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Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz looks at theme in Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A theme, in literature, is an idea conveyed by the text. Any work of literature contains multiple themes, ranging from the subtle to the obvious. Themes do not appear in isolation, but instead interact with each other. The essential elements of fiction, such as setting, character, plot and dialogue, are the vehicles through which an author develops the themes of the text.

When studying a text, explore the related ideas and concepts you find, tracing the development of its different themes. Check your own opinions on these ideas: do you notice any opinions which you have developed or changed over the course of the text?

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It can be useful to compare your thoughts at the end of the text with those you held as you began reading. Have you changed your views on any of the key issues? If so, could you explain why? Try to identify the part in the text where you notice your personal views developing. A reader’s response to a text will be deeply personal because each reader brings individual thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration while reading.

The themes of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde concern the stuff of nightmares: how to reign in curiosity, rather than allowing it to go too far; whether the existence of evil is an inescapable part of being human, or whether humanity can excise it; repression and the fear of death, amongst others. How are you meant to respond to these themes? What do you think of Jekyll’s experiment? How far do you think Dr Jekyll is responsible for the murders committed by Mr Hyde? Do you agree with Dr Lanyon, or do you pity Jekyll?

Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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  1. When he turns his back on Mr Hyde, one of Dr Jekyll's key changes in behaviour is to become less reclusive and to hold dinner parties once again. This behaviour exemplifies which theme in the text?
    The impetus which leads to the nightmarish life of Mr Hyde is Dr Jekyll's desire to be able to separate his disreputable side from the respectable old man which he is becoming
  2. Which of the following does NOT relate to the theme of the savage or brutal nature of man?
    The lower, evil nature of man is represented in the novel as animalistic and ruled by the passions, rather than rational thought
  3. Which personal psychological theory does Dr Jekyll set out to test with his potion?
    In his confession, Jekyll writes: "man is not truly one, but truly two". Note the repetition of the word "truly", reinforcing the theme of the search for truth
  4. Dr Jekyll's increasing inability to control Mr Hyde relates to which of the following themes?
    Mr Hyde represents all that is repressed in Dr Jekyll; when Mr Hyde is temporarily restrained by Jekyll, he eventually bursts forth in greater power and murderous rage
  5. "Yes, I preferred the elderly and discontented doctor, surrounded by friends and cherishing honest hopes; and bade a resolute farewell to the liberty, the comparative youth, the light step, leaping pulses and secret pleasures, that I had enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde." With what does this quotation associate youth?
    Dr Jekyll enjoys Mr Hyde's youthful vigour. One of his fears is of aging, which he associates with discontentedness, boredom and eventual death
  6. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is much concerned with evidence and the use of evidence in order to arrive at the truth. Which of the following is an instance of this theme in the novella?
    While Mr Utterson is suspicious throughout the tale, his suspicions are misdirected and all of his efforts are unable to provide the evidence he needs in order to understand the dreadful events which have been taking place. Dr Jekyll's entire self-experiment with the duality of the person is also an instance in which the theme of evidence arises
  7. "I began to perceive more deeply than it has ever yet been stated, the trembling immateriality, the mist-like transience, of this seemingly so solid body in which we walk attired." What does Dr Jekyll mean by this statement?
    Dr Jekyll is working at the very edge of scientific knowledge and begins to doubt the solidity of physical existence. This is one reason why it is important that Mr Hyde does not share the same body as Dr Jekyll
  8. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is structured as a mystery story in which the great surprise is not revealed until near the end of the novella. To which theme does this structure most directly relate?
    Both Mr Utterson's and Dr Jekyll's professions, as a lawyer and a scientist respectively, are involved in the search for the truth
  9. Friendship is important in the text. Mr Utterson is described at the beginning as "the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of down-going men". How does friendship relate to the novella's conclusion?
    Dr Jekyll signs his letter to Utterson, "Your unworthy and unhappy friend, Henry Jekyll"
  10. About what do Dr Lanyon and Dr Jekyll disagree?
    Dr Lanyon describes some of Dr Jekyll's work as "unscientific balderdash". Dr Jekyll describes his own work as being "towards the mystic and the transcendental", which were not considered traditional scientific pursuits

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