Stevenson's story invokes the Gothic tradition: The use of supernatural incidents; elements of the story are revealed in a more or less linear narrative through a source, such as a manuscript, letters, diary, and legend; events are set in gloomy, secluded ancient castles and monastaries in distant countries; danger and horror rely on past transgressions or family curses. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nods to the Gothic tradition while adapting it: It is set in present-day London; horror occurs within a single, respectable individual (duality of self); the "supernatural" events are given (some) plausibility (role of science); it relies on collected testimony (narrative structure).
More than just horror stories, Gothic fiction, beneath its sensationalism and entertainment purpose, reveals anxieties that underlie issues such as subjectivity, gender, sexuality, capitalism, class, and literacy.
Know the characters in the novella: Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde, Dr Lanyon, Mr Utterson, Mr Enfield, Inspector Newcomen, Mr Guest, Poole, Bradshaw. Old woman at Mr Hyde's Soho house, housemaid, maid who witnesses Carew's murder, woman Mr Hyde hits in the face.
Themes of the novella to explore
- Moral story: Warning about scientific pursuit without limits: "I will not play in God's domain." Morals--linear relationship of causes and effects. But is it possible to always know the effects? Can life and human nature be "read" with such certainty? Is science the sole source of danger in this novella?
- Horror story - what is horror? Sensationalism but more importantly moral issues/psychological exploration. What is truly horrifying is the idea that evil is an inseparable part of all of us.
- Detective story (e.g., Sherlock Holmes): Flawed detective who works on the boundary of/outside the law. Reliance on/limits of reason/logic (science)--detection as an art (imagination). **Stevenson is drawing on more than plot and characterization. Utterson as a detective?
- Tension of unresolved Oedipal rage (father and son)/struggle between the id and superego (id---ego---superego)
- Post-Darwinian world: animals/humans, biological relatedness, limits of the law (legal system), claustrophobic environment/city (presence of God?)
- Philosophical questions: Is evil inherent in all humans? Or is it the effect of unrestrained pleasures and desires and/or repressed pleasures and desires? Also, psychological doubles
- Male friendships and celibacy (no women)/Gentleman - middle-class professionals - trust, duty, respectability/homosexuality
- Storytelling (3rd person, Utterson's pursuit of answers - 1st person, Utterson's narrative - 1st person, Jekyll's narrative) and Scientific Method - how we read and interpret/facts and imagination