Whilst reading ‘The Last Night’ and ‘Dr Lanyon’s Narrative’ you might want to keep in mind the following:
- How Poole describes Hyde – look out for those references to him being an ape etc. How does this link to Darwin’s theories?
- The description of setting: “It was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March, with a pale moon…”; “The wind, which only broke in puffs and draughts into that deep well of building, tossed the light of the candle to and fro about their steps” etc.
- The description of Jekyll’s laboratory: “The far greater proportion of the building was occupied by the theatre…”
- Lanyon’s description of Hyde.
You might also consider:
- How Stevenson builds up to the drama in The Last Night.
- How Stevenson makes the final section of ‘Lanyon’s Narrative’ interesting. Look at the section beginning “He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp…”.
- Pace – the verbs used
- sentence lengths and how they draw us through the drama
- the way Stevenson structures the ending for dramatic effect
We’ve said that Lanyon seems to represent the status quo, the old ways of thinking. Remember that he was critical of Jekyll very early on in the book, calling his work ‘unscientific balderdash’. BUT if Jekyll’s work is more progressive, more adventurous, why does it all go so wrong? What do you think Stevenson’s message is here?
a) Evil is stronger than good (if so, how does Jekyll get the strength to overpower ‘Hyde’ and kill himself?
b) Is he warning us of the dangers of being too ‘fanciful’? Is Stevenson concerned and anxious about the way medicine and science was progressing at the time?
c)That we should learn to balance those opposing sides of our nature: we cannot be ‘truly good’ nor ‘truly bad’. If we repress the one, then the other will only fester and surface when we least expect it.
This is why the idea of the uncanny is so important in this novel. Good old Sigmund Freud talked about the uncanny being that which we want to repress but will always come to the surface. Uncanny for Freud = doubles, doppelgangers, stuck in a never-ending loop (think of dreams); the return of the repressed. Pretty much sums up the novel, don’t you think?