Jekyll & Hyde Passage-based question - Exemplar (Ch.1 & Violence)

Here you will find a model answer to a 'passage-based' question, exploring Stevenson's treatment of violence in the novel. The exemplar is divided into two parts; the reason for this will become clear in the narrated Powerpoint which follows. In it, I explore the structure and features that an examiner will be looking for in a top band essay of this kind.

The Question

Explore how Stevenson represents violent action in this extract and elsewhere in the novel.

The Passage

from Ch.1 - Story of the Door

All at once, I saw two figures: one a little man who was stumping along eastward at a good walk, and the other a girl of maybe eight or ten who was running as hard as she was able down a cross street. Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the, child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. 

I gave a view-halloa, took to my heels, collared my gentleman, and brought him back to where there was already quite a group about the screaming child. He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running. The people who had turned out were the girl’s own family; and pretty soon, the doctor, for whom she had been sent, put in his appearance. Well, the child was not much the worse, more frightened, according to the Sawbones; and there you might have supposed would be an end to it. But there was one curious circumstance. I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. So had the child’s family, which was only natural. But the doctor’s case was what struck me. 

He was the usual cut-and-dry apothecary, of no particular age and colour, with a strong Edinburgh accent, and about as emotional as a bagpipe. Well, sir, he was like the rest of us; every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbones turn sick and white with the desire to kill him. I knew what was in his mind, just as he knew what was in mine; and killing being out of the question, we did the next best. We told the man we could and would make such a scandal out of this, as should make his name stink from one end of London to the other. If he had any friends or any credit, we undertook that he should lose them. And all the time, as we were pitching it in red hot, we were keeping the women off him as best we could, for they were as wild as harpies. I never saw a circle of such hateful faces; and there was the man in the middle, with a kind of black, sneering coolness—frightened too, I could see that—but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan.

‘If you choose to make capital out of this accident,’ said he, ‘I am naturally helpless. No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene,’ says he. ‘Name your figure.’ Well, we screwed him up to a hundred pounds for the child’s family; he would have clearly liked to stick out; but there was something about the lot of us that meant mischief, and at last he struck. 

You can download a copy of the passage here

Exemplar (part 1)

This extract, narrated by Enfield to his cousin, Utterson, is important in that it establishes from the novella’s beginning, that Hyde is not only a morally corrupt man, but is also capable of ruthless violence. The fact that the girl he knocks over is ‘maybe eight or ten’ emphasises her vulnerability and yet we are told that Hyde ‘trampled calmly’ over the child's body. This phrase (trampled calmly) is almost oxymoronic, particularly given that he ‘left her screaming on the ground’. He cannot have been oblivious to his actions and so we can only assume he was entirely unmoved by the child's shock and fear.

Stevenson's verb and adjective choices reinforce this idea that Hyde is capable of extreme violence. We are told he was ‘stumping along’ before the encounter which implies he was heavy-footed. The collision itself is described as ‘hellish’ and a little later we are told he seemed ‘really like Satan’. Stevenson's lexical field here is employed throughout his text to imply that Hyde is the embodiment of evil and it follows that such brutality and primal force would be every day fare for such a man.

Perhaps the most obvious way in which the passage focuses upon Hyde’s aggression is the use of the simile ‘like some damned juggernaut’. While ‘damned’ reinforces his demonic status, ‘juggernaut’ underscores the power and force behind the collision and Hyde’s indifference - he behaves more like a machine than a human being.

Finally, it is notable that the author puts much emphasis on the reaction of the crowd to Hyde here. We are told that the doctor, ‘about as emotional as a bagpipe’, turned ‘sick and white with the desire to kill him’. Likewise, the women nearby were ‘wild as harpies’ and had to be held back; even the mild-mannered Enfield acknowledged that ‘killing’ was only out of the question because of the social norms he was constrained by. All those present, then, are overwhelmed by an urge to inflict violence on Hyde. While this is explicable, given Hyde's grotesque behaviour, it is here that Stevenson's representation of violence is most interesting; he is drawing our attention to the fact that we all have the seeds of primal rage within us. Hyde is despicable, but our own respectability is also, perhaps, just a thin veneer!           385 words

You can download a copy of the first half of the exemplar here


Another key moment in which Stevenson presents violence in the novel comes in Chapter 4 with the brutal murder of Sir Danvers Carew. The tension in this scene is manipulated skilfully by the author; the maid who witnesses the attack has ‘never felt more at peace with all men, or thought more kindly of the world’. She is staring out into a calm, moonlit night, when she notices the dignified form of Carew beaten in a ‘storm of blows’ by Hyde. The description is laced through with graphic details: he attacks with ‘ape-like fury’, the MP’s bones are ‘audibly shattered’ and Hyde’s ‘tough’ walking stick is broken by the sheer force of the strikes. The fact that the attack seems entirely unprovoked makes it all the more shocking. Stevenson underscores this by having the maid faint in response to what she has witnessed. The attack is primal, inviting a reading of the novel in which Hyde comes to represent the Freudian Id, unleashed on the repressive streets of Victorian London.

Given the violence that Hyde inflicts on others, it is perhaps fitting that he dies a violent death at his own hand. The whole of the buildup to the climax of ‘The Last Night’ hints at the death to follow. As Poole and Utterson prepare to break the door down with an axe, they are described as ‘besiegers’. They are ‘appalled by their own riot’ as they force their way into Jekyll's laboratory. Again, Stevenson presents the reader with the idea that the capacity for violence is endemic to the human condition. Upon discovering Hyde’s corpse, it is described as ‘sorely contorted’ which emphasizes the painful consequences of taking cyanide and Hyde is labelled a ‘self-destroyer’ which is an emotive term, drawing our attention to the violence. Moreover, the remainder of the scene broadens our idea of what constitutes violence, as it is revealed that Hyde has scrawled obscenities on ‘some pious text’. Later we learn that he also defaced a portrait of Jekyll's father. It is important when considering the way that Stevenson represents violence, not to discount ideological violence, for Hyde, is at war with the social norms and conventions which define polite society and such a rebellion is not restricted to physical aggression.

Finally, Stevenson offers the reader another passing example of Hyde’s brutality during Jekyll’s full statement of the case in the final chapter. He observes that, having taken the draft, he was ‘inclined to a more unbridled, a more furious propensity to ill’ and this is demonstrated when he ‘smote’ a female match seller in the face and inflicted ‘devilish fury’ on his driver while on his way to Lanyon's home. Indeed, the whole of Jekyll's confession is shot through with a lexical field of violent terms. He describes how, even the transformation itself caused ‘racking pains’ and ‘grinding in the bones’ followed by ‘deadly nausea’. Jekyll, and Hyde’s existence is increasingly defined by suffering and self-inflicted violence. What becomes all the more evident too is that, because of the complexities of the narrative perspective provided, we come to realize that we have probably witnessed only a few of Hyde's transgressions. How many more violent acts have occurred which we know nothing about? The novel remains, first and foremost, a mystery in which only some of its darkness is brought into the light! Violence, like the other taboos that saturate Stevenson’s ‘strange case’, is seen through a glass darkly!       574 words

You can download a copy of the second half of the exemplar here