Themes in 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'
We can say that a piece of literature is a 'product of its time', meaning that writers tend to write about what is happening around them and their own view of the world. That's why knowing something about the context helps us to see their point of view. We can also explore what matters to them through the themes, or ideas, that seep through the pages. Sometimes writers have a message that they want to convey, other times it is their attitude to different matters that interest us as readers.
Sometimes writers have a specific concern that they want to publicise, especially when they hope that bringing a matter into the open might lead to changing attitudes or social improvements.
This is really where it starts to get interesting!
You know some of the background already: who wrote the book, when it was written, where it is set. Our next set of questions are about why Stevenson wrote this story and what it makes us, the readers, think more about.
These are the important key terms we will use in this activity:
Themes - The ideas that run through the story. There are several of them which are connected because they focus on what it was like to live within Victorian society.
Motifs - These help us to see where the writer is pointing out an idea. It might be something we keep noticing in the imagery or way the story is told or structured.
Symbols - These are also something we keep noticing, such as colours or objects which again show us that the writer is pointing at an idea.
We will find examples of all three when we discuss different ideas in the story; they work together to build up layers of meaning. Try to be particularly aware of how these are linked or echoed through plot, descriptions, characters and dialogue.
You should always refer to your own text when working through these examples. These quotations are for reference only.