Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide touches on many important themes, including identity and the role of reputation within society. On top of those themes, the author also uses his work to speak to an idea of “home” within the novel. Though this work does not include a typical literary representation of home as a developmental ground for young, aspiring successes, he does illustrate how home can be a highly safe and dangerous place all at the same time. Just as Jekyll and Hyde represent a personal dichotomy, home is shown as a place that can be multi-faceted.
Because of the intimate nature of the relationships developed between a person and his or her home, that person can be manipulated by the safety of home. While it might seem like a place to barricade one’s self from the rest of the world, home can actually be the single force stripping individuals of their ability to function. In this particular work, home is a place where madness persists and it is essentially ground zero for all that is wrong with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this way, the author is accepting some of the views on the role of home, asserting that even in a sea of positives, home can play a negative role, as well.
In this book, home is most certainly a place of comfort and violence. The author challenges the assertion that home could be a place where people go just to get their own measure of comfort. While it is true that Dr. Jekyll retreats to his home to get away from much of the scrutiny surrounding him, the author is quick to point out that this experience takes away from Jekyll in a big way. During one portion of the book, suspicions are at an all-time high and people continue to visit Jekyll to figure out his situation.
Both the police and concerned citizens have made their way into his home, and in the early part of the book, it is not a place of comfort. In this way, it can be said that the traditional idea of home is lost for the doctor during those moments. He has police officers going through his personal effects and turning his home upside down. He has individuals peering through his windows, providing him with little privacy or comfort of any kind. During this portion of the book, the traditional idea of home is absolutely smashed.
Instead of being a refuge, it is a fish bowl where immense and intense pressure is put on the doctor over a period of months. The author does use this opportunity to show the importance of a traditional safe haven, though. As Jekyll is essentially ambushed in his home, he begins to long for the comfort and the privacy traditionally expected in that kind of setting. When Jekyll stops receiving visitors, he is reaching out for the comfort of his home. He grows very tired of constantly being harassed for various reasons, even if those reasons are legitimate.
He locks the doors and makes home his refuge. He takes comfort in his work in the lab, but home is also a place of violence. He lives through a kind of unchangeable madness while in his home, constantly working on concoctions and hiding from the truth about who he is. This violence is finally culminated in his suicide, which not surprisingly happens right in the middle of his comfort zone. This use of violence within the home by the author is meant to show that the comfort provided by home is a slipper slope. As the traditional views hold, the ideal of home is one that is delicate.
In one moment, home can provide a place for a person to get away from criticisms and attention. In another moment, it can be a place where madness and violence consumer a person’s life. Additionally, the author presents a picture of home as the breeding ground for many of the crazed acts of Mr. Hyde. In short, every minute that Jekyll spends in his home or lab is just another moment where the reader anticipates some terrible event. Through creative sequencing and skilled foreshadowing, the author makes it very clear that the home is an ominous place for Dr. Jekyll.
Though he does use it as a refuge, the author makes it seem as if he is only picking the time of his next crazed act. The traditional views hold that home is a place where one develops his or her skills to move forward in the future. Most would say that this is a positive critique of what home is all about. That is not the picture of home that Stevenson paints, though. He does use the ideas of preparation and planning, but it is always for something negative. Much like Dr. Jekyll experiments with various things in his lab, home is a place where there is decisive scheming.
In this way, it is much more planning than it is preparation. There is no real personal growth taking place for the doctor; he is only hiding from his identity and attempting to conceal his acts. The author’s decidedly negative view on the role of home in terms of preparation is an interesting point. Stevenson challenges the idea that a person can receive some sort of nurturing from home that would make he or she a better person overall. Instead, he paints home as something of an independent force. For people who have the innate ability to develop and grow, home can be a good place to do that.
It does provide the type of repetitive environment where individuals can focus on continued good habits. The author, at least in this work, offers the opinion that home in itself is not enough to develop those who would otherwise not get development. Additionally, he paints this repetition as a bad thing in the case of Dr. Jekyll. The doctor gets into a terrible cycle where he continues to self destruct, time and again. Because home is a place where individuals are protected and where there is very little to balance out such acts, it creates an environment where people can fall into traps.
Home is not nearly corrective enough in this story. With this view, Stevenson may be offering an argument that home is only a positive when the people inside the home are providing the correct amount of support. Because it can be so many things and go so many ways, home itself is truly not to blame. It is only a framework from which people are expected to work. The real blame must go on the individuals who use the home and on the people who should be providing the customary support that goes along with being at home. For Dr. Jekyll, home is his refuge, and it acts as a place that he cannot wait to return to.
As the reader clearly sees in this book, the first thing that Dr. Jekyll always does after one of Mr. Hyde’s acts is that he comes back home. There are dangerous out on the streets and he could potentially get himself into trouble, but when the doctor comes back home, he has the ability to cover things up, clean behind his tracks, and turn his life into something “normal” yet again. While many things change for Jekyll over the course of the book, including his professional reputation, his personal relationships, and his ability to manage his personalities, home is something that remains constant.
It is a strong place for him to come and truly dedicate his time to his craft. Despite this somewhat positive view of what home is supposed to mean, the book indicates that Jekyll feels incredibly trapped by this situation. He is actually forced to feel like a stranger within his own home, and he comes to resent it after a short while. For the longest time, Jekyll looks forward to coming home because it provides him with safety after some of the acts of Mr. Hyde. This changes as the book moves along, though. No longer is there real excitement about coming home.
Instead, he comes because that is the only place that he can go. Home becomes a restrictive force, and all that is positive about it is thrown out of the window. This is the author’s critique on the place of home. In one instance, it can be a place that people need, and it can provide the framework for success. It does not take much for home to take on a negative connotation, though. Just as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be switched on and off in a split second, a positive view of home and a negative one can come about very quickly.
The traditional view of home as a dichotomy offers the opinion that different pictures of home can be experienced by different people. For some people, home is a good thing, while it is resented by other people. Stevenson complicates this by adding an element of personal indecision on the role of home. Dr. Jekyll experiences all of these emotions within himself. His entire life is dedicated to his work in the lab and the things he has going on at home. That is truly a place of great joy and utter accomplishment for him. Later, it completely switches for him and becomes a place of death, quite literally.
Not only does he kill himself right in the middle of the floor at his home, but he also sees his professional life die right in that home. People are constantly peering in, wanting to take a look at the strange and complicated Dr. Jekyll. His reputation dies and any respect that he worked so hard for in that lab goes away along with it. It is no coincidence that the author chooses the doctor’s home as the place where all of this would take place. This speaks loudly about the importance of home to a person’s development. Whether positive or negative, home does play a substantial role in shaping what a person will become.
In the case of Dr. Jekyll, home is a roller coaster and home has seen the full range of experiences that he has gone through. Home, in the traditional sense, is a mostly positive place with some negative possibilities. Most authors take the view that home provides something for a person until a time comes when home is a limiting force. In this work, home is something a little bit different. Both a refuge and a place of imprisonment for Dr. Jekyll, home goes through quite a transition as the work goes along. In the end, home is a place of horrible tragedy and death, and it serves as the fitting setting of a man’s twisted, double life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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