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

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

Chapter Three

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"The large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes...."   (Chapter Three)

Dr. Jekyll’s physical transformations mirror his emotional reaction to Utterson, who has just mentioned Mr. Hyde in discussion. The paleness suggests Jekyll’s fear; the “blackness about his eyes” suggests an obscurity, an unwillingness to reveal the truth. This passage hints at the deep, but thus far mysterious, connection between Jekyll and Hyde.

"but the moon shone on his face as he spoke..."   (Chapter Four)

In this instance, the moon symbolizes Danvers Carew’s innocence, a connection underscored in the further characterization of his “innocent and old-world kindness of disposition.” In the Western tradition, white images often carry such a connotation of purity. This idea of purity is important here in that it renders Sir Danvers Carew’s murder all the more despicable.

"Although a fog rolled over the city..."   (Chapter Four)

Fog is an indelible piece of London’s environment, mood, and atmosphere as well as a rich literary symbol for confusion and obscurity. The fog rolling in over the streets of London before the murder of Sir Danvers Carew creates the conditions which allow the murder and also symbolize the mystery of the murderer’s identity and motivations.

"the light falling dimly through the foggy..."   (Chapter Five)

The dim light and the fog within Dr. Jekyll’s quarters symbolize obscurity and mystery. These symbols are fitting, for as Utterson enters Jekyll’s domain for the first time in years, he is full of apprehension and questions.

"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.

"I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous...."   (Chapter Nine)

Whether or not Dr. Lanyon regrets having chosen to witness Jekyll’s transformation, he senses that the event has defeated him, leading him to “feel that my days are numbered.” The whole affair with Jekyll has also defeated his reasoning faculties: as Lanyon says, “I shall die incredulous.” Stevenson uses Lanyon as a representative for a skeptical, rational point of view. Thus Lanyon’s defeat before Jekyll’s great secret strengthens the story’s supernaturalism.

"there stood Henry Jekyll!..."   (Chapter Nine)

At this moment, the duality of Jekyll and Hyde is revealed: Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, two halves of the same whole who are constantly warring with one another. Though readers may have suspected the relationship before, only here—in a violent, grotesque litany of imagery—is their true connection confirmed. The implication of this revelation speaks to the good and evil present in every person: though people are capable of great cruelty, they are also capable of morality and respectability.

"Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil...."   (Chapter Ten)

Here, the notion that Hyde symbolizes the evil parts of Jekyll is made explicit. Jekyll suggests that all people are dual natured, having both the potential for good and evil within them. To see someone like Hyde, who has no inclination toward good whatsoever, is incredibly distressing.

" that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself...."   (Chapter Ten)

Though readers may have already realized it, here Jekyll confirms that the ugly Edward Hyde is the immoral version of himself. He symbolizes all the impulses Henry Jekyll has suppressed over his lifetime, and is accordingly ugly because of that.

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