In this essay I will show how Robert Louis Stevenson has presented duality in his novella ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.
The novella is about a respectable gentleman, Dr Jekyll, and how, under the pressure of high society in Victorian England, experiments with potions to eventually come up with one that would turn him into Mr Hyde, a disreputable and evil man.
Written in 1886, the novella was based around the pressure to be respectable that Robert Louis Stevenson himself felt in high society of the Victorian era. It was also influenced by scandals of the time such as Deacon Brodie. Brodie, who suffered from gambling debts, was a cabinet maker for people in the higher class. To try and pay off his debts he would break into the cabinets that he had sold and steal the valuables inside. This fits into the story of Jekyll and Hyde since Jekyll is a nice, respectable gentleman who turns into an evil, lower class man, Hyde.
There was also a growing awareness of chemistry and psychology at the time the novella was written. Sigmund Freud, a famous chemist and psychologist, convinced people that duality did exist in humans – that in one person there could be both good and evil, such as in Jekyll and Hyde, who were the same person, with the help of a potion, but Jekyll was good and Hyde evil.
Since the novella was written in 1886 it was targeted at Victorian people. When it was first published it sold around 40,000 copies, mainly to the higher classes of Victorian England. They would have seen it as a twist on a horror book. The Victorians were into gothic books, except that they were always set in foreign countries and in the past. ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ differs to these stories since it was set in London and in the then present day. In 1888, Jack the Ripper surfaced in the newspapers. This would not only have boosted the sales of Stevenson’s novella but would have been connected to it. Both the former and the latter ideas are because of the rumour that went around England at the time that Jack the Ripper was someone of upper class and respectable by day but commit atrocious murders by night, like the duality of Jekyll and Hyde.
Duality appears throughout the novella, including the characters. Mr Utterson is a lawyer and good friend of Henry Jekyll.
“…of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty…”
This description of Mr Utterson, from the first page, portrays him to be a grumpy man, with sharp features on his face, who doesn’t get on with anybody and who would drink on his own. However:
This quote, again from the first page, shows the duality of the book since Utterson is described to be miserable and yet everybody loves him. This is enforced by the adjective ‘lovable’ since this word implies that he is pretty easy to get on with and he isn’t just liked by those who know and get on with him, instead he is loved. The quotes convey that no matter what someone’s demeanour they can still be kind and popular. This introduces the theme of duality for the reasons said above.
“I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.”
Being a lawyer, Mr Utterson is supposed to help others in any way he can, however, this metaphor is telling the reader that no matter how much he could do for someone, Utterson doesn’t really care about them. This portrays Robert Louis Stevenson’s idea of duality.
“…least save his credit…I shall be back before midnight, when we shall send for the police.”
This quote shows duality since Utterson himself said that he would ‘let his brother go to the devil in his own way’, yet here he is trying to save the reputation of one of his very good friends, Jekyll. To do this though, the good, honourable, respectable, law abiding lawyer does not send for the police as soon as he and Poole, Dr Jekyll’s butler, discover the dead body of a certain Mr Edward Hyde lying on Jekyll’s cabinet floor. Instead, he goes home for two hours to read the letters that both Dr Lanyon, another good friend of both Utterson and Jekyll, and Jekyll left for him to read on the disappearance or death of Henry Jekyll. It also shows duality in that Utterson is a lawyer, who should go to the police but doesn’t.
“…in case of disappearance…read the name Gabriel John Utterson.”
This quote shows duality because as Utterson finds, and reads, Jekyll’s Last Will and Testament, Utterson, to his own amazement, reads his name instead of Hyde’s. This shows duality since Utterson is down as the last good friend of Dr Henry Jekyll, who would become disreputable and a big scandal if any one were to find out what he did.
Dr Lanyon is another character in the novella, and a good friend of Jekyll and Utterson.
“This was a hearty, healthy, dapper, red faced gentleman with a shock of hair prematurely white.”
This quote portrays Lanyon to be a friendly, upper class gentleman who has plenty to drink. However, later on in the novella, Stevenson describes Lanyon:
“The rosy man had grown pale; his flesh had fallen away; he was visibly balder and older…”
This quote and the latter, reveals the duality between them since in the first quote he is described as being healthy and in the second as being on his death bed. The reader would want to know what has happened in such a short time to make this change in Lanyon appear so suddenly – because he saw Hyde mix the potion, take a drink, and turn to Jekyll in front of his very own eyes – all of which is revealed in the second to last chapter ‘Dr Lanyon’s Narrative’. To get the potions to Hyde however, Jekyll had to get Lanyon to steal for him. The very idea of Jekyll wanting another respectable gentleman breaking in and stealing the potions for him and Hyde would have been a very big scandal if Lanyon was caught, and Lanyon would go from respectable gentleman to disrespectable in a few hours.
Stevenson’s novella is all about Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
“…the doctor gave one of his pleasant dinners…”
This shows how Jekyll is popular among the upper class, among his friends, and rich enough to hold dinners. The adverb ‘pleasant’ conveys to the audience that everyone Jekyll invited got on with each other and it reinforces the idea that Jekyll is rich since he can hold dinners and provide nice food.
“…sat Dr Jekyll, looking deadly sick.”
This quote describes Jekyll sitting in his large cabinet room, after the death of sir Danvers Carew. It reveals how Jekyll is feeling remorse for knowing, or as the reader later finds out, for being Mr Hyde – who was identified as the murderer of Carew. It portrays how Jekyll regrets his actions and wishes, to get away from the pressures of high society life in Victorian England.
“…8th of January Utterson had dined at the doctors…On the 12th, and again on the 14th, the door was shut against the lawyer.”
This reference conveys to the audience the duality in the novella, since four days after Utterson had seen Jekyll, and dined with him and Dr Lanyon, he was being denied entry to Jekyll’s house. This shows the duality since Jekyll was so ill that he couldn’t stand up to greet Utterson when Utterson went to see him, before being fine and healthy enough to hold a dinner party and then not allowing anyone into his house to see him all of a sudden without anybody knowing why.
“…born in 18__ to a large fortune…”
This quote portrays how Henry Jekyll recognises how he was born into a rich family. The adjectives ‘large’ and ‘fortune’ suggests he was born into a highly respected family, something that was of high importance in Victorian England. It shows how he didn’t have to work hard for the position in society that he was in, only keep up his appearances with others of his class.
“…worst of my faults was a certain gaiety of disposition, such as made the happiness of many…”
This reference shows that Jekyll felt money wasn’t everything. He felt that where it made most men content, it didn’t make him happy. It conveys to the reader how he wants to be happy, although where he is in life and society wasn’t making his wishes come true. We learn later in the novella how this wish brings him to start mixing formulas that would eventually turn him into Mr Hyde.
“…found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high…”
The quote above portrays how, although Jekyll wants to be happy, he believes the only way would be one that was irreputable. However, he does not wish to lose his place in the upper class of society and he does not wish to lose his friends, both of which would happen if he did what he desired to do to become happier. This therefore is what led Jekyll to create the potion, as well as the written version of events, for Utterson to read, in ‘Henry Jekyll’s full statement of the case’ where Dr Jekyll writes his version, and the truth of what happened in the last months of his life.
“Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures…”
This reveals how Jekyll had been hiding secrets since before creating the mixture that would turn him to Hyde, hiding what it was that was making him happy. The verb ‘concealed’ tells the reader that Jekyll was being very careful about his pleasures. It conveys the importance of nobody finding out about Jekyll’s secret more than if Stevenson had written the verb ‘hid’ instead.
“…already committed to a profound duplicity of life.”
This conveys one of the themes in the novella, the theme of duplicity, and how it is not only in the settings and the characters but that the characters knew about it. We know this because of the adjective ‘duplicity’ – portraying to the reader how Jekyll has two lives, however different they are.
“…morbid sense of shame.”
This quote reveals how although Jekyll wanted to be happy, he is ashamed of how his life has turned out. The alliteration of the ‘s’ sound in ‘sense’ and ‘shame’ enforces the idea, in the readers mind, that he is ashamed of being Mr Hyde, of what he has done and is still doing as Mr Hyde and that both of these irreputable things are making him happy.
“…not truly one, but truly two.”
This does not reveal duality within the story, rather in the themes of the novella. It indicates the views of Dr Jekyll – that in one man, there is both good and evil, one of the themes. Jekyll describes how good and evil are different parts of the soul, and that good conquers evil in a raging war within the soul, and that is what makes a man good.
“…flushed as I was with hope and triumph, to venture in my new shape…”
As this quote conveys, Stevenson has written about how someone can be addicted to drugs. It shows that even someone of high stature can become addicted, in this case Dr Jekyll. Jekyll is addicted to how he can do what he wants as Mr Hyde, without losing any of his own stature, rather than do the respectable things he would have to do as himself to be happy. It reveals duality in the fact that a respectable gentleman such as Jekyll can be addicted to the painful pangs and nausea the mixture makes him feel, whilst turning into Hyde.
Edward Hyde is often portrayed animal-like.
“…like a monkey jumped up from among the chemicals.”
This quote makes the reader imagine a monkey like creature jumping up upon hearing Poole, Jekyll’s butler, coming towards Jekyll’s cabinet. It creates the picture of Hyde being small, dumpy, and hairy and as having very long arms, whilst showing duality since Hyde is a man not a monkey.
“The other snarled aloud into a savage laugh…”
In this quote the adjective ‘snarled’ gives the image of Hyde as a savage beast, again being portrayed as some sort of animal. It also conveys how Hyde is an evil person, since someone who is portrayed as being a savage cannot be any good, and this would have been the view of people in Victorian England. Stevenson has used language to paint a picture of what Hyde might look like in the readers mind.
“…so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running.”
This reference, again, allows the reader to imagine what Hyde looks like. It conveys how the other characters react to Hyde, that they all feel an air of deformity whenever they see him or speak to him, and that he looks so ugly, so mean that they feel uneasy around him.
All of the latter three quotes show duality since Hyde is portrayed as being a small and ugly man with the impression of being deformed somewhere on his body. He is also conveyed as a mean, evil person via the descriptive language used by Stevenson. This is in contrast to Jekyll, since Jekyll is a respected gentleman and doctor of chemistry, who is regularly invited to dinner parties hosted by other well respected people in society. He is also taller, thinner and older than Hyde.
All of the characters who ‘meet’ Hyde in the novella seem to act in the same way towards him. This conveys to the reader just how unlikeable Hyde is. This is important to the story because it shows how everybody thinks him an evil man. It helps show the duality between Jekyll and Hyde.
However, it isn’t just the characters that show duality within Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. It is also revealed in the settings – the weather and the buildings – and also in the narrative structure.
“The door…neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched…”
This quote portrays the quality of the door that Hyde uses to enter Dr Jekyll’s house and grounds. This is in contrast to the front of Jekyll’s house:
“…which wore a great air of wealth and comfort…”
This portrays an image of what Jekyll’s house looks like from the front – a grand house whose owner is wealthy and of a high social class.
The latter quote also shows duality with Hyde’s house in Soho.
“…showed him a dingy street…”
This quote portrays what kind of area Hyde’s house is in. In the Victorian era, Soho was poverty stricken and full of prostitution, although there is no indication that Hyde was into prostitution and gambling (other than Jekyll turning into Hyde because doing respectable things did not make him happy). It shows the difference between Jekyll’s big, respectable house in a respectable of London and Hyde’s dingy flat on a polluted street in the centre of London.
“An ivory faced and silvery haired woman…”
This quote describes the Soho house landlady (or Hyde’s landlady). When the reader reads this they presume she is a nice friendly woman. However:
“She had a smooth face, smoothed by hypocracy…”
shows duality in contrast with the quote before. It shows how a nice old lady may look nice but in fact can be evil, someone who doesn’t like herself. I say evil because later in the chapter ‘The Carew Murder Case’ she is excited and delighted by the idea of Hyde being in trouble with the police.
Hyde’s house in Soho is, to Utterson’s surprise, well furnished.
“…furnished with luxury and good taste…”
This conveys duality with how the house looks on the outside. With Soho being a dodgy area in Victorian England, and the street being described as ‘dingy’, the reader first imagines a poor, poverty filled room, not a luxury, well furnished house.
London is also shown in a dual nature.
“…down a by street in a busy quarter of London. The street was small and what is called quiet.”
This quote shows duality in how although a street is in a busy area of London, off a busy main street; it is actually very quiet (it would be expected to be busy if it’s off a main street).
Stevenson has even included duality in the weather.
“…cool and a little damp, and full with premature twilight,…still bright with sunset.”
This quote conveys duality to the reader since Jekyll’s courtyard is described at the beginning of the quote – that it is cold and looks as though it is around the time frame of dusk. However, the later half of the quote explains, it is in fact still sunny (nearing sunset) and so in theory Jekyll’s courtyard should be quite light.
“A fog rolled over the city… early part of the night was cloudless.”
This reveals duality because it shows how the night was cloudless, until the fog came in. the adjective ‘rolled’ gives the impression that the fog came swiftly, rather than slowly.
“About nine in the morning… number of degrees and hues of twilight… dark like the back end of evening…”
This quote conveys to the reader that whatever time of day it is in Soho, it still looks like it’s dark, like it is night. This quote shows the duality of the weather by giving the time of day and describing what it looked like. The fog described is more likely to be smog from the factories, since the novella is set in the Victorian times. However, it does cast an eerie effect on the image conjured in the readers mind, would have made them think something sinister was about to happen.
There are many locked doors in Stevenson’s novella. This symbolises how secretive the story is, Utterson hypothetically being stopped solving the mystery of Jekyll and Hyde, by doors not able to be opened until another section of the mystery is found, and the actual looked doors that Jekyll shuts himself up behind.
The narrative structure also shows duality since in the first seven chapters the narrative is third person.
“…resumed the lawyer.”
This shows the third person narrative structure of ‘The Last Night’. However, the last two chapters are written in first person, ‘Dr Lanyon’s Narrative’ is written by Lanyon from his point of view and tells of what he knows about Jekyll and Hyde, and explains the cause of his death. The last chapter is also in first person, however this is from the perspective of Dr Jekyll himself, who explains everything that had happened.
“I rose from my place…”
These show duality because the first seven chapters, although written in third person, are all about Utterson and what he does to try and unravel the mystery between Jekyll and Hyde. They also show Utterson’s thoughts and feelings.
The chapters are all arranged to follow what happens to Utterson and the titles are all to do with what happens within the chapter itself (and give a clue to what the chapter is about). The last two are in the order they are because that way Lanyon doesn’t repeat what the reader knows from reading Jekyll’s chapter, if they were the other way around.
In this essay I have shown how Robert Louis Stevenson has presented the theme of duality in his novella ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. I have achieved this by analysing the language of the text that describes the characters, weather, buildings and the narrative structure.