Dr Jekyll

Dr Jekyll mixes chemicals to make a potion.

At the beginning of the novel Dr Jekyll is shown to be:

  • respectable
  • wealthy
  • intelligent

Dr Jekyll is a well-respected and intelligent scientist. He is a wealthy man and lives in a house with his butler, Poole. To the rear of his house, with a separate entrance onto a side street, he has his own laboratory. It is here that he is conducting his most ambitious experiment yet - and it is this experiment which causes him to become erratic and alienated from his friends and Victorian society.

As the novel progresses, Jekyll becomes unpredictable and decides to leave all of his belongings and wealth to the scoundrel, Mr Hyde, in his will. This causes his friend Utterson to become very concerned and very anxious to find out more about Mr Hyde.

How is Dr Jekyll like this?EvidenceAnalysis
DeterminedDr Jekyll is determined as he wants his experiment to succeed. He is so determined that he risks losing everything in order for him to succeed - his friendships, reputation and wealth."I do sincerely take a great, a very great interest in that young man."The repetition of 'great' emphasises how determined Jekyll is and illustrates how he feels about Mr Hyde. The use of 'sincerely' shows that his determination and passion are real.
RespectedDr Jekyll is respected due to his wealth, reputation as a charitable man and his discoveries in science.The doctor gave one of his pleasant dinners to some five or six old cronies, all intelligent reputable men, and all judges of good wine.This shows that he is well-liked and respected in the society of Victorian London. As all of the men are judges of 'good wine', it indicates to the reader their wealth and respectability.
IntelligentDr Jekyll is intelligent due to his innovative experiments which are perceived by some others as worldly and un-godly, particularly by the conventional scientist, Dr Lanyon.Henry Jekyll, M.D., D.C.L., LL.D., F.RS., etc.The titles that are attached to Dr Jekyll's name highlight his intelligence, as he has many degrees and qualifications. The use of 'etc.' suggests there are more.
ErraticDr Jekyll becomes more erratic as the novel develops. This is because he is trying to conceal Mr Hyde from everyone. He's also trying to control his experiment, but failing....before the smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentleman below.This highlights the change in Dr Jekyll's behaviour, as before this quotation, Dr Jekyll was happily talking to Mr Utterson. However, Stevenson describes a sudden change in Dr Jekyll's behaviour. The word 'struck' shows that Hyde's appearance has changed Dr Jekyll's behaviour instantly.

Social and historical context

In the Victorian era, scientists were viewed with some superstition and their discoveries, in some cases, were seen as un-Godly. Charles Darwin's The Origins of the Species was published in 1859. This book became famous as it discussed the theory of evolution. Many people saw it as an attack on religion because the book made many of the Bible's teachings impossible. Therefore, many people thought scientists were untrustworthy and engaged in doing the 'devil's work.'


How does the Victorian view of science link with the character of Dr Jekyll?

  • Dr Lanyon, a fellow scientist, refuses to acknowledge Dr Jekyll and his latest experiment due to his wicked ways with science. He suggests that it is unnatural.
  • Mr Hyde, a product of Jekyll's scientific experiment, is shown to be an evil man.
  • Dr Jekyll becomes more isolated and strange as the novel progresses.

Analysing the evidence

Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde.Jekyll has a change of heart

Looking at this extract from the novel, how does Stevenson present a change in Jekyll?

'Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde.'

  • 'Jekyll was no worse' - the beginning of the sentence illustrates how Jekyll hadn't deteriorated further - his relationship with Hyde stopped and thus his strange, unpredictable behaviour didn't get any worse.
  • 'woke again' - is metaphorical, illustrating how Jekyll's life started anew and he was back to his old self.
  • 'undo the evil done' - illustrates how Jekyll felt ashamed of Hyde's actions and was determined to put them right.