Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Morally Questionable Smog in the Fiction of Stevenson and Pynchon 11th Grade

The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, both explore the ambiguous nature of human morality through the lens of mystery. Both texts are set in an urban environment, the character’s surroundings constantly obscured with an ever present, metaphorically resonant smog and fog respectively. This fog is physical manifestation of the morally dubious nature of the characters and the sinister underpinnings of both stories. This sordid undercurrent is only explicitly revealed to the protagonists when the smog dissipates, thereby implying that one cannot see the darkness that lurks beneath the facade of urban environments though the moral fog. This forces the readers to consider what the fog of modern society might be hiding in their own lives.

In both stories, the fog can be assumed to be a constant, and both protagonists experience epiphanies when it parts by chance or when they manage to rise above it. When the smog clears momentarily in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, everything is thrown into sharp relief; the reality of the dark underbelly of London is revealed to Utterson, the protagonist, in crisp detail.

"For a moment, the fog would be quite...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1336 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 9978 literature essays, 2515 sample college application essays, 474 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in