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Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

11. Chapter 5 – Incident of the Letter (pp. 26-30

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through the fifth chapter in the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the influence of this novel on the Sherlock Holmes novels (the first of which was to be published just a year later), and the extent to which Mr. Utterson is a kind of Sherlock Holmes figure; (ii) Dr Jekyll’s self-awareness of what he/Mr Hyde has done; (iii) the significance of the second mistaken assumption from Mr. Utterson’s (“He meant to murder you”); (iv) the presence of yet another narrator – the newsboys; (v) the figure of Mr. Guest, Utterson’s head clerk; (vi) the significance of ‘madness’ in Victorian literature and society; and (vii) the (potential) dramatic irony once Guest reveals the handwriting in the two letters are “in many point identical” – is this the moment where the reader works out what’s going on?


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. In the first two modules, we provide a broad introduction to the social, historical, cultural context of the novel, focusing in particular on Stevenson’s life and career, his literary and cultural influences, and his own influence on later writers. In the seventeen modules that follow, we read through the novel chapter-by-chapter, providing close reading and analysis, including commentary on themes and motifs, the structure of the novel, its multiple narrators and narratives, significant objects (keys, doors, hands, mirrors, etc.), literary influences (Shakespeare, Marlowe, James Hogg, etc.), intellectual influences (Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud), important elements from Stevenson’s own life – and much, much more.

Note: Page numbers in these lectures refers to the Penguin Classics edition of the novel (‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror’, ed. Robert Mighall). Students using a different version of the novel may encounter slight differences in page numbering.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2020, October 22). Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Chapter 5 – Incident of the Letter (pp. 26-30 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Chapter 5 – Incident of the Letter (pp. 26-30." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Oct 2020,