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Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz tests you on understanding the text of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Before beginning to analyse and to write about a text, it is important to ensure that you understand it as well as possible. Although this sounds a simple idea, understanding a text is not always straightforward. After all, if authors only wished to convey a simple message, would the task require hundreds of pages and thousands of words? Reading a text written in a previous century, or in another country, or with characters given a strong dialect, takes extra effort. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is written in a style and vocabulary significantly different from modern English, thus requiring modern readers to work more at comprehension.

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Authors convey meaning through using a variety of methods. They might not state what they mean directly, or simply, instead communicating with their readers through the various aspects of fiction: character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue, for example. As you work on understanding the text you are reading, analyse each of these elements separately. Re-reading the text is always a good idea; this will help you understand more than you would if you only read a book once. If you find that you need to re-read sections of text, don’t worry! Most readers have this experience. And if you have to work a bit harder to understand a part of the text which you find tricky, it only proves that you are paying close attention to its intricacies!

Ask yourself how the context, setting and events of the text are related. It can be useful to make a timeline of events, a method of revision which will help develop your understanding of the text. Remember that events in a novel are not always related chronologically, so your timeline should account for flashbacks or for earlier events which are discovered in later chapters. In Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mr Utterson only discovers the truth about the secret at the heart of the story through reading written accounts.

Think about how the actions of characters reveal their motivations. Look for clues to explain the interactions of different characters. Ask yourself whether words can be taken at face value, or whether you should examine the subtext of those words more closely. What is the narrator’s role? Think about your reasoning as you begin to answer these questions, asking yourself how you could use details from the text in order to justify your views.

It is always a good idea to analyse the beginnings and endings in the text. Why might the text begin as it does? What do you learn at the very beginning of the novel about the setting and the characters? Can you identify the foreshadowing of future events? You should also consider the beginnings and the ends of significant chapters, too. By spending some time in careful and detailed analysis of this sort, you will be able to significantly improve your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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

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  1. What is the relationship between Mr Utterson and Dr Jekyll?
    The two men are old friends and Mr Utterson keeps a copy of Dr Jekyll's will and knows its contents, although he refused to help create it. Their long acquaintance allows Utterson to notice changes in Jekyll's behaviour over time
  2. What reason does Dr Jekyll give for experimenting with the potion?
    Dr Jekyll is drawn by the potential to enjoy indulging in what he sees as his primitive desires while maintaining an outwardly respectable life. He is also irresistibly drawn to testing his theoretic scientific ideas
  3. Which one of the following terms of Dr Jekyll's will gives Mr Utterson the greatest concern?
    The fact that Dr Jekyll envisages an unexplained disappearance (specified as being over three months) makes Mr Utterson deeply suspicious of Mr Hyde, who stands to benefit greatly from such an event
  4. Where does Dr Jekyll leave his confession?
    Mr Utterson cannot understand how Mr Hyde did not destroy the envelope, which also included a will in which Dr Jekyll names the lawyer as the inheritor of his estate
  5. What causes Dr Lanyon's death?
    Dr Lanyon never recovers from the shock of witnessing Mr Hyde change form into Dr Jekyll
  6. Mr Utterson believes Dr Jekyll to be a victim of Mr Hyde. Of what does he suspect Hyde?
    Mr Utterson is convinced that Mr Hyde knows some sort of secret about Dr Jekyll, perhaps relating to the doctor having behaved unwisely in his youth, and holds the threat of exposure over the other man in return for money
  7. Why does Dr Jekyll become progressively more confined to his home, and more specifically, his living quarters and lab?
    Mr Hyde is wanted for the murder of Sir Danvers Carew; Dr Jekyll also still wishes to keep his experimentation secret
  8. Dr Jekyll returns briefly to his former self and spends more time with his friends following which event?
    The murder shocks Dr Jekyll and he tries to make up for the event by doing good deeds. Mr Hyde must also be hidden away because he is a wanted man after the murder
  9. How does Mr Utterson first learn of Mr Hyde's brutish behaviour?
    Mr Enfield describes Mr Hyde to Mr Utterson as a "juggernaut" because his physical progress seemed unstoppable
  10. Mr Hyde gradually begins to gain the upper hand over Dr Jekyll, who finds himself transforming without consuming his concoction. Which of the following explains why he struggles to return to his own self?
    Dr Jekyll comes to realise that one of his original ingredients, a salt, was impure and that the pure substance does not have the same effect

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