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Literary Devices in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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

Chapter One

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"He was the usual cut-and-dry apothecary, of no particular age and color, with a strong Edinburgh accent, and about as emotional as a bagpipe...."   (Chapter One)

Stevenson uses humorous language to paint a brief portrait of the doctor who assists Enfield. Stevenson uses the term cut-and-dry, usually a metaphor for ready-made things, in a literal way—apothecaries cut and dry herbs. He uses the humorous simile of the bagpipe as metonymy; bagpipes, like the doctor himself, are Scottish. This passage is an illustration of Stevenson’s light but skillful touch.

"The thoughts of his mind, besides, were of the gloomiest dye;..."   (Chapter Four)

The description of Utterson’s thought being “of the gloomiest dye” creates an intriguing interrelationship between the inner and outer worlds of the story. Both London and Utterson’s interior state are of a dour hue, as of darkened, coal-laden smog. Whether Utterson feels this gloom as a result of his environment, or whether London is described in such dingy terms because of Utterson’s subjective opinion of it, is not quite the question. Both are true. As in the best works of fiction, we witness here how inner and outer worlds collide, overlap, and collapse together.

"full of premature twilight,..."   (Chapter Seven)

It is no coincidence that, when Utterson and Enfield arrival at Jekyll’s courtyard, the sky is “full of premature twilight.” This is an example of the pathetic fallacy, a literary device by which a landscape is shaped to reflect some truth about a character’s emotional state. Just as day is prematurely fading into night, Jekyll himself is prematurely fading into death.

"it said complainingly...."   (Chapter Eight)

The use of the pronoun “it” is intriguing. On one level, it is the accurate pronoun to attribute to the “voice” within the room. On a deeper level, the pronoun “it” suggests a non-human subject, as if the voice within room belonged to some kind of inhuman character.

"directed to a corner of the floor..."   (Chapter Eight)

This moment in which Poole gazes into a “corner of the floor” represents a subtle use of both metonymy and metaphor. The local object of the corner serves as a symbol for Poole’s own situation: he is “cornered”—that is to say, without options.

"my troubles will roll away like a story that is told...."   (Chapter Nine)

In his letter-within-a-letter, Dr. Jekyll uses a rich metaphor. He expresses the hope that if Dr. Lanyon follows his instructions “my troubles will roll away like a story that is told.” The comparison does not make sense in the way most similes do. The verb “roll away” invites a simile to some object which literally rolls—a stone comes to mind. Instead, we have “a story that is told,” a phrase which suggests the process of lightening and unburdening that follows the telling of a story. What makes this metaphor so fascinating is that the story is not merely an abstract vehicle for the simile. As he writes, Jekyll is in the direct process of telling his story.

"Doctor Lanyon’s Narrative..."   (Chapter Nine)

The story takes a distinct turn in its telling. With Dr. Lanyon and Mr. Hyde dead, and Dr. Jekyll gone, the events of the plot have run their course. Yet there are a number of loose ends. Stevenson structures the end of the story with two chapters of illuminating exposition: the first written by Dr. Lanyon, the second by Dr. Jekyll. Both chapters represent examples of a story-within-a-story structure, in which multiple layers of narrative are nested.

"year 18—..."   (Chapter Ten)

One convention of 19th-century literature included using an initial instead of a specific name or location and the first few numbers of year instead of a specific year. Stevenson likely used this convention to enhance the illusion of realism, since it would appear as if he were protecting the privacy of the individuals involved.

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