Use of language in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

When analysing the language Stevenson uses, think about the words he uses, why he has chosen those words and what impact they have on the reader.

When analysing language consider:

  • What has the writer done?
  • How have they done it?
  • Why have they done it?
  • What's the effect on the reader?
How has he done it?Why has he done it?What is the effect on the reader?
SimileStevenson uses a simile when describing Mr Hyde: 'really like Satan.'Stevenson has done this to directly compare Hyde's behaviour to Satan's. This shows that Hyde is an abominable human being who doesn't really have a conscience.This shocks the Victorian reader due to their religious beliefs and their knowledge and understanding of Satan's behaviour and actions.
PersonificationStevenson uses personification when describing the laboratory in the opening chapter: 'a certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street.'The fact that the building is 'thrusting' forward highlights to the reader that this building and the person using it is unusual.This makes the reader aware of the building and immediately makes it sinister, ensuring that the reader knows the person using the building might be up to no good.
ImageryStevenson uses imagery when describing Carew's dead body: 'The stick with which the deed had been done...had broken under the stress of this insensate cruelty; and one splintered half had rolled in the neighbouring gutter'.This shows how horrific the murder scene was - how the weapon had splintered under the pressure and how it had been left in a gutter, as if it didn't matter. This image depicts the brutality of the murder.This makes the reader despise Hyde for his cruelty and what he has done. The use of the word 'insensate' shows the reader how emotionless Hyde was while murdering another human being.
Powerful verbsStevenson uses powerful verbs when describing Carew's dead body, such as 'mangled.'This creates an image of a dead, unidentifiable body that has suffered a cruel, violent death.This makes the reader feel disgusted at what Hyde has done. It also makes the reader empathise with Carew.
OnomatopoeiaStevenson uses words such as 'trampling' and 'shattered'.Stevenson has done this to allow the reader to picture the brutality of the murder and to imagine how it sounded. 'Trampling 'describes the sound of someone stamping, highlighting Hyde's brutality.This makes the reader feel disgusted with Hyde and empathise with Carew. Any sympathy you may have had for Hyde has vanished because of this callous crime.

How to analyse language

Here is an example of Stevenson's language. In this quotation, he is describing the building Enfield saw Hyde entering.

quote
...a certain sinister block of building thrust forwards its gable on the street. It was two storeys high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence

Here’s how to break down and analyse this quotation.

'...a certain (1) sinister block of building (2) thrust forwards its gable on the street. It was two storeys high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey and a (3) blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature the marks of (4) prolonged and sordid negligence.'

  • (1) 'sinister' - using the adjective 'sinister' highlights that this building is evil and has some cruel purpose in the narrative.
  • (2) 'thrust' - the use of the verb 'thrust' makes the building seem intimidating, as Stevenson describes it moving forward. This is personification and allows the reader to imagine the building being aggressive and scary.
  • (3) 'blind forehead' - Stevenson describes the upper storey as having a 'blind forehead' thus giving human features to the house. This makes the building seem more intimidating, as he describes it as a person.
  • (4) 'prolonged and sordid negligence' - Stevenson uses imagery and exaggeration here to highlight and emphasise how neglected the building is.
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