Allusion in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Allusion Examples in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

Chapter One 2

"for they were as wild as harpies...."   (Chapter One)

Harpies are birdlike monsters from Greek mythology. They serve as an apt analogy for the enraged women in that they have female faces and serve as agents of divine vengeance.

"“I incline to Cain’s heresy,” he used to say, quaintly; “I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.”..."   (Chapter One)

This passage is a reference to the Book of Genesis. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, kills his brother Abel before asking God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Utterson retrieves Cain’s question and offers that his answer—“Cain’s heresy”—is no, a philosophy not so much murderous as live-and-let-live.

"through wider labyrinths of lamplighted city, and at every street corner crush a child and leave her screaming...."   (Chapter Two)

In an episode of dark, delirious, late-night imagination, Mr. Utterson envisions the shadowy figure of Mr. Hyde roaming the streets of London. Those lanes and neighborhoods are imaged as “wider labyrinths of lamplighted city,” an allusion to the original labyrinth of Greek mythology. Roaming that maze built deep in the dungeons of the Minoan palace of ancient Crete was the Minotaur, a man with a bull’s head, the king’s own misbegotten son. The Minotaur is a useful analogue for Mr. Hyde on several accounts. Both are disfigured and thus shunned from society. Both periodically prey on the innocent. Both spring from mysterious, suspect origins.

"“would have estranged Damon and Pythias.”..."   (Chapter Two)

Lanyon alludes to the ancient Greek tale of Damon and Pythias, two men renowned for their powerful friendship. When Pythias was condemned to death by the tyrant Dionysius, he desired to return home to settle his affairs. Damon offered to stand in his place as collateral, to be killed should Pythias not return. When Pythias had not been seen for months, Damon was brought to the executioner’s block. Moments before the fatal blow was struck, Pythias rushed in. He told of how his return was stalled by pirates, who threw him to sea so that he had to swim desperately to return to Dionysius’s court in time. The tyrant released both, pleased by the power of their bond. Here, Lanyon is suggesting that Jekyll’s research is so absurd it would have separated these best of friends.

"a yard which had once been a garden..."   (Chapter Five)

The detail of Dr. Jekyll’s “yard which had once been a garden” represents a subtle but telling allusion. In numerous mythological traditions, a garden serves as a powerful symbol for grace and paradise. In fact, the very word “paradise” is derived from an ancient Persian word for “walled garden.” Most mythological traditions also tell of a fall from grace and paradise, often depicted as an expulsion from the garden. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden of Eden, thus initiating the history of humanity. Though it is not clear yet how the thematic fall from grace figures into Henry Jekyll’s story, this mythical motif is worth keeping in mind as the plot further unfolds.

"the dark influence of Hades had been withdrawn,..."   (Chapter Six)

Hades is the ancient Greek god of the underworld, where the souls of the dead were said to reside. To say the “dark influence of Hades had been withdrawn” suggests that Henry Jekyll’s illness and reclusion have subsided, as has his proximity to death.

"like the Babylonian finger on the wall..."   (Chapter Ten)

This phrase—which is related to “the writing’s on the wall”—references a story from the biblical book of Daniel. King Belshazzar, a Babylonian, offends God through his arrogance; God subsequently sends a hand to write a message on the wall during Belshazzar’s feast that warns of his impending doom. Invoking this story suggests that Jekyll feels as though he ignored signs that pointed toward his wrongdoing.

"like the captives of Philippi..."   (Chapter Ten)

Jekyll alludes to the biblical figure of Paul, from the book the Acts of the Apostles. In the story, Paul and his companion Silas are preaching to the Romans in Phillippi when they are jailed for disturbing the peace. Looking for a way out, they pray to God, who causes an earthquake that opens their cell doors. Similarly to that situation, the drinking of the potion unlocks the interior “prison” of Jekyll’s mind, allowing Hyde to be completely free and in control for the first time.