Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Language

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language. Language in Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde draws on science, psychology, a fascination with the mystic and the spiritual, the conventions of civilised society and the seedy side of nineteenth-century London. Descriptions are often poetic, sometimes visceral. Stevenson creates a sense of a dark and mysterious London, even when describing events which take place in daylight or inside comfortable homes, in front of homey fires. Descriptions often hint at unseen, inexplicable realities beyond the edge of reason.

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Analysing language in a text

A text is understood primarily through its language, which authors choose with precision. Pay close attention to individual words and phrases, remembering to consider possible symbolic meanings and associations that lie beyond the obvious literal meanings. An author creates imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification, and other literary effects, through the thoughtful use of language. The effective creation of setting, characterisation and dialogue depends entirely on an author’s skilful deployment of language.

By paying very close attention to the detail contained in the language of a text, you will greatly increase your understanding. Linger over words and imagery, exploring language choice and the potential for multiple meanings rather than automatically settling for the surface meaning. Try to consider the possibilities which each individual choice of words, or combinations of words, suggests. Notice what comes to mind as you read. Giving time and care to the language will greatly improve your ability to analyse literature.

Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect the reader’s interpretation of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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  1. "Up went the axe again, and again the panels crashed and the frame bounded; four times the blow fell; but the wood was tough and the fittings were of excellent workmanship; and it was not until the fifth, that the lock burst in sunder and the wreck of the door fell inwards on the carpet." Which language choices create a sense of violent movement in this sentence?
    The language creates a powerful sense of violent motion; it is easy to picture the swinging axe, the resistant door frame, the breaking of the lock and the final fall of the door
  2. "Presently after, he sat on one side of his own hearth, with Mr Guest, his head clerk, upon the other, and midway between, at a nicely calculated distance from the fire, a bottle of a particular old wine that had long dwelt unsunned in the foundations of his house." What is meant here by "unsunned"?
    The rich wine has been brought up from the dark cellar in which it has been long kept. In the novella, not everything dredged up from the darkness is as good!
  3. Which of the following lines juxtaposes imagery drawn from both urban and rural environments?
    The streetlamps of the city are here imagined as a "great field", as if these man-made objects grew in nature
  4. "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." What is the effect of the language in this sentence?
    The reader is presented early in the text with an image of women as "wild as harpies", a reminder of the passions and violence beneath a civilised surface. The women are raging at Mr Hyde because he trampled a young girl without stopping
  5. "And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman." Which of the following words presents anger as a natural phenomenon?
    Hyde is associated simultaneously with the unnatural, as when his misshapen appearance is described, and the natural, as when he is compared to an animal. His anger arises naturally, like a flame
  6. "The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town's life was still rolling in through the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind." Which of the following types of imagery are present in this sentence?
    There are many examples of each of these. For metaphor: the arteries of the city are its streets, and the fog drowns the city, while also being a bird resting in flight above the city. For simile: lamps are like carbuncles and the sound of the city's life is like a wind. "Smother" and "muffle" are examples of onomatopoeia
  7. "I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date, even before the course of my scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle, I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of those elements." What is implied by the use of the word "elements" here?
    Dr Jekyll is using a metaphor for the makeup of the human psyche. Rather than a whole, he perceives himself as made up of various substances, somewhat like his own potion. Mr Hyde is one of those elements
  8. "Next, in the course of their review of the chamber, the searchers came to the cheval glass, into whose depths they looked with an involuntary horror. But it was so turned as to show them nothing but the rosy glow playing on the roof, the fire sparkling in a hundred repetitions along the glazed front of the presses, and their own pale and fearful countenances stooping to look in." Which of the following statements is correct?
    With the exception of Mr Hyde's twitching body, everything in the cabinet is as cosy and inviting as normal
  9. "'This is a very strange tale, Poole; this is rather a wild tale, my man,' said Mr Utterson, biting his finger. 'Suppose it were as you suppose, supposing Dr Jekyll to have been — well, murdered, what could induce the murderer to stay? That won't hold water; it doesn't commend itself to reason.'" Which of the following statements is NOT correct?
    Mr Hyde represents the aspect of Dr Jekyll's character which is furthest from reason, acting instead out of passion and desire. Science and reason make much of the world more explicable, without being able to fathom the mystery of the human psyche
  10. "And yet, when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human. In my eyes it bore a livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more express and single, than the imperfect and divided countenance." Which of the following descriptions applies to Dr Jekyll's perception of his own appearance?
    Dr Jekyll's view is subjective. Whereas others view Mr Hyde as unnatural and misbegotten, he sees his alter ego as pure and undivided

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