Evil in the “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert L. Stevenson Essay
Evil in the “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert L. Stevenson
In the novel Robert L. Stevenson defined the nature of evil through the person of Mr. Hyde. He used his character to symbolize evil at its purest and truest form (“…Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil” chap 10 p 2; “…one was wholly evil…” chap 10 p 3). In the first chapter (Story of the Door), Stevenson started to objectify the idea of evil as one characterized with intentions and acts that are always meant to hurt and destroy. He even gave it an unpleasant physical form which mirrors the ugliness of its nature. Mr. Enfield, the cousin of Mr.
Utterson, remarked on this characteristic and quality of evil when he witnessed the cruel behavior of Mr. Hyde as he coldly trampled on a girl’s body he happened to ran over on one of the street corners of London (“…for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground” p 14). Evil was also presented by Stevenson as monstrous and terrifying through the words and description of Mr. Enfield (“It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut”; “He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running” p 14).
Although Stevenson gave explicit reference to the hideousness of evil in the novel calling it ugly, hellish and other such names, he still touches on the ambiguity of evil which marks it eerily frightening-something that is felt through the senses but is somehow lacking with definiteness and steely finality (“He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why.
He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary- looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can’t describe him. And it’s not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment” p 17–Mr. Enfield gave this observation to Mr. Utterson after being asked by the latter to describe Mr. Hyde). This vagueness surrounding the nature of evil is echoed by Mr. Utterson after having had the opportunity to see Mr.
Hyde in person (“`There must be something else”; “`There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr Fell? or is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through” p 26). Mr. Hyde is identified as a symbol of evil through dastardly acts implemented without clear intentions (ex. revenge) and the slightest evidence of remorse and guilt. He carried out his evil ways with gleeful abandon and thoughtlessness. When Hyde murdered Sir Danvers Carew, Dr.
Jekyll wrote in a torrent of confession towards the end of the novel that Hyde killed in a state of frenzy like a man whose reason has long been lost (“With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of tenor” p 88). The evil nature of man as conceived by Stevenson is one that is predisposed to the ‘undignified’ (“The pleasures which I made haste to seek in my disguise were, as I have said, undignified” p 82) lures and pleasures of the world.
Mr. Hyde, in execution of the secret desires of Dr. Jekyll, carried the doctor’s hidden dark, carnal pleasures to malevolent, sinister level Dr. Jekyll could no longer control (“This familiar that I called out of my own soul, and sent forth alone to do his good pleasure, was a being inherently malign and villainous; his every act and thought centred on self; drinking pleasure with bestial avidity from any degree of torture to another; relentless like a man of stone” p 82).
The evil that resides in Mr. Hyde is responded to in the novel with terror, aversion and hatred. Mr. Stevenson wants to convey the message that in its purest form man’s evil nature is despicable and thus should be treated with due derision and horror. Throughout the novel as the characters-Mr. Enfield, Mr. Utterson, Mr. Lanyon, and Poole- come face to face with the evil incarnate that is Mr.
Hyde, they felt nothing for him and what he represented except repulsion and disgust (“This person (who had thus, from the first moment of his entrance, struck in me what I can only describe as a disgustful curiosity”; “At the time, I set it down to some idiosyncratic, personal distaste, … but I have since had reason to believe the cause to lie much deeper in the nature of man, and to turn on some nobler hinge than the principle of hatred” p 69; “…there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature that now faced me – something seizing, surprising and revolting” chap 72- these were the personal reactions of Dr.
Lanyon upon beholding Mr. Hyde in person; “Did I ever tell you that I once saw him, and shared your feeling of repulsion? ” p 46-this was a query posed by Mr. Utterson to Mr. Enfield). Through the outgrowth of Mr. Hyde in the novel from the body and person of Dr. Jekyll, Stevenson seemed to be making the bold statement that evil lurks and lays hidden in each man.
Stevenson proposed further that it is the character of evil to prey on the weaker, baser side of man, waiting and eager to pounce as soon as man entertains the idea of succumbing to the call and temptation of his darker nature just as Dr. Jekyll gave in to the lures and lurid passion of Mr. Hyde (“…my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion” p 77). In his confession, Dr. Jekyll admitted that every time his good side weakens, Mr.
Hyde comes out roaring, becoming increasingly stronger (“The power: of Hyde seemed to have grown with the sickliness of Jekyll”; “…and at every hour of weakness, and in the confidences of slumber, prevailed against him, and deposed him out of life” p 79;” I began to be tortured with throes and longings, as of Hyde struggling after freedom; and at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught p 94).
Crystallized evil is characterized by Stevenson in the person of Mr. Hyde as one that does not heed the voice of reason and one that is more diabolical than the original evil contained in Dr. Jekyll (“I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil;” p 78).
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 22 August 2016
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