Culture variations around the world bring uniqueness and identification to each individual. Culture is the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought, and through history, the Victorian Era has been one of the most influential times in English history. In the book “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, the author uses images of crime, urban life, and in heritance to portray the culture of the Victorian Era.
The gruesome crimes committed by Mr Hyde reflect the views of his animalistic and lower class way of behavior. The beginning of the story starts of with the introduction to Mr. Hyde by narrating about the first crime that he commits. During this crime, Hyde comes upon a little girl on the road and “the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on” (pg 2). To walk over a child in that time, or even the present time for no reason is an unbelievable and horrific crime to commit. A direct loathing comes to Hyde’s name immediately as it is morally wrong to trample over anyone, much less a child. The notorious reputation that also comes to his name also shows the Victorian morality does not tolerate crimes, and that contributing to the ungentlemanly-like behavior, the ugly appearance is enough to make him an outcast. The next murder that Hyde commits was upon a well known respectable gentleman, and the way that he murdered Sir Danvers Carew was absolutely shocking for the man “broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth”. (pg 15)
Any crime during the Victorian Era is a sin, but to beat a man to death like an animal, for no reason rather than the anger within Hyde was unthinkable because it had no moral reason. The fact that Carew was a man “high in public estimation” did not contribute to Hyde’s reputation as it was a belief for any Victorian to turn to religion as a way of self control and values. Dr Jekyll himself reflects on Hyde’s crime at the end of the book during his full statement of the case by saying that killing Carew was foolish and “the guilt of Hyde was patent to the world”. (pg 15) Having a notorious reputation was not something to be proud of anytime and anywhere. In this case, Hyde was a man that everybody loathed as well as looked hideous and dressed messy that did not contribute to that fact either.
The description of urban slums shows the physical state London was in due to the Industrial revolution and social division. The lower class were stuck in the slums as they had no where else to stay, and the first of Hyde’s crimes happened where “tramps slouched into recess and struck matches on the panels.” (pg 2) It is already obvious without any further description that this would be a place of lower class residents because of the “tramps” that live in the area. As Mr. Utterson approaches Mr. Hyde’s house, he describes the air as “a great chocolate covered pall lowered over heaven”. (pg 15) What he is referring to is the gray sky, darkened from all the pollution that is going on, caused by the smoke that comes from the industrial revolution at that time. The atmosphere of the area, a slum, quite connects to Hyde perfectly. A dark area, that is dirty, would be the right place to find a man, so lowly thought of in Victorian society to be living in. Evidently, this would be the place to find the underclass people. In this district of the city, “many ragged children huddled in doorways” (pg 15) and one would only be able to conclude that no higher class people would choose to reside in such a place. This was London in the Victorian times, and the slums in the city, were home to those of less fortune.
A large amount of money owned and an inheritance by a man, ensures a high status in society. When Hyde tramples over the child at the beginning of the story, the family of the child demands compensation, and as Mr Utterson approaches Hyde, Hyde wishes to avoid a scene so the lawyer “screwed him up to a hundred pounds.” (pg 3) At that time, the amount of wealth measured power, and class a person was in. To avoid the scene, Hyde used his means of wealth to show his gentlemanly-ness as a ways of trying to make up for the wrong he committed. When Mr Utterson comes across Jekyll’s will and reviews it, Jekyll knows he disapproves of it and says “I never saw a man so distressed as you were by my will”. (pg 12)
The inheritance of property by one person, especially a well respected man during that time would go either to family, or a friend that would be very well respected as well. Mr Utterson is not happy with the will because all of Jekyll’s property would then proceed to Hyde, which would not be the wisest man to choose because of his reputation and perhaps it would be not put to good use. Jekyll includes in his final statement that in order to make life easier as Hyde and not lose all his property, he “next drew up a will that Utterson so much objected to”. (pg 43) The will, his property and inheritance, showed the amount of power that one man could have. The bigger the wealth he had, the higher the status in society, and it would only be proper that Utterson object to Jekyll’s inheritance going to Hyde, because only a proper and noble gentleman deserves wealth and power.
There were many aspects of life and community that the Victorians thought of highly such as money and inheritance as being part of the higher class, but those thought of that belong among the lower class were crime and urban slums. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, one man, lives a life among both the good and the evil side of himself, and is both condemned and look up to among the people. It is not only in Victorian times that these beliefs and values occur, but in our culture today we have similar ones, and hopefully as Dr Jekyll does, we try to live up to them to keep the world in peace and order.
Courtney from Study Moose
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