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

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

Chapter Two

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"some Jack-in-the-box of an old iniquity..."   (Chapter Two)

In this colorful phrase, Utterson describes the way Dr. Jekyll is haunted by his past as a jack-in-the-box toy, popping up to surprise him with the memory of a prior “iniquity,” or misdeed.

"until the small hours of the morning began to grow large...."   (Chapter Two)

This passage offers an interesting play on an old phrase. The “small hours of the morning” refer to the hours just after midnight—1 a.m., 2 a.m., etc.—which, numerically speaking, “grow large” as dawn approaches. In the context of Utterson grappling with the mystery of Mr. Hyde, this phrase carries an additional connotation of looming, of growing terror, and of affairs expanding.

"“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 great chocolate-colored pall lowered over heaven..."   (Chapter Four)

Stevenson renders the fog in metaphorical language that underscores the events which are unfolding in its midst. The metaphor of the fog as a “pall” being “lowered” evokes a funeral pall, a cloth used to cover corpses and coffins, a fitting image in the aftermath of Sir Danvers Carew’s murder. The idea of the fog being “lowered over heaven” creates an infernal atmosphere, as if, after the killing, goodness were being occluded by evil.

"the first fog of the season..."   (Chapter Four)

The London fog is an important feature in a great deal of Victorian literature. As a result of increasingly dense urban living, as well as the rapid industrialization of the 19th century, frequent blankets of smog overtook the city of London. This mixture of fog and coal smoke from factories and homes came to be termed “pea soup” for its thick, dark appearance. Stevenson opts for a chocolate-based metaphor, but the phenomenon is the same. Writers such as Dickens, Doyle, and Eliot have taken turns describing this signature aspect of London life.

"the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind...."   (Chapter Five)

In this passage, Stevenson summons up lyrical prose to describe the flowing noise of city life, of London’s denizens passing along outside the window in their routine traverses. The metaphor of the city-dwellers as a “mighty wind” places humanity and the natural world in a nearly equivalent relationship, a move that is unsurprising given the immense technological and industrial advances in London during the time. All around are hints of the natural replaced by the human: the fog that is actually man-made smog; the mighty wind of passersby. The word “arteries”—which refers to streets while also suggesting human veins—underscores this theme: the city itself is equated to the human body.

"He had his death-warrant written legibly upon his face...."   (Chapter Six)

Henry Jekyll’s ill condition is related through a rich metaphor, that of a “death-warrant written legibly upon his face.” A death-warrant is a legal document which authorizes the execution of a criminal. In this passage, it serves as a figure for Jekyll’s apparently looming death. The metaphor of the death-warrant also evokes the criminal thread of the plot, namely the actions of Mr. Hyde, and calls more deeply into question Jekyll’s involvement therein.

"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 impatience has shown its heels to my politeness..."   (Chapter Nine)

In this clever metaphor, Mr. Hyde describes his poor manners and restless demeanor. The metaphor casts Hyde’s “impatience” and “politeness” as characters, the former of whom turns, “show[s] its heels,” and walks away from the latter. The physicality of the metaphor serves to reinforce Mr. Hyde’s frenetic presence.

"to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine...."   (Chapter Ten)

Notice both metaphorical instances of description in this line. After having transformed into Hyde, Jekyll finds himself a “slave” to the immoral impulses he has long kept buried, suggesting that the evil personality is stronger than he initially realized. The thought that his vicious impulses now have free reign brings him joy “like wine.” The temperance movement, which advocated restraint and abstinence from drinking alcohol, had gained traction in Victorian England. According to advocates of temperance, overindulgence of alcohol was seen as a character flaw that must be corrected, adding another layer to Jekyll’s description of his transformation.

"It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous fagots were thus bound together’that in the agonized womb of consciousness..."   (Chapter Ten)

Now an offensive term, the noun “fagot” refers to both a bundle of sticks used for fuel and a collection of iron rods bound together to be hammered into one. By invoking this metaphor, Jekyll continues to assert that he is two disparate personalities fastened together, constantly struggling for dominance rather than one harmonious person.

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