Jekyll and Hyde Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Themes, Motifs and Symbols


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Activity Overview

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.

Themes to Look For and Discuss

The Duality of Good and Evil in Humanity

The duality of good and evil in humanity is a topic that many are reluctant to speak of: the fact that good and evil exist in all of us, and that sometimes, evil overcomes the good. We have several examples from history to back this idea up, but sometimes it’s just the simple, everyday things that highlight this duality: when a child bullies another child; giving into road rage; spreading rumors about someone who is disliked; or saying mean and hurtful things to someone we love. The Gothic tradition often directly opposed the ideas of Transcendentalism, gaining traction at the time Stevenson wrote this novella, which postured that humanity, if left to its own devices, would ultimately choose good over evil. Instead, this novel shows that the evil in our nature, if given a little nourishment and attention, might grow into an uncontrollable monster.

The Dangers of Unethical Science

Dr. Jekyll arrives at Hyde through his experimentation with transient science. Unsatisfied with his life dedicated to study, and becoming more convinced of the "hidden other" within, he follows his experiments even when they became dangerous. Jekyll himself writes that the danger of death was always present, but despite this, he felt compelled to follow through and see what was on the other side of his potion. This lends credence to the often-disputed notion that when one tries to play "God" and mess with the natural order and balance of things, terrible things can result.

The Victorian Standard of Reputation

Henry Jekyll is smart and well-respected, but he finds himself bored by his Victorian obligations. He is pious and makes sure that he gives to charities; he tries to ensure that he remains a benign figure in the community; he stays out of trouble. However, he knows that deep down inside, there’s someone else vying for attention. If he gives into that someone, however, his very reputation could be destroyed. When Jekyll allows Hyde to be set free, he can do anything he wants with virtual anonymity—after all, Hyde doesn’t really exist. Jekyll is free to explore all of the things that would destroy him in London.

Motifs, Imagery & Symbols

The Door

An important symbol is the door. The door itself is a means for Hyde to enter and leave the Jekyll residence unhindered. It gives Jekyll the ultimate freedom to embrace his inner evil, become Hyde, and go about the city engaging in evil exploits, without ever being held accountable to his servants or friends. When Jekyll resolves to stop turning into Hyde, he crushes the key to the door beneath his heel; however, it ultimately does not stop the evil Hyde from returning.

Hyde’s Physiognomy

Hyde's face exudes pure evil; the mere sight of him inspires people to hate him, fear him, or be completely repulsed by him. Enfield relates, "There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable." Hyde himself is small in stature, because he is the side of Jekyll’s personality that hasn’t been nourished: the evil side that has been repressed for years.

The Salt

The salt that Jekyll uses to finalize and perfect his experiment turns out to be impure. It is the irony that this impurity is what allows the experiment to work, and brings out the impurity in Jekyll. When Jekyll is struggling to stay as Jekyll, he discovers that all of the new samples of this salt are pure, and he realizes the mistake. It is in this moment that Jekyll realizes he cannot be saved.

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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard depicting important themes, symbols, and motifs in the story.

  1. Use the template provided by your teacher.
  2. Identify important themes, symbols, and motifs.
  3. Describe how the theme, symbol, or motif is important to the story.
  4. Illustrate each example with appropriate images, scenes, characters, and items.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.
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