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Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Context

This GCSE English Literature quiz will challenge you on context in Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Context refers to the specific environment in which a text was written. Context therefore includes the author’s social and political environment, as well as the time and geographical location in which he or she wrote. Does this particular collection of influences sound familiar? If so, the reason is likely because these same elements, when seen within the text, are referred to as “setting”. Whereas setting refers to these aspects of a text’s created, fictional world, context refers to these aspects of the author’s own world. Context does not dictate the meaning of a text, or directly bypass the author’s creative process, but it does inevitably have some impact on fictional works, because authors are affected by the world in which they live.

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Personal beliefs also often have an effect on the text, although discerning their influence is not always a straightforward matter.

How to write about context

It can be useful to learn as much as much as you can about the context of a fictional work that you are studying. This work will help you to develop some insight into the important influences which helped to shape the text. This is not to say that context dictates the meaning of a text. The influence of context on meaning can be subtle and it is often false to claim that a particular historical event appears unmediated in the pages of a fictional text, as if the author were taking dictation. Nevertheless, your knowledge of context can provide useful information to bear in mind as you analyse a text.

The context of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is interesting, especially when considering Stevenson’s interest in science, travel and adventure. He inhabited an environment which had seen rapid change, an increasing knowledge of the diversity of the world, and huge population shifts.

Research the context of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, remembering everything you have learned in English lessons, and try these questions to see how much you know about the context of the novella.

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  1. Mr Enfield refers to the building with the strange door as "Black Mail House", but does not believe its owner to be Dr Jekyll, who, he says, "lives in some square or other". Why does Mr Enflied not realise that Dr Jekyll's address is the same as that of the building in the by-street?
    The novella's geography of London encompasses the squalid and the gracious, emphasising the class distinctions between the rich and the urban poor
  2. Robert Louis Stevenson gained a degree in which field?
    He had originally planned to follow the family business by becoming an engineer
  3. When Mr Utterson is haunted by thoughts of Mr Hyde after hearing Mr Enfield's story, he reimagines the scene as appearing "before his mind in a scroll of lighted pictures". What similar technology was available to Victorians at the time of the novella's publication?
    The magic lantern could project images upon a wall and was a popular form of entertainment. Mr Utterson's description sounds similar to cinematic film, which was first produced shortly after the novella's publication
  4. Which book published in 1859 dramatically changed accepted views about nature?
    Charles Darwin's book, The Origin of Species proposed the theory of evolution, the development of species over time. The book was immensely popular, as well as controversial. Dr Jekyll likewise sees himself as pushing the accepted boundaries of science
  5. When was Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde first published?
    The book was published towards the end of the nineteenth century, a century which saw much technological, scientific and social change
  6. "There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say?" What is meant by the term "troglodytic"?
    The use of the term highlights a fear amongst Victorian society that if humankind can evolve, it is also possible to regress, to become more primitive
  7. Which notorious murders took place in London in 1888, only two years after the novella's publication?
    Performances of the play Jekyll and Hyde were halted in response to the murders
  8. The novella contains elements of several different genres. Which of the following genres does NOT contribute to the novel?
    The text is set in a time contemporary to Stevenson's own, and is therefore not an example of historical fiction
  9. "And still the figure had no face by which he might know it; even in his dreams, it had no face, or one that baffled him and melted before his eyes." To what use does Mr Utterson put his horrific dreams about Hyde?
    Mr Utterson's dreams are shown to be accurate: Dr Jekyll has become almost powerless to control Mr Hyde. The dream is also symbolic: Mr Hyde is faceless not because Utterson has never met him before, but because he is part of Jekyll and also representative of abstract evil
  10. Dr Jekyll's desire to understand and to control his personality by means of science is related to which of the following fields of study?
    The first laboratory explicitly dedicated to the study of psychology was set up by Wilhelm Wundt in 1879 in Leipzig, only a few years before the publication of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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