He put the glass to his lips, and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change—he seemed to swell—his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter—and at the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arm raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror. “O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll!
Robert L. Stevenson was born in 1850 in Scotland. We can say he captured the mood of change of the last decades of the 19th century society. He was in conflict with his social environment and the "respectable" Victorian world so he rebelled against all the established order and we can say he became one example of a "bohemian", rejecting the religious, social and moral aspectos of the Victorian period.
When he was a child, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species and this had a great influence on him. This book was released at a time when many people saw science and the supernatural as being at odds with each another. There was the idea that science could be dangerous and was like playing to be God.
Closely linked to the Victorian´s sense of conflict between science and religion was the idea that humans have a dual nature. They saw the rational, everyday normality of family life, employment ,etc. but, on the other hand, they also saw anger, violence, fantasies, etc. In those times the crime rates were really high. The famous Jack the Ripper murders occurred around the 1888 so books like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde became very popular. The main character represented this duality above mentioned, this idea of a murderer being highly educated, high class but with an evil nature.
Reputation and morality was something basic in the late Victorian society. Mr. Jekyll, for example, is well-respected but also bored with his obligations. He plays a double game before the other members of the community. When he is in society he presents himself as good, pious, generous, etc. However, deep inside, he feels something different, something that is stronger than him and that little by little controls him.
The importance and the presence of science in society was a key debate in the 19th century. Mary Shelley, for example, studies the side-effects of playing with science when Victor Frankenstein creates his creature. Stevenson, in his novel, also analyses this topic deeply. Dr. Jekyll, in the same way as Victor does, tries to play God and messes with the natural order and balance of things. What kind of consequences can we have after that? Any thing is possible. The debate is settled. Are scientists overreachers?
When evil and good are confronted ,which one wins? Would we choose good over evil? Steveson´s novel shows that the evil in our nature, when nourished and given attention, might grow into something uncontrollable.
CHAPTER 9. DOCTOR LANYON´S NARRATIVE
...Twelve o’clock had scarce rung out over London, ere the knocker sounded very gently on the door. I went myself at the summons, and found a small man crouching against the pillars of the portico.
‘Are you come from Dr. Jekyll?’ I asked.
He told me ‘yes’ by a constrained gesture; and when I had bidden him enter, he did not obey me without a searching backward glance into the darkness of the square. There was a policeman not far off, advancing with his bull’s eye open; and at the sight, I thought my visitor started and made greater haste. These particulars struck me, I confess, disagreeably; and as I followed him into the bright light of the consultingroom, I kept my hand ready on my weapon. Here, at last,
I had a chance of clearly seeing him. I had never set eyes on him before, so much was certain. He was small, as I have said; I was struck besides with the shocking expression of his face, with his remarkable combination of great muscular activity and great apparent debility of constitution, and — last but not least — with the odd, subjective disturbance caused by his neighbourhood. This bore some resemblance to incipient rigour, and was accompanied by a marked sinking of the pulse. At the time, I set it down to some idiosyncratic, personal distaste, and merely wondered at the acuteness of
the symptoms; but I have since had reason to believe the cause to lie much deeper in the nature of man, and to turn on some nobler hinge than the principle of hatred. This person (who had thus, from the first moment of his entrance, struck in me what I can only describe as a disgustful curiosity) was dressed in a fashion that would have made an ordinary person laughable; his clothes, that is to say, although they were of rich and sober fabric, were enormously too large for him in every measurement — the trousers hanging on his legs and rolled up to keep them from the ground, the waist of the coat below his haunches, and the collar sprawling wide upon his shoulders. Strange to relate,
this ludicrous accoutrement was far from moving me to laughter. Rather, as there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature that now faced me — something seizing, surprising, and revolting — this fresh disparity seemed but to fit in with and to reinforce it; so that to my interest in the man’s nature and character, there was added a curiosity as to his origin, his life, his fortune and status in the world.
These observations, though they have taken so great a space to be set down in, were yet the work of a few seconds. My visitor was, indeed, on fire with sombre excitement.
‘Have you got it?’ he cried. ‘Have you got it?’ And so lively was his impatience that he even laid his hand upon my arm and sought to shake me. I put him back, conscious at his touch of a certain icy
pang along my blood.
‘Come, sir,’ said I. ‘You forget that I have not yet the pleasure of your acquaintance. Be seated,
if you please.’ And I showed him an example, and sat down myself in my customary seat and with as fair an imitation of my ordinary manner to a patient, as the lateness of the hour, the nature of my pre-occupations, and the horror I had of my visitor, would suffer me to muster.
‘I beg your pardon, Dr. Lanyon,’ he replied civilly enough.
‘What you say is very well founded; and my impatience has shown its heels to my politeness. I come here at the instance of your colleague, Dr. Henry Jekyll, on a piece of business of some moment; and I understood...’
He paused and put his hand to his throat, and I could see, in spite of his collected manner, that he was
wrestling against the approaches of the hysteria — ‘I understood, a drawer..’
But here I took pity on my visitor’s suspense, and some perhaps on my own growing curiosity.
‘There it is, sir,’ said I, pointing to the drawer, where it lay on the floor behind a table and still covered with the sheet. He sprang to it, and then paused, and laid his hand upon his heart: I could hear his teeth grate with the convulsive action of his jaws; and his face was so ghastly to see that I
grew alarmed both for his life and reason.
‘Compose yourself,’ said I.
He turned a dreadful smile to me, and as if with the decision of despair, plucked away the sheet. At sight of the contents, he uttered one loud sob of such immense relief that I sat petrified. And the next moment, in a voice that was already fairly well under control, ‘Have you a graduated glass?’ he asked.
I rose from my place with something of an effort and gave him what he asked. He thanked me with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders.
The mixture, which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion as the crystals melted, to brighten in colour, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly and at the same moment, the ebullition ceased and the compound changed to a dark purple, which faded again more slowly to a watery green. My visitor, who had watched these metamorphoses with a keen
eye, smiled, set down the glass upon the table, and then turned and looked upon me with an air of scrutiny.
‘And now,’ said he, ‘to settle what remains. Will you be wise? will you be guided? will you suffer me to take this glass in my hand and to go forth from your house without further parley? or has the greed of curiosity too much command of you? Think before you answer, for it shall be done as you decide. As you decide, you shall be left as you were before, and neither richer nor wiser, unless the sense of
service rendered to a man in mortal distress may be counted as a kind of riches of the soul. Or, if you shall so prefer to choose, a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame and power shall be laid open to you, here, in this room, upon the instant; and your sight shall be blasted by a prodigy to stagger the unbelief of Satan.’
‘Sir,’ said I, affecting a coolness that I was far from truly possessing,’ you speak enigmas, and you will perhaps not wonder that I hear you with no very strong impression of belief. But I have gone too far in the way of inexplicable services to pause before I see the end.’
‘It is well,’ replied my visitor. ‘Lanyon, you remember your vows: what follows is under the seal
of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors — behold!’
He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change — he seemed to swell — his face became suddenly black and the features
seemed to melt and alter — and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arm raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror.
‘O God!’ I screamed, and ‘O God!’ again and again; for there before my eyes — pale and shaken, and half-fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death — there stood Henry Jekyll! ....
Read this extract taken from chapter 9 and analyse the following aspects:
- What do you think about the "visitor"? Is there anything suspicious about him? Take examples from the text.
- What atmosphere do we have in the whole extract? When does the visit take place ?
- What does Lanyon feel for his visitor? Underline words, expressions where he shows his feelings of repulsion and fascination at the same time
- The description of the potion is very effective. We have words appealing to the senses of sight, hearing, smell. Identify them
- Lanyon has to make a choice in this chapter. Which one? Would you have done the same? Do you understand his choice?
- The moment of the transformation is the climax of the chapter. What do you think of it? Do you think it is disturbing? What´s Lanyon´s reaction? Do you think this is going to have an effect on the Doctor´s future life?