Nature and the supernatural

Half a leaf and half a star

Stevenson shows the binary opposites of the supernatural and nature in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The idea of the supernatural is evident in Dr Jekyll's experiment and the release of Mr Hyde into the world. In contrast, nature or the natural order is implicit in Dr Lanyon's horrified response to Jekyll's experiment.

Social and historical context

In the Victorian period, change was apparent due to the Industrial Revolution. Factories were being built and technology was advancing - this resulted in a shift from the 'natural' farming type of life to one filled with technology and industry. This change is presented in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde through Jekyll's experiment - his desire to change the natural course of his being through science.

How is nature and the supernatural shown in the novel?

In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Stevenson shows the binary opposites of the natural and the supernatural through:

  • Jekyll's supernatural experiment of releasing Mr Hyde into the world
  • Jekyll's death – how his interference with the supernatural caused his natural end
  • Dr Lanyon's response
How does Stevenson show this?EvidenceAnalysis
Supernatural: Jekyll's experimentJekyll meddles with the supernatural when he creates a potion that will release his other being, Mr Hyde, into the world."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!"In this quotation, Dr Jekyll (transformed into Mr Hyde) is talking to Dr Lanyon and is revealing the nature of his experiment to him. The repetition of 'you' shows Dr Jekyll's anger towards Dr Lanyon, as he has always 'denied' this form of medicine. It also shows his passion for his experiment and highlights that he cares about his experiment more than anything else.
Natural: Jekyll's deathJekyll's supernatural activities are quickly put to an end when Hyde takes over and Jekyll must kill Hyde and therefore himself, to put an end to his wicked ways....the cords of his face moved with a semblance of life, but life was quite gone.This shows that Jekyll/Hyde should still be alive, as the muscles of his face still look alive - they almost wish to be alive. However, life was 'quite gone'. This shows that Jekyll/Hyde have died and have no hope in ever returning.

Analysing the evidence

Below are two quotations from the text. Decide whether they show the theme of nature or the supernatural.

Question

How does Stevenson show the binary opposites of nature or the supernatural in these quotations?

quote
…life was quite gone; and by the crushed phial in the hand and the strong smell of kernels that hung upon the air, Utterson knew that he was looking on the body of a self-destroyer.Utterson, on finding Jekyll's body

'...life (1) was quite gone; and by the (2) crushed phial in the hand and the strong smell of kernels that hung upon the air, Utterson knew that he was looking on the body of a (3) self-destroyer.'

ANSWER: THE SUPERNATURAL

  • (1) 'was' - the use of the past tense indicates that the life has gone. This is spooky because there is a dead man in the laboratory with Utterson and Poole.
  • (2) 'crushed phial in the hand' - the description of Jekyll and how he has a phial in his hand in his final moments is harrowing - imagery. The fact that the phial is 'crushed' is a metaphor for how science has destroyed Jekyll.
  • (3) 'self-destroyer' - this is the supernatural as the idea of committing suicide goes against the bible's teaching, ie the 'natural course' in life.
Question
quote
"Some day, Utterson, after I am dead, you may come to learn the right and the wrong of this. I cannot say so. And in the meantime, if you can sit and talk with me of other things, for God's sake stay and do so; but if you cannot keep clear of this accursed topic, then, in God’s name, go, for I cannot bear it."Dr Lanyon

"Some day, Utterson, after I am dead, you may come to learn the (1) right and the wrong of this. I cannot say so. And in the meantime, if you can sit and talk with me of other things, for (2) God’s sake stay and do so; but if you cannot keep clear of this accursed topic, then, in (2) God's name, go, for (3) I cannot bear it."

ANSWER: NATURE

  • (1) 'right and the wrong of this' - this is a binary opposite. Human life, the natural way of being, is all about the 'right' and 'wrong.' This presents the natural course of being a human being.
  • (2) 'God's' - repetition of 'God' highlights the religious belief Lanyon has, separating him from Jekyll. It also highlights how Lanyon calls to God in his final moments.
  • (3) 'I cannot bear it' - this highlights Lanyon’s extreme emotions about Jekyll’s experiments. He cannot bear it and doesn't - he dies of shock as a result.
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