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Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Extract 2

This is the second of two extract questions for Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It takes place towards the very end of the novella, just before Dr Jekyll’s own personal account. Before this point, the reader has not been told that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. Because the story is now so well-known, it is possible to read this passage without experiencing the shock which its first audiences are likely to have had. The passage presents a wonderful contrast between Mr Hyde’s manic questioning and Dr Lanyon’s unsuspecting, reasonable manner.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Always read the passage through more than once before you begin writing your answer.

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This habit gives you the opportunity to notice different details and aspects of the passage. On the first reading, try to gain a general understanding of the extract, especially thinking of ways in which its details relate to the question you will be answering. When reading for the second time, make detailed notes and annotations, remembering to sketch out a rough plan. Once you’ve done this, you can then being to plan exactly how you will use the passage to answer the question.

Consider the possible reasons behind the choice of specific passage. How does it relate to the rest of the text? Try to pinpoint the themes which appear and consider which significant characters are present. How does the passage relate to all that follows in the text? Are later events foreshadowed? Also, how does the passage relate to earlier events? Is a turning point evident? Consider the extract’s ending: can you think of a reason why the passage ends where it does? How is the final line significant?

Pay careful attention to the specific wording of the question you have chosen to answer. What does the question ask you to discuss? There are many possibilities here, including mood and atmosphere, character or theme. You might be asked to give a personal response to the passage or to a character. Dialogue, or the behaviour or feelings of a character, might be the focus. Different question types require different sorts of answers. Begin by explaining the passage’s immediate context: note the events preceding the extract and draw attention to their relevance. Always ensure that you refer to the detail of the passage, rather than discussing it very generally, which can make your answer appear vague. Analyse and discuss the relationship between the passage and text’s themes. Grouping related ideas together will give your answer some structure. Always plan carefully, in order to have enough time to discuss the entire passage.

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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He thanked me with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders. The mixture, which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion as the crystals melted, to brighten in colour, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly and at the same moment, the ebullition ceased and the compound changed to a dark purple, which faded again more slowly to a watery green. My visitor, who had watched these metamorphoses with a keen eye, smiled, set down the glass upon the table, and then turned and looked upon me with an air of scrutiny.

“And now,” said he, “to settle what remains. Will you be wise? will you be guided? will you suffer me to take this glass in my hand and to go forth from your house without further parley? or has the greed of curiosity too much command of you? Think before you answer, for it shall be done as you decide. As you decide, you shall be left as you were before, and neither richer nor wiser, unless the sense of service rendered to a man in mortal distress may be counted as a kind of riches of the soul. Or, if you shall so prefer to choose, a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame and power shall be laid open to you, here, in this room, upon the instant; and your sight shall be blasted by a prodigy to stagger the unbelief of Satan.”

“Sir,” said I, affecting a coolness that I was far from truly possessing, “you speak enigmas, and you will perhaps not wonder that I hear you with no very strong impression of belief. But I have gone too far in the way of inexplicable services to pause before I see the end.”

“It is well,” replied my visitor. “Lanyon, you remember your vows: what follows is under the seal of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors - behold!”

He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed, he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change - he seemed to swell - his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter - and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arm raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror.

“O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes - pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death - there stood Henry Jekyll!

What he told me in the next hour, I cannot bring my mind to set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard, and my soul sickened at it; and yet now when that sight has faded from my eyes, I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer. My life is shaken to its roots; sleep has left me; the deadliest terror sits by me at all hours of the day and night; I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  1. What is the immediate context to this passage?
    Mr Hyde has committed suicide and Mr Utterson has returned home to read the strange confessions contained in the envelope on Dr Jekyll's desk
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Dr Lanyon's account reveals the identity of Mr Hyde before ending. The reader already knows that Lanyon died shortly after the event
  3. Which of the following best describes the mood of this passage?
    There is a barely-suppressed energy in this passage, as there is in Mr Hyde, before it erupts in Dr Lanyon's horrified exclamation
  4. Which of the following words from the passage refers both to the potion and to Dr Jekyll's relationship to Mr Hyde?
    Dr Jekyll's transformation into Mr Hyde is a metamorphosis, a change from one being into another. Here the word is applied to the rapidly-transforming potion which allows this metamorphosis of the human being. "Metamorphoses" is the plural form of "metamorphosis"
  5. Which one of the following lines suggests that curiosity is irresistible to Dr Lanyon?
    Dr Lanyon might well have been killed by his own curiosity. He wishes for the inexplicable to be made explicable by discovering the purpose of the strange instructions he has followed for the sake of his old friend
  6. Which one of the following is true?
    Specifically, Dr Jekyll, in the guise of Mr Hyde, condemns Dr Lanyon for having "derided [his] superiors"
  7. What effect is created by Mr Hyde's run of rhetorical questions?
    The effect is heightened by the lack of capitalisation at the beginning of each new sentence, implying a breathless speed
  8. "Think before you answer, for it shall be done as you decide. As you decide, you shall be left as you were before, and neither richer nor wiser, unless the sense of service rendered to a man in mortal distress may be counted as a kind of riches of the soul." Why is it important that Dr Lanyon must choose or refuse the knowledge being offered here?
    Jekyll believes that no scientist could refuse the gift of knowledge
  9. Following the previous question, why is the reference to Satan important?
    Mr Hyde tempts Dr Lanyon with forbidden knowledge as Satan tempts Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge" in the Garden of Eden
  10. In the fifth paragraph, which of the following uses of language helps to create a horrific image of transformation?
    The language vividly portrays the grotesque transformation of one face into another. Interestingly, the novella was written shortly before the first films were created, so nothing of this sort would have been seen before and must merely have been imagined. Modern audiences are now, of course, familiar with grotesque metamorphoses such as this

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