A Comparison of the Similarities in the Mystery Novels Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Sherlock Holmes

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The detective plot seems to have a pretty standard format; starting with a mystery, sprinkling of clues throughout the middle, and ending with the clues all coming together to solve the mystery. Because of the similarities that all mystery novels share, one can wonder how mystery novels can still be original in plot and exciting to read. This is because of the unique way detective plots are constructed. Mystery plots begin with the result and the readers, as well as the characters, are left without the 'who', 'how', and 'why' of the story. One can read hundreds of mystery novels and never get bored because of the way the authors of these stories slowly feed the readers information, making them crave more as their minds try to fill in the blanks before the characters. For example, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Sherlock Holmes' The Man with the Twisted Lip are two completely different mystery stories; one which focuses more on the supernatural and another which focuses more on realism, but both share a lot of the same qualities within their devices that make the two of these stories more similar than one would think at first glance.

In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, when Enfield tells Utterson about when he saw Hyde trample a little girl. Utterson asks him to describe what Hyde looks like, but Enfield finds it hard to find the right words to describe how ugly Hyde is. He says, "He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; ... I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; ... although I couldn't specify the point. He's an extraordinary-looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. ... I can't describe him. And it's not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment." (Stevenson, 8). Enfield insists that Hyde is deformed but he can't put his finger on why. There are no outward distinguishing features that he can describe to Utterson that would sufficiently explain the ugliness of Hyde. Instead of giving the villain of the novel an outright description, the author

chooses to keep his identity ambiguous. This is important to the plot of the mystery novel because it gives readers the liberty to decide for themselves what Hyde looks like. How Hyde looks is also what separates him form Jekyll. At this point the readers don't know that the two people are one and the same, but it's an early, important clue that Hyde is ugly in an inconceivable way because it makes him into a supernatural creature. This is the moment that separates this novel from the real world. The failure to be able to come up with an exact portrayal of Hyde makes him into someone whose evil is as intangible as his description. It creates an air of mystery around Hyde's personality and motives. Language fails when it attempts to break down Hyde's character and this turns him into a supernatural creature that doesn't quite belong in the world, and it gives the clue that the 'big reveal' at the end of this novel is also going to be in the realm of the supernatural. This, along with many other clues throughout the novel, are what make the readers start putting the pieces together before they get to the end of the novel.

Like the Jekyll and Hyde story, The Man with the Twisted Lip also starts out with the result of a problem and the story works backwards to figure out how events came to unfold. Sherlock goes into a long narration about the mystery of Neville St. Clair when he says, "Now for the sinister cripple who lives upon the second floor of the opium den, and who was certainly the last human being whose eyes rested upon Neville St. Clair." (Doyle, Arthur). All the facts to the disappearance of Mr. St. Clair lead only to one suspect and that's the cripple. Because Sherlock Holmes deals in the world of reality the readers can assume that, unlike Jekyll and Hyde, there is a logical explanation to the mystery. That being said, it seems impossible that a cripple could have murdered or even abducted Neville. Sherlock was being sarcastic when he used the phrase 'sinister cripple' to describe Boone. He makes sure that Watson and the readers know that the only man who had the opportunity to do this crime, could not have possibly done it. This adds to the mystery and results in a surprise at the end when Neville St. Clair and Boone turn out to be one and the same. The story takes a completely different direction than the audience is first meant to believe and the victim and accused are actually the same person. This is something that readers would never expect and it is accentuated by Watson.

The letter at the end of the Jekyll and Hyde story gives the reader the whole picture; it puts all the pieces of information that the story left behind for the audience together and gives the reader the satisfaction of knowing all the pieces of the puzzle. In the ending chapter, Jekyll revels in a letter of the what lead to his scientific discovery of the potion that he invented which changes him into Hyde. He believes that people are made up of two equal sides, half good and half evil. He explains, "It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; 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." (Stevenson). The readers learn in this passage, not only that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, but they also learn how it was possible, and why Dr. Jekyll did it. Even if the readers put the clues together correctly throughout the course of the novel, they, now, get the satisfaction of knowing that they are right. Jekyll's ultimate goal is to separate the two warring personalities; his evil nature from his conscience. By doing this he figures that he is free to scratch that itch to do evil without the hassle of any moral consequences. This passage is put at the end almost as much of a moral to the story as it is a resolution to the mystery that is Jekyll and Hyde. Dr. Jekyll didn't figure out a way to completely separate his good and bad side because, as Jekyll, he was still a mixture of good and evil, whereas Hyde was completely amoral and, over time, Hyde becomes the dominate figure, until only Hyde remains present. The result of this experiment makes the reader question Dr. Jekyll's original assumption that man is equally good and evil inside. Maybe, at least in Jekyll's case, evil is stronger than the good that is inside people to the point where it overtakes them, like Jekyll. This is a moral about keeping a leash on the evil that is inherently inside all of humanity, because if left to run wild, the evil takes over.

The point in the letter when Jekyll explains that Hyde begins to dominate and Jekyll starts to transform spontaneously while he is awake is the finale or the big reveal of the mystery plot. This is the 'how' of the plot; the readers got the who and the why, but at this point is where it all comes together. He says, "But I was still cursed with my duality of purpose..., the lower side of me, so long indulged, so recently chained down, began to growl for license. Not that I dreamed of resuscitating Hyde; ... this brief condescension to my evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul. And yet I was not alarmed; the fall seemed natural, like a return to the old days before I had made discovery. It was a fine... day... I sat in the sun on a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory... After all, I reflected, I was like my neighbours; and then I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect. And at the very moment of that vainglorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering." (Stevenson).

The novel doesn't give any description of Jekyll's "brief condescension to evil," so the readers are left to picture what Jekyll was referring to when he starts referring to the animalistic memories of he has of Hyde's deeds. The text continually represents Hyde as an animalistic figure; starting with Hyde's 'growl for license' and how falling back onto evil seemed 'natural' to him when he was sitting on the bench and the 'animal within' was present. This could be saying that evil is natural. In class we spoke about how this novel isn't concerned with language in some points in the novel and even fails at using a verbal description to represent Hyde. Jekyll, however, uses eloquence in language to express his desire he has to transform back into Hyde. In fact, there are several instances in which Jekyll uses language to express himself in a way Hyde can't, which, again, shows Hyde's simpler, animalistic nature.

Watson narrates Sherlock's adventures and his narration has a lot to do with the plot of the story. He sets a tone of suspense in this story which comes from a place of unknowingness about the mystery that he and Sherlock has got themselves into. The readers learn everything as Watson tells them so they only know as much as Watson does, which is considerably less than Holmes. He is a man of little words, in fact Sherlock admires Watson for having the 'grand gift of silence'. (Doyle, Arthur). However, he consistently points out what he doesn't know which also accents what the readers don't know when he interjects with comments like "I cannot imagine". (Doyle, Arthur). As the story goes on and more clues are discovered, the readers try to figure out the mystery before Sherlock tells them at the very end.

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A Comparison of the Similarities in the Mystery Novels Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Sherlock Holmes. (2022, Dec 02). Retrieved June 15, 2024 , from

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