Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Setting: Description, Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:05 The Victorian Setting
  • 1:48 Dr. Jekyll's London
  • 3:20 Mr. Hyde's London
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Arielle Windham

Arielle has worked worked with elementary, middle, and secondary students in American and Japan. She has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in Education.

In this lesson, we will be looking at several key settings in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' and what they reveal about the story's deeper meaning.

The Victorian Setting

Can a setting be both dark and creepy and bright and pleasant? Well in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, London is just that.

Though the text never gives an exact year, we know that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes place in London sometime in the 1800s. The closest we get to specific dates is at the start of ''The Carew Murder Case'' chapter when author Robert Louis Stevenson writes, ''Nearly a year later, in the month of October, 18--, London was startled by a crime.'' Previously in the text, Stevenson has mentioned several London neighborhoods, but never given a century.

But knowing exactly what year the story takes place in isn't imperative to understanding Stevenson's choice of setting. Knowing that the story is set in Victorian England, however, is. You see, no other setting would have helped emphasize the deeper meaning of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Victorian London Street Scene
street

Think about Victorian England. What comes to mind? Ladies in tight corsets with white gloves and big hats? Gentlemen in smart suits with top hats and fine black walking sticks? A society of decorum, strict morals, and little emotion? Just what Stevenson wanted. The Victorian Era, with its stuffy rules, explosion of science and technology, and epic class disparity was the perfect setting for a story that, at its heart, is an exploration of the duality of human nature.

On one side, you have the posh existence of gentlemen like Dr. Jekyll. On the other, Mr. Hyde found a playground for his wickedness on London's dark streets. Through vivid description of setting, Stevenson uses London's contrast to create deeper meaning in his story.

Dr. Jekyll's London

Dr. Jekyll is the quintessential Victorian gentleman. He's wealthy, cultured, and well-educated. He spends his time eating fine food with other well-educated friends, discussing politics, science, religion, and all kinds of posh things. When you picture him, do warm fires, high backed chairs, and a glass of some fine liquor come to mind? Maybe he's even wearing a smoking jacket? Stevenson didn't go into this much detail in his story, but the details he did give make it easy for us to picture Jekyll just so.

Perhaps a room for Dr. Jekyll?
victorian

While most of the story takes place at night, the settings we find Dr. Jekyll in are almost always warm and inviting. Before we even meet the good doctor, we're given a sense of him through a hall that was his ''pet fancy.'' Mr. Utterson describes the room as ''a large, low-roofed, comfortable hall, paved with flags, warmed…by a bright, open fire, and furnished with costly cabinets of oak.'' Utterson finds it ''the pleasantest room in London.''

Even the cabinet, where Dr. Jekyll is found most often in the text, shares this warm, polished feeling. ''It was a large room, fitted round with glass presses, furnished, among other things, with a cheval-glass and a business table…A fire burned in the grate; a lamp was set lighted on the chimney shelf.''

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