Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
About this book
Good and evil, right and wrong—both are seen through the eyes of John Utterson, a lawyer and friend of the scientist, Dr. Jekyll. After hearing the alarming account of the horrendous trampling of a small girl by a violent man named Mr. Hyde, who also holds a connection to Dr. Jekyll, Utterson’s curiosity gets the better of him and he begins to investigate. As he probes further into the events and the hidden life of Mr. Hyde, Utterson slowly uncovers a terrifying and ghastly story. This is Robert Louis Stevenson’s harrowing tale of good and evil caught in the same person—a kind and well-respected doctor who has discovered a powerful and deadly drug.
Stark and skillfully woven, this fascinating novel explores the nature of humans. Anticipating modern psychology, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a brilliantly original study of man’s dual nature, as well as, an immortal tale of suspense and terror.
The collection also includes three other stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Bottle Imp,” “Markheim,” and “The Body Snatcher.”
Teaching the Book
Robert Louis Stevenson created a classic metaphor for the dual natures of human beings when he wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This disturbing study of one man’s struggle with good and evil is also a compelling story of terror and suspense that will fascinate students with its strange twists. The book gives students the opportunity to explore the theme of good and evil and the author’s use of synonymous words. Activities engage students in comparing Stevenson’s stories with other famous legends and reflecting on their own positive and negative traits.
Theme Focus: Classic Stories
Comprehension Focus: Analyze Themes
Language Focus: Sinister Synonyms
Get Ready to Read
Good and Evil
Remind students that many classic books, stories, and movies are based on a battle between good and evil. Even modern classics like Star Wars have a character that represents good—Luke Skywalker—and a character that represents evil— Darth Vader. Begin a list on the whiteboard or chart paper with the heading: “Battle Between Good and Evil.” Ask students to contribute the names of more stories and movies that fall under this theme and the characters that represent good and evil. Take the discussion another step by asking if the characters are one-dimensional, or if they have battles between good and evil within themselves. Are characters that have this internal battle more interesting?
Preview and Predict
Have students study the cover of the book. Ask what they think the picture represents. Then have them turn a page to read the quote: “All human beings . . . are comingled out of good and evil.” Ask them to predict what this quote means.
Stevenson has a seemingly endless vocabulary to describe the depravity of Mr. Hyde. Students will enjoy learning the sinister synonyms that the author uses in his descriptions. Remind students that a synonym is a word that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another. Encourage students to use context clues to determine the nuances of meanings of the words and to check their definitions as they read. Ask them to list other unfamiliar words they encounter as they read.
Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- sinister (p. 2)
- detestable (p. 6)
- abominable (p. 16)
- odious (p. 22)
- ghastly (p. 55)
- accursed (p. 59)
- malign (p. 62)
- villainous (p. 62)
Words to Know
Ask students to refer to the definitions they wrote on their vocabulary cards to answer each question below. The questions require them to apply the meaning of the words to their own experiences.
- What is an experience that you find detestable?
- When have you seen something that was odious?
- Describe a villainous character from a movie.
- Tell about a sinister event from the news.
- What would you describe with the word ghastly?
Ask students to think of more synonyms for sinister and then other vocabulary words. Then challenge them to brainstorm and research antonyms for these words.
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read the first chapter or the first few pages of the book with students, using enlarged text projected on a whiteboard or a screen. Help students become familiar with the structure of the story including long descriptive passages and long narrated stories. Also point out the complex language and sentence structure of the time period. Answer students’ questions and clarify comprehension issues, as necessary.
Assign students to read the book independently. Encourage students to work with a partner to share questions, discuss responses, and support each other’s comprehension.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read. Write the question on chart paper or the whiteboard. Why do you think some people are mostly good and other people are mostly evil?
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is often read as a tale of terror and suspense. However, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote it with a serious theme in mind—the comingling of good and evil in every human being. Remind students that the theme of a book is the message about life or society that the author is conveying to the reader. Ask students to decide what the theme of the book is by thinking about the characters, as well as, the author’s purpose. Ask students to use evidence from the text to support their interpretation of the theme.
Use Resource #2: Analyze Theme to support students in examining the themes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ask them to list the traits and actions of both “characters” as they read. When they have finished the story, ask students to state its theme in one or two sentences using the traits from their list as support. Guide a discussion, encouraging students to share their answers and evidence.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
1. Genre Focus: Classic Story
Why do you think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has become an all-time classic story? Do you think it still speaks to young people of your generation? (Answers will vary.)
2. Analyze Theme
How would you describe thetheme or message of the short story, “The Bottle Imp?” (Sample answer: It is wrong to wish for something that you get through magic or unnatural means.)
3. Sinister Synonyms
While Mr. Hyde was sinister and detestable, Dr. Jekyll was, at the beginning of the story, charming and likeable. What other words could be used to describe Dr. Jekyll—the opposite of Mr. Hyde? (Sample answers: amiable, intelligent, sociable, benign, cordial, genial.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
Do you think that the use of illegal drugs today can have an effect that is similar to that of Dr. Jekyll’s potion?
What are some real-life examples of human evil, either in history or current times? Describe why you think these people are evil. Did they influence or harm other people with their evil?
What do you think of the writing style that Stevenson uses in the stories? Do you think it is effective? Do you think the story would be more effective if written in a more modern style?
Content Area Connections
The Price of the Bottle Imp
A central plot element of “The Bottle Imp” is that the bottle is sold for less than what was paid for it. Challenge students to calculate what the lowest possible price would be for the bottle. Encourage them to use a currency calculator and research the coins or currency that would be the “bottom dollar” for the bottle.
Robert Louis Stevenson is responsible for much of the romance and legend surrounding the pirates of the Caribbean through his classic novel Treasure Island. Encourage students to research the history behind the story on sites such as Treasure Island: The Untold Story. Ask them to report to the class on their research about the real pirates of the Caribbean.
Be Careful What You Wish For
“The Bottle Imp” is only one of the many stories written about accursed wishes. “The Monkey’s Paw” and “King Midas” are others. Ask students to read another story or legend about the theme: be careful what you wish for. Ask them to write why they think this theme is so enduring in world literature.
Movie and Novel
Interested students can watch one of the film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or read a graphic-novel version. Encourage students to compare the movie or graphic version with the book itself and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both. They may also enjoy casting a contemporary film version of the book.
Transformation or metamorphosis is a favorite literary theme from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Batman to Twilight. Challenge students to create their own story of transformation in which a character turns from a normal adolescent into something strange and unnatural. Provide students with prompts to get them started. Who is the main character or protagonist? What event causes the transformation in him or her? How does the character change as a result? How does the character regain his or her normal state again? Ask students to write down the answers to these questions and then write a short story of transformation.
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Tell them there is more than one right answer. Why do you think some people are mostly good and other people are mostly evil?
Your Two Faces
Ask students to study the cover illustration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The artist has split the face in half, just as the character’s identify is split in half. Brainstorm with students to create a list of personality traits. Then ask students to think about their own positive and negative traits and record them in their notebook. Pass out the Big Activity: Your Two Faces printable and ask students to draw their “two faces” and write the traits they associate with each.
This Storia e-book has the following enrichment to enhance students’ comprehension of the book.
- Did You Know?
About the Author
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the age of 17, he enrolled at Edinburgh University to pursue engineering, following in his father’s footsteps. However, Stevenson never became an engineer or a lawyer, his next course of study. Instead, he followed his dream of becoming a writer. Stevenson met his future wife, Fanny Osbourne, in France, and the two spent much of their life traveling around the world.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is really a short story, was considered Stevenson’s breakthrough book. He also wrote the popular adventure books, Kidnapped and Treasure Island. He died in 1894 in Samoa, where friends and neighbors fondly called him Tusitalia—“a teller of tales.” Stevenson will always be remembered for his stories that capture the excitement, adventure, and mystery of faraway places—as well as the strange nature of the human heart and mind.
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