurring motifs of things been, “locked” and “safe[s]”; creating a feeling of horror at what needs to be repressed and the lack of freedom within society, hence the need for duality to satisfy desires in secret.  “Dr Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes”, the eyes a window to the soul showing that it is a possible metaphor for the darkness and evil repressed inside hm. Stevenson’s repeated use of symbols of repression, “another enclosure, likewise sealed” suggests that there are many layers of repression and deceit giving his audience a sense of horror.


Overall Stevenson creates a sense of horror in both the extract and the rest of the novella through the gothic setting, graphic descriptions and his questions about duality, Darwinism, repression and the evil in all of us, the sense of horror created much more in his Victorian audience at his time of writing.


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