In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson uses lots of dark and descriptive settings to help set the mood. At the time he was writing, there were many new scientific revelations such as Darwin’s law of evolution which rattled the beliefs of religious people (mostly Catholics and protestants). On top of this, London had a significant reputation for being notorious for crooks and thieves. In this time also, there was a distinct social barrier between the poor and the rich. On top of this, Stevenson chose to use Soho as a home for Mr. Hyde as it was well known as an infamous area for robbers and poor people as well as prostitutes. Stevenson also wrote his novella at an interesting time as Jack the Ripper was killing in that time, perhaps adding another dose of fear when readers read his novella at the time.
In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson uses lots of vivid and imaginative description of the weather to help set the mood and describe what Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde represent. An alternative description is “…a fog rolled over the city in the small hours, the early part of the night was cloudless… was brilliantly lit by the full moon.” which describe the setting which is reminiscent of gothic writing for horror. This is also the first time (although not very obvious) where Mr. Hyde appears when there is fog. This might mean that Hyde represents darkness, or cloudiness which could be interpreted as Mr.Hyde’s mind is always different.
When Mr. Utterson leads a policeman to Mr.Hyde’s house, the weather was described as “…the first fog of the season.”. This is indication of something suspicious or some indication of strange events starting to arise. “A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven” indicated that instead of a clear day, some darkness is beginning to “lower” which might suggest that Soho is a dark area, never seeing the “heavens”. Soho is also described as “haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths.” suggests that Soho only gets glimpses of light, that therefore Mr. Hyde would perfectly fit in, as he is a dark character.” The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses…” represents Soho’s bad reputation for poverty and prostitutes.
Stevenson set his story in London and Soho because they are significant for horror and can help create a setting in which terrible events can be described with more contrast. This is shown when London is described as “… a nocturnal city… glide more stealthily through sleeping houses, or move the more swiftly and still the more swiftly, even to dizziness, through wider labyrinths” in chapter 2. “wider labyrinths” suggests striking confusion into . The tension in the story is enforced because of the rapist “Jack the Ripper” which struck terror in readers at that time. Similarly, Soho is described as “The dismal quarter of Soho” which suggests an area of poverty.
“Muddy ways and slatternly passengers” implies that the mood is always gloomy or dim, as well as the people there very dirty and poor, also suggesting that Soho is a rough neighborhood, signifying that perhaps mysterious and dangerous events occur in Soho. “lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh” suggests that the lamps have always been extinguished, and they do not shed any light on anything, therefore keeping Soho a dark and gloomy area. “to combat this mournful reinvasion of darkness”, symptomatic of Soho being ‘attacked’ by darkness repeatedly, indicative of it’s citizens not being able to do anything about it, once again linking to Soho being regarded as an area of poverty
Stevenson also portrays Soho as “a district of some city in a nightmare…” hints that Soho
this effect is further explained: “The fog lifted a little and showed him a dingy street, a gin place, a low French eating house…, many ragged children huddled in the doorways, and many women of many different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass…”.
When Mr. Utterson visits Mr. Guest, London is described as “The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in thorough the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind… and the glow of how autumn afternoons on the hillside vineyards, was ready to be set free and to disperse the fogs of London.”. Stevenson described this particular scene and made it sound like that day is pleasant as he uses the description “glow of how autumn afternoons”.
Later on in Chapter 8, where Utterson discovers Mr. Hyde to have committed suicide, Stevenson describes London as “It was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture. The wind made talking difficult, and flecked the blood into the face.” The quote conjures pictures of something mysterious and melancholy. Another quote is : “It seemed to have swept the streets unusually bare of passengers, besides; for Mr. Utterson thought he had never seen that part of London so deserted… The square, when they got there, was full of wind and dust, and the thin trees in the garden were lashing themselves along the railings…”. This description is ominous, and sets the sinister mood for the events that lay ahead. This dark mood also enhances the effect that happens when Mr. Hyde commits suicide as well as builds tension in the reader.
Throughout the story, Stevenson portrays Dr. Jekyll as a good person, and Mr. Hyde as “…was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile…”. Also, the difference between the back door (where Utterson first meets Mr. Hyde) and the front door is very vast. This is shown in “The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels.” This projects an image which gives an image of a door which has been neglected and has a sinister feeling to it. Eventually, the reader notices that this is a representative of Mr. Hyde.
On the other hand, Dr. Jekyll’s house is described as “angel”. This is shown when the house (and the inside) are described as: “Round the corner from the by-street , there was a square of ancient, handsome houses…” and ” … into a large, low-roofed, comfortable hall paved with flags, warmed by a bright, open fire, and furnished with costly cabinets of oak…”. This represents the goodness of Dr. Jekyll, which contrasts the darkness of Mr. Hyde. A good metaphor to use would be that Dr. Jekyll is light, while Mr. Hyde is darkness.
Another example of the dissimilarity between Jekyll and Hyde is the how the lab (inside Dr. Jekyll’s house) is described as “… the dingy, windowless structure with curiosity, and gazed round with a distasteful sense of strangeness… lying gaunt and silent, the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw and the light falling dimly through the foggy cupola.”. This is reminiscent of gothic writings which are comparable to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.
Throughout these uses of settings, it is clear that Stevenson’s use of setting in London is seen as both literal and metaphorical in the sense that the setting is used as a background for portraying the scene, as well as a symbol for representing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: the contrast of differences using “fog” as Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll as clear weather and “glow of autumn afternoons”. This is also illustrated as the front door of Dr. Jekyll’s house being considered as good, while Mr. Hyde’s house is considered as wicked and dismal.
Glide mre stealthily through sleeping houses, or move the more swiftly and still the more swiftly, even to dizziness, through wider labyrinths (confusion) of lamplighted city.