In this essay I will explore how good and evil is presented in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson. At the age 35, Stevenson produced his masterpiece. It is very rare for a novel so old to be still commonly read now. This shows just how well written this novel is.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a story about an enthusiastic scientist fascinated with life and death. Curious about human life, Jekyll is determined to change his physical appearance/personality.
After successfully engineering his own physical appearance, people are shocked, appalled and astonished at the outcome of it.
Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850 in Edinburgh. He was from a prosperous family, containing members of the legal professions and ministers of the church. His nanny and a nurse called Alison Cunningham taught Stevenson about good and evil. Good and evil and her taught influenced him to write Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Jekyll is a scientist/doctor who covered up the secret of life full of cruel accomplishment.
He feels that he is battling with himself between what is good and what is evil. In chapter 9 after drinking the potion the respectable Jekyll transform himself to younger, cruller and barbarous Mr. Hyde. Dr.Jekyll has many friends and friendly personality but Mr. Hyde has not. He becomes mysterious, secretive and violent. Mr. Hyde grows in power as the time goes by, he takes the potion again and he is no longer confident letting go of his evil side.
Religion and science were two dominant forces during Stevenson’s time. The rapid development of science caused controversy throughout the churches man was questioning religion and it is trustworthiness. I believe that Stevenson was trying to demonstrate this in the novel. An eager, apprehensive doctor was delving in to the realm of unknown.
Transforming a life is no simple everyday experiment meddling with the power of God can have serious consequences. In Jekyll’s the consequences were fatal. Jekyll’s love of doing experiments and being evil caused the death of innocent people and his eventual demise. Perhaps Stevenson was trying to prove that being evil must have its limitation. Even knowledge has its boundaries. I came to believe that Stevenson was trying to pass the message to people that there is light and dark in all mankind and he wrote Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to portray his emotions that he thought about good and evil.
In this way Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde story is the same, as Macbeth who wants to be a czar and famous forever or also them both wants to be as powerful as god is. But they both are failure, not successful, they cannot be gods.
Now I am going to examine how the specific techniques that are used to explore the idea of good and evil.
In the Victorian times London was city of poverty, disease and desperation. At the same time London was a city of crime, where theft or violent assault happened either in early hours of the morning or late at night.
In the novel of Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Places are used as a metaphor to show apprehension, uncertainty and enthusiasm.
In the Novel of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the Buildings is described as ‘Sinister block’ to give us an image of Jekyll’s building describing it as vile, nasty and a terrible place to be and live in.
When Stevenson was writing Jekyll and Hyde, lots of crime was happening in London. ‘London was startled by a crime of singular ferocity’ this quotation suggests that a vicious criminal activities were happening in London, one eminent murderer at the time was jack the ripper, a serial murderer who murdered prostitutes during the night time.
The area where Mr. Hyde lived were dingy and crowded at night it was the kind of place where you would meet beggars, hobos and criminals ‘The dismal quarter of Soho’ indicates that he did lived in a Dodgy area which was not very nice, and Stevenson mention this to display how dangerous it could be for some ordinary people . Moreover I think one of the reasons why Robert Louis Stevenson describes the places such as this in detailed is because at the time there was no TV or cinema and people would have to see the places from Stevenson’s description.
London is described as one of the most atrocious city `like a district of some city in a nightmare` Stevenson is comparing London city to a nightmare and giving his audience an image of old, offended and an extremely obnoxious place to imagine with.
In the novel of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weather is used to create a chaotic and evil atmosphere to emphasis something very surprising is going to happen ‘Fog rolled over the city, night was cloudless… but the wind was continually changing… it was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March’ this quotation suggest that heavy mist was in London, night was bright but the wind was constantly wavering. And also in this quotation Stevenson is using ferociousness of the weather to show sign of Danger and create an evil atmosphere to grab the reader’s attention and change its readers mind. Further more it tell us that something hideous is awaiting and going to happen and that can be sign of ‘Jack the ripper’ Murdering a prostitute.
In Dr.Jekyll and Mr Hyde Satan is recognized as a symbol of ultimate evil. Mankind’s reaction to temptation has been revealed to us in the Adam and Eve story. In the novel Stevenson was trying to compare Satan to Mr. Hyde by saying that he has ‘Satan signature’ which means that he has similar attitude, style and has all the ingredients in a way for him to be a Satan, Stevenson is trying to explore how bad some individuals can be.
Stevenson explores how Dr.Jekyll is going to transform himself in to Hyde. He also tell us what Jekyll is to say about himself before being transformed” He thanked me with smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added on of the powder” He says that he always wanted to do what he loved mostly doing experiment which shows he is happy with himself and doesn’t care about what other people think about him when they sees him. I think this is a magnificent example from Stevenson exploring that no one is born evil; however they are transformed in to a brutal person.
The Victorians believed that animals were a lower form of life and man was superior to animals. In the novel Mr. Hyde is compared to a beast and in Victorians view he is lower than man and they thinks that he should be excluded from their society. “Great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane and carrying on-as the maid described it — like a madman” this quotation suggest that he is trampling his victims under foot and Stevenson displays him like a beast, unwanted, and portray him like a dog. Furthermore this quotation suggests that beast cannot be a form of their society because Victorians were strong fundamentally religious.
When Stevenson was nine years old Charles Darwin published ‘The origin of species’ introducing theory of evolution. Many people saw this as an attack on religion because it is impossible to believe that God created the universe in seven days. A lot of people in the Victorian era came to believe that they had to chose between the two, but some people thought that science had become dangerous and was interfering in the matter which only God had control over.
Stevenson describes character of Mr. Hyde immoral, because he trampled on a girl and clubbed an old man to death is significant because they are the most vulnerable people in society and so it is especially atrocious.
The effect of Mr. Hyde in the other characters is disgraceful, outrageous and unbelievably terrifying.
One day when Utterson and Enfield was walking they past Jekyll’s window, as they have not seen him in for a long time and his facial expression terrify them. His expression change to ”abject terror and despair” Enfield and Utterson both describes him as dreadful, hopelessness and monstrous human being that other human are scared of him.
Dr Lanyon become seriously ill and dies as result of seeing Jekyll transform into Hyde in front of his eyes. In here the readers view change about science and also they might start to acknowledge the fatal consequences of science and its effectiveness to mankind. And Mr. Hyde actions reveal that how bad some individual can be? His life is ”shaken to its roots” this quotations suggest that he (Utterson) is horrendously scared to death. Other character like Dr. Lanyon and Utterson is described as good Because I strongly believe that Stevenson is trying to pass the message to people that we can be good or evil, it is our choice, but he is also trying to pass the message to people that in reality being good known its foundation, but being evil not, so Stevenson in sensibility is trying to say being evil should known its disadvantages.
Mr Hyde is described as ”Solid reliable yet full of contradictions” which means he says something but does something else completely strange and unusual and embarrassing. He is not completely evil neither he is good. In my opinion Stevenson is trying to portray many of his personal views in this novel. His thoughts on how society can turn an innocent person into a cruel vicious person are imperative in the novel Jekyll and Hyde. I believe that due to mass rejection and overall prejudice shown. Stevenson is trying is to prove that no one is born evil; how ever they are turned in to a creature of appalling nature by their respective surroundings.
In conclusion I think that Stevenson was really successful in using specific technique to explore the ideas of evil.
Characters like Utterson were described as `large, well made, smooth faced man` in the novel. He is a good lawyer and well respected in the community, I think Stevenson uses him to represent the rational lives of Victorians and may also express that weren’t all people in Victorians era bad like Mr. Hyde but there were mostly well respected, like Mr.Utterson a truly amiable man indeed .
When Utterson think about Mr. Hyde he says “If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek.” Which I think is very clever and funny, clever because ones he catch Mr. Hyde he might call the police to take him away. Funny `cause they are like want to play a game.
Describing Mr. Hyde as ugly, deformed, small, dissipate and hairy in the novel, I think Stevenson was trying to reveal dark side of a person to its Victorian audience, saying everything is unpleasant about Hyde. when Mr. Hyde murders sir Danvers crew an important member of parliament at the time, after that he roughly wanted to change himself, avoid using anymore violence, stops killing other innocent people but can’t because the power of science seem too strong for him and he realizes that he is battling between himself in trying to freeze his evil side behind but it seem impossible to transform back to his friendly and entrusted character which was the dignified Mr. Jekyll and I think this is one of the most remarkable techniques but adequately true at the same time used by Stevenson to answer the Victorians question about Charles Darwin’s ideas that human’s had a dual nature and ones they get in to their evil habit they can’t change it and it look like Dr.Jekyll would be Mr. Hyde permanently. Stevenson is using Charles Darwin idea to express his own idea about science. He is saying that scientists (Jekyll) who play with the nature have to understand what they do that affect people’s life’s, they had to be responsible and make sure they are not harmed.
Robert Louis Stevenson used Mr. Hyde in this novel to personify many of his feeling and thoughts. The downfall of the Dr.Jekyll from an intelligent and caring being to a homicidal beast shows just how society can play a part turning someone in to a real individual.
I thought that Stevenson has successfully achieved his aims in clarifying the commingled of human being. Overall I thought, evil is explored using many different devices. Stevenson creates an evil atmosphere using the weather to set the scene. He uses animal imagery- like descriptions for Hyde to show that nothing that evil can be human. However, evil is not always so distant from good as Dr. Jekyll was a combination of both.