Term 2 - Week 12 - Narrative Strategies and Story Adaptation
Today we focused on the first chapter of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 'Story of the Door', focusing on duality, the state of combining two different things, which in the case of this book comes fundamentally in the form of good and evil, and their devices.
Before we delved into this topic, we took a short "quiz", to test and expand our knowledge of the Victorian era: 1837 - 1901. The main concept we established was that the Victorian standard was courtly and suave, on top of religion fulled principles, anything else was frowned upon. Despite these customs, people would secretly and privately take part in less standard activities, ranging from drugs, to prostitution (that would be a male majority committing adultery by sleeping with a prostitute/s), and who knows what other weird pursuits. A theme of duality emerging, whereby Victorians would act the standard that was expected, but want more, denied by their strict laws and procedures, creating a conflict within themselves of essentially good and evil. This is a prevalent aspect of Jekyll and Hyde, inherent in the very deliberate binary opposition of both characters, whereby Hyde is Jekyll's manifestation of immorality, whilst Jekyll retains his positive qualities, freed by Hyde. This also duality of good and evil I suppose could be compared to Yin and Yang at a basic level, the principle of which describes everything as having contradictory opposites (https://www.ancient.eu/Yin_and_Yang/), for example, good and evil. Doctor Jekyll embraces this principle, attempting to create balance between the two by bringing out the evil within himself to roam free, so that he may focus on the good. This of course went horribly awry, but doesn't sound bad in theory, in my opinion.
We then tried a creative writing exercise called a word sprint, we had 3 minutes to write a word sprint about a 'hidden killer'. To quote Lynsey's slideshow, ‘In quickness is truth’ (ibid.), writing without thinking will create natural reaction to such a task, and the best way to do that is to do it quickly. this was the result of my 3 minutes:
I assure you I did not hang myself by my ankles from a stray AC cable off the edge of a 30 storey building, at least I have no memory of doing any such thing, although with no one else about I would not blame you for making this conclusion, especially if you were familiar with my clumsy self.
The night was late, I finished the stern but polite email to my boss. Without an off site back up, should an accident befall the building, we risk losing all our data. That is the short of it, at least. I treat myself to a good scratching of the various bites from pests that come out during hot summer evenings. I can feel the many bumps of their gluttonous enterprise, noting a particularly large one at the nape of my neck. I'll have to invest in some aloe vera or whatever stops the pests from doing any further damage. I locked up my office and walked to the elevator. I pressed a button, and shortly thereafter felt the elevator take me higher in the building... which was wrong. I see I pressed the wrong button on the console, but I make no effort to rectify my mistake. The elevator stopped, and the doors opened. I walked out onto the highest floor the elevator could go, and had to take the stairs the rest of the way to the roof- although this is still wrong, I do not want to be here, I do not know what compels my movement, and at this point, I'm starting to worry. I open the door to the roof, which locks behind me as I step into the night. My legs bring me ever closer to the edge, I'm terrified, but I can't stop myself.
I ran out of time before I could write any more, but I think the story would have then caught up with the character hanging off the edge, and noticing perhaps the abnormally large bite on the back of their neck was in fact a small computer that was controlling their movement, or something of the sort. I did embellish the story above a little from the original I wrote, but the exercise really got me brainstorming for something to write about, and had me with an idea in a short amount of time. I suppose this method could be used to create concepts of stories quickly, which could later be improved upon and perhaps turned into full fledged stories.
The introductory chapter to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Story of the Door, presents the theme of duality present throughout the story, intrinsic to the standards of the time period, and amplified by specific comparisons. The first contrast to stick out to me was the comparison of the market street with the 'Black Mail House'. Stevenson paints the street as colourful, busy, and cheery:
'The street was small and what is called quiet, but it drove a thriving trade on the weekdays. The inhabitants were all doing well, it seemed and all emulously hoping to do better still, and laying out the surplus of their grains in coquetry; so that the shop fronts stood along that thoroughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen. Even on Sunday, when it veiled its more florid charms and lay comparatively empty of passage, the street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in a forest; and with its freshly painted shutters, well-polished brasses, and general cleanliness and gaiety of note, instantly caught and pleased the eye of the passenger.'
This is then contrasted by the description of Hyde's house.
'Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east the line was broken by the entry of a court; and just at that point a certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. It was two storeys high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages.'
This then segways into Mr. Enfield's run in with Mr. Hyde, detailing his trampling of a young girl, the previous comparison of environments creating a segway into the mysterious recount. Mr Enfield introduces the story with 'a black winter morning', which creates a contradicting image for the viewer through the comparison of white winter snow with darkness, continuing the theme of duality.
Earlier in the session, when we covered Victorian pretensions and mannerisms within their religious driven world, we discussed how social standing was defined by genetics. If you were born into a rich family, then you deserved to be rich, and this made you a better person than someone worse off. Your visual appearance would affected how people thought of you, although this blemish of society still exists in 2018, it was certainly worse back in the 1800s. If you were deformed in some way, for example, Victorians thought you deserved it, perhaps as punishment for your inherently bad character, and you would be shunned for it. Mr. Enfield's description of his encounter with Mr. Hyde within this chapter, describes the characters of his story abhorring Mr. Hyde based purely on his looks. The child was concluded to be pretty much OK by the doctor, and Enfield describes this would have been the end of the issue (perhaps if the trampler was anyone other than Hyde), but everyone in the scene takes a needless dislike to Hyde. Everyone there had reason to dislike Hyde, being the child's family, except the doctor, someone who back in the 1800s probably experienced some of the most ailing sights you could see, who had no reason to hate Hyde. The doctor probably didn't even understand the situation fully, that Hyde had trampled the child, but with a glance at his visage would turn white with the desire to kill him. The almost constitutional hate everyone exhibited towards Hyde entailed his eventual compensation of £100 for the incident. It could be that Jekyll's magical transformation into Hyde would perhaps have a similarly magical effect on others around him, that create a reaction of pure hate upon looking at his person. Hyde is described as being small and deformed, however, and perhaps the extent of his unfortunate appearance is enough to provoke the Victorian bigotry of the other characters, to the point where they irrationally hate him, perhaps enough to kill him.
We did another creative writing exercise: Using the title ‘Dr Sawbones’ write an outline for a short animated film in which Dr Sawbones has to treat an unusual patient. Mine takes place in an old western town, with non diegetic ragtime music playing, and "filmed" in black and white.
'Please take a seat, Mrs...'
'Mrs Ribs' Dr Sawbones confirmed with the now seated patient. ' What seems to be the problem, Mrs Ribs?'
'Well you see, Doctor, I'm going to explode'.
'Yes, within... hmm... I'd say the next couple minutes, I will explode, killing possibly everyone in this town.'
'That's quite a dire state of being, Mrs Ribs. How did you come to contract this ailment?'
'My wife is a cannon ball expert, she knows her cannon balls you see. For breakfast this morning, I must have accidentally mixed one of the many cannon balls she leaves about the house into our porridge. I had a smoke shortly after breakfast, and as a result must have lit the fuse, which if you listen closely, you may be able to hear.' Dr Sawbones leaned in, and with his stethoscope, heard the definite hissing of a fuse within Mrs Ribs.
'I see.' said Doctor Sawbones. 'I suppose the only course of action we can take would be to... DISARM YOU.'
- The camera cuts to Mrs Ribs, arms missing. She is laughing. The camera cuts back to Dr Sawbones, also laughing. The camera cuts back to Mrs Ribs, who abruptly stops laughing, a serious expression on her face.
- almost immediately the camera cuts to the credits, ragtime music prominent.
I found an annotated version of Story of the Door:
which provided interpretations of some of the more convoluted descriptions, their recognised accuracy is unknown, I have not looked that far, but I agree with their descriptions:
↑ Utter .. is (i) a verb meaning "say" or "produce a cry etc."; (ii) an adjective for "complete" or "absolute" associated with something negative, rejected or unknown ("utter ruin", "utter failure", "utter nonsense"); (iii) an archaic adjective in the theological expression "the utter (or outer) man" meaning "the body" (as opposed to "the inner man" or "spirit"). According to Richard Dury (2004), the name seems to promise a key to interpretation, yet at the same time frustrates it: Utterson is described in the first paragraph as taciturn (so not someone who "utters"), and it is not clear how he could be "the abject son" or a symbol for the material man. Typically, Stevenson's text promises meaning yet makes this difficult to obtain. "Utterson" is also a Northern and Scottish surname (and the character could be seen as a Scottish type) so this helps to give this story, though set in London, a vague Scottish atmosphere. Also note that an "Utter Barrister" was a lawyerly designation.
↑ something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something […] which spoke […] in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face .. According to Richard Dury (2004), the style here seems typical of a careful literary style, yet a close look shows that 'these silent symbols' has no clear reference in what goes before (the reader has to imagine something like 'the expressions that shone from his eyes'). In this text we typically find such combinations of an apparently careful style with ambiguity and imprecise or unusual uses of words: this creates difficulties for the translator and a sense of uneasiness in the reader that is appropriate for an uncanny story. It could also be linked to the social message of the tale: the narrator is like Jekyll, a privileged master of language who apparently uses words with great precision but in fact (when necessary) uses them to hide what he doesn't want to be seen
↑ drank gin.. to mortify a taste for vintages.. Utterson drinks Gin (a liquor with a reputation for cheapness, the poor man's drink) while alone to subdue his taste for more expensive vintage wine. As Vladimir Nabokov said in "A Phenomenon of Style" (1980) .."there is a delightful winey taste [style] about this book; in fact a good deal of old mellow wine is drunk in the story: one recalls the wine that Utterson so comfortably sips.. Stevenson had to rely on style.. to make Jekyll's evil side [taking the drug] a believable evil."
↑ approved .. proven.
↑ Cain's heresy..In the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, after murdering his brother, God asked Cain where he was. Cain replies, "Am I my brother's keeper?" This was, in fact, the heresy that Utterson refers to. Utterson means that his "sin" is that he doesn't get involved in the personal affairs of others. However, he eventually breaks this rule with Jekyll and Hyde.
↑ catholicity .. breadth.
↑ emulously .. imitative.
↑ surplus of their grains in coquetry .. the street merchants were spending their profits on colorful advertisements (signs, props, etc) to lure new customers
↑ That is, the row of buildings was interrupted by a passageway from the street into a courtyard behind the buildings
↑ distained .. discolored.
↑ Sawbones.. a surgeon.
↑ apothecary.. a dispenser of chemicals and drugs. Apothecaries in the Victorian era would often examine patients and dispense medical advice.
↑ apothecary..Edinburgh (Scotland) accent .. a Scottish apothecary; perhaps a self-reference to the Scottish Stevenson himself, who gave Hyde life.
↑ hundred pounds was a large sum at that time, worth 7 488.33 GBP in purchasing power in 2006 (According to MeasuingWorth's relative British calculator) and was the income equivalent of 47 372.83 GBP in 2005 (According to MeasuringWorth's average earnings index). All calculations done for 1886's GBP, that of the year the novel was published.
↑ Coutts's.. the best and most respected bank in Great Britain
↑ often printed .. in the London papers, which often carried gossip of the wealthy and powerful, then and now.
↑ Tut-tut .. A conventional written indication of the the repeated 'click' sound made by placing the tongue in the position for /t/ and then breathing in, at the same time releasing the closure between tongue and the back of the upper teeth. In English-language cultures it is used to show disapproval. Here, Utterson indicates that he suspects something reprehensible..
↑ pink of the proprieties .. the gold standard, the most respectable
↑ starting a stone .. rolling stones are hard to stop, and can lead to unintended consequences. The expression and metaphor predate Stevenson.
↑ Queer Street .. London slang for someone living in debt.
↑ first floor .. one floor above the ground floor eg. the second floor in American parlance
↑ where one ends and another begins .. buildings in London were often expanded on over time in a haphazard manner with new extensions and walls brought down or put up between rooms so it really did become a maze inside. Some excellent depictions of London's maze-like architecture can be found in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist.
↑ Hyde .. as in "hide" or "hidden". Also the name of one of the largest and most famous parks in London. The park's name predates this story.