Nabokov once described ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ as having an almost winey quality to it and I think that sums up the unique atmosphere Stevenson is able to conjure up really well; the book transcends the conventionialties of the Gothic genre which inspired it to become something far grater and grander, as it becomes a kind of treatise on the duality of good and evil in people. Dr Jekyll’s experiments lead to him concocting a drug which creates an inverse of his supposedly benign essence; whereas Hyde is outwardly kind and gregarious, the dwarfish Hyde causes an instant sense of revulsion in those who meets and is cruel and capricious. Yet, as Nabokov states, the characters aren’t as binary as you would think, neither character is wholly good or evil, instead the are entwined with one another, Jekyll being able to let go of the sense of unfettered freedom which Hyde is able to realise and Hyde is unable to let of the sense of responsibility and respectability which keep his vices in check.
The London in which the book is set comes alive during the night; macabre and ghost-like, its empty streets, shimmering under the pale glow of a diaphanous moonlight act as the centre-stage for Hyde’s monstrosities. That the novel is told mainly from the perspective of the conventional Utterson only adds to the strange beauty which Stevenson is able to interweave in the novel, it is as if the creation of Hyde creates a sense of poetry in Utterson’s prosaic life, the ripples of Dr Jekyll’s experiments impacting on the wider world around him. ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is one of the greatest Victorian novels, a novel which transcends the conventions of the area and creates something ineffably majestic.