There’s a strong focus on suspense, heightened emotions, and often a preoccupation with exploring the darker sides of human nature in Victorian age literature. Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” encapsulates many elements of this genre.
“Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering, and somewhat broken voice.” This passage, with its vivid portrayal of Hyde’s appearance and behavior, aligns with the sensational tendencies of Victorian literature in several ways.
Firstly, it uses a highly descriptive style, aiming to evoke strong emotions and intrigue within the reader. The use of adjectives like “pale,” “dwarfish,” and “displeasing” creates a vivid image of Hyde’s unsettling physicality. This emphasis on visual details is core to sensation fiction, where the narrative often hinges on creating a sense of unease or foreboding through vivid descriptions.
Secondly, the portrayal of Hyde’s behavior is characterized by an air of mystery and menace. The mention of a “murderous mixture of timidity and boldness” and his “husky, whispering” voice heightens the sense of suspense and adds an element of psychological complexity. Sensation literature often thrives on these psychological nuances, portraying characters with inner conflicts or hidden motivations that add depth to their actions.
Moreover, this passage underscores the duality of Hyde’s nature, a recurring theme in sensation literature. The physical description of Hyde as having an “impression of deformity without any nameable malformation” hints at an internal, unidentifiable darkness. This aligns with the Victorian fascination with exploring the complexities of human morality and the idea of the ‘double self,’ where individuals harbor both good and evil inclinations.
In conclusion, this passage from “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” encapsulates the essence of sensation literature through its detailed and evocative description, the portrayal of a mysterious and unsettling character, and the exploration of the dual nature of humanity. It captures the Victorian era’s fascination with suspenseful storytelling, psychological depth, and the exploration of moral complexities. Through such passages, Stevenson successfully contributes to the tradition of sensation fiction while offering a thought-provoking exploration of human nature and societal norms.