Duality of Jekyll and Hyde Essay
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Focusing on the opening and closing chapters, how does Robert Louis Stevenson explore the conflict of duality in human nature in ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.
‘The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is a book published in a Victorian society with strict moral codes. This was also a time of discovery and science, and tension between religion and science was constantly rising. In this book you can infer that religion doesn’t bring answers or contentment, but also a warning to the use of science, and what could become of it.
The book explores the duality of a man, Dr Jekyll, and how neither science nor religion brought him salvation.
The duality in Jekyll and Hyde is represented by Jekyll and Hype as good and evil. The cause of why Jekyll made the potion was to satisfy his inner desires, but was prevented because of “the high views I had set before me, I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shames”. This quote from Jekyll explains that, because of the strict moral codes, and high respectability, Jekyll was unable to fulfil his desires without dishonouring his name, and so buried his fascinations away, showing self control. “These polar twins… continuously struggling”, describes the duality fighting in Jekyll mind before he split himself. The “polar twins” is cleverly used and the two poles (Arctic and Antarctic) are on two different sides of the world, in two different hemispheres of the earth. This could be that the poles are so far apart, but similar in climate, so closer than they might think, as is the case for the 2 sides of Jekyll, and each is struggling to gain power over the other.
To avoid dishonouring himself, he split his good and evil personalities, so only one side of himself could be threatening his good or neutral name, but where Jekyll possessed normal human self control, Hyde had none.
What actually happens to Jekyll, once he had taken the potion, was that it allowed both his evil and his good sides to roam free, with little consequences. Until the changes start to get out of control, and Jekyll’s grasp over Hyde alters in Hyde’s favour. Jekyll becomes addicted to the use of the potion, and leads to a twisted world of murder, deception and death.
The physical change from Jekyll to Hyde is described by Jekyll as “grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death”. Jekyll’s alteration is show through mainly his pain in the description. “Grinding in the bones” sets the scene with not just visual, but audio. It describes the cringing sound of the change more than the appearance. Also, “deadly nausea” is possibly a symptom or side effect of the potion that causes sickness and confusion during the event, and Stevenson used ‘deadly to emphasise the pain. At the time where religion was being doubted, Jekyll chose the opportunity to play god with science. Some certain, powerful phrases use both spiritual and scientific vocabulary and references, such as ‘Horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth and death’; this phrase is important to comparing the scale of what Jekyll had just discovered.
It illustrates that both birth and death are a major event, and play a big part of a living organism’s life, which God was believed to have controlled and kept balance of good and evil, whether it’s the birth and death of us, or of someone who was a part of our lives. Yet, Jekyll was able to manipulate the power of science to over through God’s rule and will, pushing boundaries no one had dared dreamed of reaching before. Comparing a scientific discovery, and what happens when using that discovery, would imply that it was on a grand scale of great importance. Also, events such as birth and death tend to be painful experiences, so it could also link into the pain of such event.
However, from Lanyon’s narrative, he describes the changing from Jekyll to Hyde slightly more viciously, which also gives us insight into what it is like from someone else’s point of view. ‘Staring with infected eyes, gasping with open mouth.’ The description of ‘infected eyes’, seem as though it would be slightly exaggerated. When thinking of ‘infected’, we usually think of illness. This is probably, from what we can imply, what Lanyon thought it was. Also, ‘gasping with open mouth’, could be panic from Jekyll, for regrettably knowing that once again e is unleashing Hyde back into the world. However, other meanings can be interpreted. If someone was to ‘gasp with open mouth’, you would expect somebody to be doing this during their death, therefore symbolising that it was the death of Jekyll, and the re birth of Hyde.
Although Jekyll thinks the potion is a solution, there are also long term effects of using the potion, and what happens. Jekyll begins to get addicted, to some extent, to the freedom and unlimited boundaries of Hyde’s power. Little does Jekyll know that the more times he uses the potion, the more powerful Hyde becomes over Jekyll, which results in Hyde coming and going as he pleases.
The contrasting descriptions of Jekyll and Hyde, and also the reactions caused by their appearances link to the confliction between the two characters, Jekyll and Hyde, are similar from the people who meet them. Nearer the end of the novel, a constant battle is taking place, and Stevenson is able to show duality of Jekyll through confliction of the contrasting personalities, trapped by one another’s limits. As Jekyll is a doctor, it is his choice of career that he is able to help, and heal people, and once again representing good. Whereas Hyde makes doctors, who are obliged not to judge people, and help in any circumstance, “turn sick and white with the desire to kill”. If just one look at Hyde makes a healer want to kill, his personality must match his appearance.
In contrast, Jekyll is physically described as “extremely handsome”, “well proportioned” and with” every mark of capacity and kindness”. The physical description of this character reflects on the reaction other people treat him with. Also, as Jekyll is a well respected doctor, his personality is expected to match his appearance.
This is also the case with Hyde, however, he doesn’t get the same judgments as Jekyll gets. Hyde is described as “pale and dwarfish”, giving an “impression of deformity” and “Satan’s signature upon a face”. From these descriptions, we can see why his was disliked so much, and Hyde’s personality reflected his features to every last detail. Stevenson used the phrase “Satan’s signature upon a face”, which is related to religion, and ties in nicely with the books theme. Where people may say their faces are blessed by god, this phrase is implying that Hyde’s face was blessed by the devil, giving the impression that he is hideous, because Satan left his mark on him.
Stevenson also explores the hidden duality in this book is doors and windows. At the beginning of the book, many questions are asked and are hidden behind doors. For instance, Hyde’s house is described at the beginning as “two stories high; showed no window, nothing but a door… A blind forehead of discoloured wall… And bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. The door… Was blistered and distained”. The language used to describe Jekyll’s house was also very interesting. Utterson described this house referring to Hyde’s influence, but also as if it was a person. “Blind forehead… every feature…was blistered” are all ways we would somehow describe a human, which nicely links into the idea of the doors hiding and almost keeping secrets, and windows openly showing themselves.
The house is also hidden and secluded around a back alley, out of view from the public, and very secretive, and it had no windows, and windows are let you see what is going on, they have no secrets. Through this idea of doors and windows, reflects also on the people. Before Hyde was entered into the picture, Jekyll was a very open and honest man. His door was always open. As Hyde’s power begins to grow, we can see that Jekyll becomes more engulfed and isolated in his own home because of his secret, and finds it hard to let anyone in, even people, such as Utterson, whom he trusted with his life.
As the book goes on, doors are opened to show that questions are being answered, but there is also a physical use for the doors and windows. Jekyll’s house is very welcoming on a main street. The courtyard behind the house links to Jekyll’s house. Hyde is allowed to come and go as he pleases through the back door, creating even more mystery and arousing suspicion with occupants of the house. Basically, the front of the house was the well respected, first impression view, but the back was hidden, so could not be judged by who came and went.
At the time in the book, where science has failed to provide any answers, Jekyll turned his head back towards religion. We can see this taking place when Jekyll “had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God”. At this point, Hyde’s power had grown beyond any imagination, or plight for help as Jekyll barely has control of himself, let alone Hyde. I think this quote symbolises how desperate Jekyll had become, from being a man of science, to resorting to religion to ease his soul and conscience.
Other characters of interest the book also represent some of the themes to the book, but more subtly. For example, on chapter one, Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield are described as unlikely friends because nobody could see what they shared in common, they would go on walks every Sunday and “Set aside occasions of pleasure, but even resisted calls of business, that they might enjoy them uninterrupted”. This links to Jekyll and Hyde because no one can see why they are associated with one another, such as Jekyll leaving Hyde everything in his will, but Utterson couldn’t understand why.
The hypocrisy of the hidden duality in the book is demonstrated not just through Jekyll and Hyde, but through other, fairly decent characters as well. We can only assume that from the book, Hyde’s influence causes people to change. For example, in the first chapter, ‘Story of the Door’, Hyde tramples a young girl. Mr. Enfield, who witnessed this crime, blackmailed Hyde by saying “we could and would make such a scandal out of this, as should make his name stink from one end of London to the other… We screwed him up to a hundred pounds for the child’s family”. Even though Enfield had told Hyde it was wrong to blackmail, but they did it anyway.
There is also hypocrisy in how Dr. Jekyll’s experiment backfires. After the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, Jekyll had given Utterson his word that he had gone and was not coming back. The hypocrisy of it all is that even though he had prevented Hyde taking power over him again, the temptation was too great, and went back to using the potion and increasing Hyde’s strength.
I also think hypocrisy is shown through Jekyll’s head butler, Poole. As he is in charge of those lower than him, such as other butlers and maids, he encourages them not to ask too many questions, as that is what their job requires. However, Poole goes out to get Utterson for help, and does ask questions about what is going on with his master, and by doing so, he is being hypocritical.
To conclude, I think that Robert Louis Stevenson explores the conflict of duality in the human nature in ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by his clever use of themes and language to engage different meanings. We can gather that from the background conflict of science and religion, that Stevenson was using the warnings and deceitfulness of the two to show that neither is right or wrong. He explains “that man is not truly one, but two” and was able to put this into context by using the gothic horror genre so that people would understand and want to read. In the end, I think that the main theme of duality in the book is not just a theory, but a belief, and that the only thing that man has to fear, is man itself.