The Character Mr Hyde, in the book “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson is left a mystery to the reader for the majority of this Victorian Gothic Horror. The suspense of this book would have been ever more relevant in Victorian times, due to the menacing and real evil of “Jack the Ripper,” a serial murderer who preyed the streets of London in the late 1800’s. Jack is a person with which through the book, Edward Hyde shares certain characteristics, such as leading a double life. Investigators suspected “Jack the Ripper” to be a respectable man in daylight hours. They never did catch him.
The first initial sighting of this “stumping,” “little man” was in the dark and early hours of the morning. This already suggests that Mr Hyde is not quite normal, as stereotypically bad things come out at night, so automatically the reader is intrigued. In addition, you can tell that he is going to be an important factor to the book when he tramples a child like a “Juggernaut” with no feelings and it is chilling to think what kind of a man does this. The person to witness the preliminary event involving Mr Hyde was Mr Utterson; Mr Jekyll’s friend and lawyer. In the event, a cheque with Mr Jekyll’s name on it was handled by Mr Hyde and given to the trampled child’s family in the hope that they would keep his mistake a secret. “No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene.”
First impressions are the basis on which the majority of Hyde’s character is built, almost as if Stevenson doesn’t let you see past Hyde’s (generally bad) first impressions to a sad creature that ends up “weeping like a lost soul.” Right at the beginning of the book, when we find Hyde trampling a child, Utterson has already “taken a loathing to [his] gentleman at first sight” and the ugliness of Hyde “brought out the sweat on [him] like running.” Then later, a witness to a murder remembers a previous meeting with Hyde, in which she had “conceived a dislike” for him.
Further on in the book the effect Hyde has on people gets stronger as he grows in evil and stature. “With his remarkable combination of great muscular activity and great debility of constitution…this bore some resemblance to incipient rigor, and was accompanied by a marked sinking of the pulse.” This quote describes Mr Hyde’s appearance, and the extent of his deformities. We begin to understand why he avoids daylight and why the public avoid him. There are numerous occasions of people feeling nauseous after meeting Hyde, and few people are unmoved on first meetings with him, Sir Danvers Carew is one of those who remain unmoved, but nothing good comes out of it.
In the “Carew Murder Case,” we begin to understand the depth of Mr Hyde’s character. This is the first instance in the book where he is compared to an animal or being backward to society by dramatically changing his suspiciously polite mood to “ape-like fury.” This horrific change resulted in a vicious attack on Sir Carew, the person Hyde was so politely speaking to in the street who also happened to be a famous MP. Moreover, for an MP to be “clubbed…to the ground” by a “hailing…storm of blows” was a “crime of singular ferocity” that “London was startled” by.
A maid witnessed this cruel murder from a nearby house and gave Edward Hyde’s name to the police. The police then searched Hyde’s house in Soho, a downtrodden area of London that was lived in by the working class, the rooms were “furnished with luxury and good taste” but the house was in a mess, almost as if had been vandalised. This confirms to the reader that Hyde is a complicated and probably lonely person. There is almost an element of pity towards Hyde from the reader.
In the final chapters the anticipation for something climatic to happen is at its largest and as anticipated, the mystery of Edward Hyde is unravelled and we see a somewhat unexpected side to him, although quite understandable because of his general unpredictability. Many questions arise within the reader when the usually brutal creature is found alone and dead in a cabinet as if he was vulnerable. Throughout the book, Edward Hyde is also depicted as being growing and ominous evil and as his inner evil grew he had also “grown in stature,” and to find him dead instead of the suspectedly murdered Dr Jekyll is certainly a shock to the reader. Many “disreputable tales came out of that mans [Mr Hyde’s] cruelty” and the fact he was still roaming the streets was unnerving to those who knew of him, yet he is found to have possibly committed suicide even though he had an immense “love of life” and “fears [Dr Jekyll’s] power to cut him off by suicide”
In conclusion, I think that Hyde has been portrayed to be the pure evil of Victorian times and that Robert Louis Stevenson was really writing about the battle between good and evil. For example the times all through the book when Jekyll has had to clear up after Hyde’s mess (trampling the child was covered up with a cheque) is like the Victorians having to clear up after mistakes in their society and lives. Another example is Hyde being scared that Jekyll could stop him from living, which is saying that in the end good has more power over evil.
In the book there is also an element of pity towards Hyde, as if he is the misunderstood character, but I suppose this pity for him could be a trap and in the end you will never see any real good out of him, this is along the lines of what Jekyll said in the final chapter. In this book, Stevenson has focused on Juxtaposition (opposites) and Jekyll and Hyde’s battle with each other is a metaphor of this. This book was a horror novel in Victorian times, and rightly so, with their obsession with hell and “Jack the Ripper” still roaming the streets this novel gave them even more reason to fear God and the evils that surround them.