Week 1 Class 2: Modern Literature: Murder, Money and Mystery

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Dr Lanyon has died mysteriously from shock, and has left behind a letter. Why do you think Stevenson has chosen to reveal crucial information in the form of a letter, that is, what effect does this letter have on the plot development of the novella?

In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson has chosen to reveal crucial information in the form of a letter left behind by Dr Lanyon. Here are the major reasons for him to do so.

The letter can add suspension to the whole novella as well as to further shape the darkness of the storyline. This is because there is another letter enclosed in the letter wrote by Lanyon for Utterson, with‘not to be opened till the death or disappearance of Dr. Henry Jekyll.’ and the contents in the envelope can answer to the questions in both Mr. Utterson and the readers’ mind. The foreshadowing make the readers feel puzzled as well as tempted to continue to read the novella in order to get the key to the questions popped up in their minds due to the limitation brought by the third-person limited-perspective of Mr. Utterson:

1) Why could Hyde provide a cheque by Dr. Jekyll as a compensation to the girl he tortured within such a short period of time?

2) Why did the Dr. Jekyll decided to made Hyde the new sole beneficiary of his will, under the stressed circumstance of ‘disappearance or unexplained absence of Jekyll’?

3) How does Dr. Jekyll involve into the muder in Hyde’s mudering of Sir Danvers Carew? 

Even why the letter-in-a-letter has to be enclosed and not to be opened is also a question for the readers to think about.

Furthermore, the suspense also postponed the climax of the whole storyline such that Stevenson can further add more details related to the strange case such as the observation of Dr. Jekyll’s servant, Poole, of how his master’s voice and height change in a sudden, as well as to help the readers to focus on Dr. Jekyll, which further intensified the atmosphere of the novella to advance the climax – the death of Hyde and the opening of the letter.

An another advantage of revealing the crucial information of the story in the form of a letter is that, a first-person-narrative can be adapted such that the whole transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Hyde can be descripted in detail and close up a story in a more persuasive tone, to stir up emotions and empathy within readers and to think about how the story relates to his own life – everyone has both the bright side and the dark side. Everyday we must decide which side we want to show and which side we want to hide but afterall, we must try to admit that everyone has an unknown dark side.

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2 thoughts on “Week 1 Class 2: Modern Literature: Murder, Money and Mystery

  1. Great illustrations. Do however note the typo in the title as well as word count. You pointed out very well the 3 big questions. Very good. But try to be concise when illustrating how the questions work with the letter. Good job and keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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