‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is an examination of the duality of human nature Essay
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Discuss the duality expressed not only in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but also in other characters.
It is believed that there are two parts to a person; good and evil. In most people the good side is stronger and the evil side is repressed. In ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ the repression of Dr Jekyll’s evil side has made it become much stronger and eventually when the evil side is released it takes over and changes the balance of good and evil in Dr Jekyll.
The evil side becomes dominant.
In the Victorian era science was a very interesting topic as Charles Darwin had just come forth with his theory of evolution and more facts about the evolution of man were being found out. Charles Darwin claimed that humans, over many years of time, had descended from the apes; this shocked many people in Victorian times as they were very religious and strongly believed in God, and felt like any other theory than the one in the Bible was unbelievable.
In the novel ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ the duality of human nature is shown as a split of good and evil. Robert Louis Stevenson shows that there are two sides to everyone; this is especially shown in Dr Jekyll. Dr Jekyll has a good side to him that his friends see, he is portrayed as a kind, sensible and well mannered man, but he also has a side of him that wants to break free and not have to be sensible and well mannered.
The parts that Hyde is mentioned in the book are usually to do with crime or violence, and anyone who spoke of him felt that there was something strange and eerie about him. Our introduction to Hyde is him trampling a girl on the floor. “Mr Hyde broke out of all bounds, and clubbed him to the earth.”
Hyde is described is compared to an Ape and other animals by many different people, it is almost as if when Jekyll transforms into Hyde he is evolving backwards, becoming more ape-like. Hyde is the personification of Jekyll’s evil side. “It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut.”
Whereas Dr Jekyll is described as: “A large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness.”
Our introduction to Jekyll is at a dinner party, where he is civilised, sociable and elegant.
As Jekyll is such a good man it is strange that he would let a man like Hyde have a key to his house so he may come and go whenever he pleases. Why does Hyde only enter the house through the laboratory door? It is also extraordinary that Jekyll did not mention Hyde to any of his other friends. Mr Utterson and Dr Lanyon have been friends with Dr Jekyll for many years but they both do not appear to have their own key to his house. It is suspicious that Hyde goes into Jekyll’s house in the middle night at comes out with a cheque signed by Dr Jekyll. Is Hyde blackmailing Jekyll?
In Victorian times it is highly unlikely that anyone would have guessed that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were the same man. This is because they have completely different characteristics and qualities; Hyde is short, whereas Jekyll is tall. But to the modern reader it is in some cases obvious that they are the same man; Hyde and Jekyll are never around at the same time.
Other characters in the book who have met Mr Hyde describe him as “wicked looking” and having “an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation”. Mr Hyde appears to have some kind strange of aura about him; that makes other people around him nervous and scared. “He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but he gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running.”
Dr Jekyll, however, seems very sociable and pleasant to look at. But the reader knows that Dr Jekyll has a terrible secret. A secret that is so awful, it cause Dr Lanyon to break their friendship and eventually resulted in Dr Lanyon’s death. “I am quite done with that person; and I beg that you will spare me any allusion to one whom I regard as dead.”
In the novel, before the revelation, Jekyll allows Hyde to become increasingly stronger. Jekyll finds that he cannot control the transformations, and they happen without him taking any of his potions. “I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.”
Not being able control the transformations means that Dr Jekyll is unable to see anyone, and when Mr Utterson and Mr Enfield see Dr Jekyll at his window, Jekyll begins to transform and has to slam the window shut before the other men see. But Mr Enfield and Mr Utterson did catch a momentary look of what was happening on the other side of the window. “They saw it but for a glimpse, for the window was instantly thrust down; but that glimpse had been sufficient, and they turned and left the court without a word.”
Mr Utterson is a curious character in the novel. His friendship with Mr Enfield is particularly strange. “It was reported by those who encountered them in their Sunday walks, that they said nothing, looked singularly dull, and would hail with obvious relief the appearance of a friend.”
It seems rather odd that the two men would go out every week, but do not seem to like each other. Mr Utterson must have some secrets and strange history that is not mentioned in the novel. “And though he enjoyed the theatre, he had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years.”
Mr Utterson seems to keep himself to himself. He does not talk about his feelings and thoughts or his past, and to Mr Enfield he hardly talks at all. Yet when Mr Utterson has a drink at a dinner party “something eminently human beaconed from his eye”, this may be some part of him that wants to be expressed and let loose and he is just managing to repress it.
After the revelation Dr Jekyll claims that “man is not truly one, but truly two.” He thinks that every soul contains two parts; good and evil. But one is always dominant. In the case of Dr Jekyll it appeared that the good side was the dominant side but after the transformations it was realised that really the evil side was dominant, and had somehow become stronger than the good side by being repressed for all those years.
The novel ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ shows a lot of different sides of the duality of human nature; good and evil, right and wrong. These differences are shown in many of the characters in the novel. The book emphasises the goodness of Dr Jekyll and evilness of Mr Hyde, however is also points to Mr Utterson and Dr Lanyon who both display moments when they too have unstable characters.