Use of structure in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

When analysing structure, think about how Stevenson has ordered his text and put it together on several levels:

  • Text level - this is how the text is constructed as a whole: the opening, middle and ending of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Within this, we look at how a character or a theme progresses and develops in the narrative.
  • Sentence level - this is how the text is constructed at a sentence level. Within this, we look at sentence types, lengths and the ordering of events.

Text level

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is split into ten chapters and Stevenson has given each chapter a title.

  1. Story of the Door
  2. Search for Mr Hyde
  3. Dr Jekyll was Quite at Ease
  4. The Carew Murder Case
  5. Incident of the Letter
  6. Remarkable Incident of Dr Lanyon
  7. Incident at the Window
  8. The Last Night
  9. Dr Lanyon's Narrative
  10. Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case

Stevenson has created chapter titles to summarise the chapter's content, making it easier for the reader to navigate the text. From looking at the chapter titles, you can see how tension peaks during chapters 4-8 and then lessens from chapter 9 onwards as the narrative is resolved.

Question

Why does Stevenson create tension in chapters 4-8, the middle of his narrative?

  • To keep the reader sustained and excited when reading.
  • To make the reader question what is going to happen in the ending, where Stevenson resolves his story.

Sentence level

At sentence level you should consider how an author has created a sentence and to what purpose.

Below is an example section from the text. In this section, Dr Lanyon is describing the shock he's had - not mentioning anything about Dr Jekyll and his experiment.

quote
"I have had a shock," he said, "and I shall never recover. It is question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it."

Here’s how to break down and analyse this quotation, thinking about the sentence lengths, sentence types, sentence order and the punctuation used.

"I have had a shock,' (1) he said, (2) 'and I shall never recover. (3) It is a question of weeks. (4) Well, life has been pleasant; I (5) liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it."

  • (1) "he said" - the use of "he said" breaks up Lanyon's narrative and adds further impact to the fact "he shall never recover." This highlights Lanyon's negative state of mind.
  • (2) "and I shall never recover" - this is a compound sentence. The use of the "and" links the two thoughts together. The end of the sentence is ambiguous because we don't know what Dr Lanyon is going to recover from.
  • (3) "It is question of weeks" - a simple sentence highlighting his trauma.
  • (4) "Well," - complex sentence. The use of "well" highlights a conversational tone - also that Dr Lanyon is looking at the past.
  • (5) "Liked"/"used" - past tense. This highlights his recent change in heart and how he dislikes life now due to what he has seen.