How successful is concealment in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Essay
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“…the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask.” How successful is concealment in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
Jekyll and Hyde is a novel which addresses the drug usage that went on behind closed doors in 1890’s Britain. Also much of the book id based on some of Stevenson’s own experience’s of drug use because from very early childhood Stevenson was on a strict regime of drugs to deal with various aliments.
Throughout the novel concealment is used to keep the reader interested in the novel, both physical and metaphorical concealment is used.
For example at the very start of the test Jekyll’s will is concealed from us so we are not exactly sure what the issues with Edward Hyde are. This keeps the interested and encourages them to read on to learn more of the texts sudden interest with Edward Hyde. Another example of physical concealment is Dr Lanyon’s letter to Mr Utterson the lawyer when Uttterson receives the letter the audience, for a moment are lead to believe that this is the end and they will finally find out what is going on.
Then the first envelope is open an again no joy but the audience continue to read on with the fresh hope that soon this envelope will be opened & all will be revealed. Examples of metaphorical concealment would be when Utterson urges Jekyll to come clean and explain why Hyde is in his will but he refuses to give an explanation there fore refusing the audience explanation of why he is so fond of Hyde. Also throughout the text Steven son conceals things from the reader by telling things from a different points of view, nothing is ever explained in one go from one perspective. This creates ambiguity as the things that Stevenson does reveal could mean many different things. This causes suspense in the readers.
There are many different reasons for things to be concealed in the text by both Stevenson and the characters; the characters conceal things from themselves and each other because they are scared of what would happen if they didn’t. In the 1890’s people were extremely God fearing people and anything scientific could be considered evil as this would be meddling with Gods work and not only would Jekyll and other characters be ashamed of themselves for having anything to do with and would not want others to find out they had any connections to this. Also there everyday lives were very routine based, so why disrupt this comfy, cosy routine when they could just cover it up? Why cause all this trouble over something they could just cover look and ignore. Stevenson chooses to conceal things from the reader to help the reader relate to the character and understand just how in the dark they really were about what was going on at the time.
Also it helps create tension, ambiguity and suspense in the text. With in the novel Stevenson conceals hidden themes showing what was happening at the time in Victorian Britain; such as the outrage towards Darwin’s theory of evolution, at the time people strongly believed in God and was against science. Darwin was purposing that we all came from animals; these ideas had major repercussions as it went against everything the church had worked so hard to preach. Stevenson put these things in to get a reaction as he knew in a strongly religious Victorian Britain the fact that Hyde shows some animal like instincts and cannot control this would not go down to well. Another concealed theme would be degeneration, as at that time society were concerned that human nature was becoming worse and evil was becoming more dominant in peoples characteristics, Stevenson uses this when he shows how Hyde is slowly but surely becoming Jekyll’s stronger persona.
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein share some of the same themes such as concealment, as when the Doctor creates his monster and rejects him , he becomes very secluded and ill as does DR Jekyll in Jekyll and Hyde. Also the books contain similar use of weather and animal imagery. This may be because they come from the same area. Stevenson shows great decadence in this novel as at the time Victorians were strongly opposing science and all of it attributes, Stevenson seemed to be trying to throw off the restraints of society at the time by referring to Hyde’s animal like ways well he was trampling the girl, thus high lighting Darwin’s theory that was frowned upon at the time. Also reflected in Stevenson’s Jekyll & Hyde was the fin-de-siecle, this is because the level of evil becomes slowly greater towards the end of the book until finally everything came to an end this connotes the concerns that everything was slowly getting worse as time went on.
In the next things are concealed from the reader by Stevenson, concealed from the characters by other characters by other characters and also characters will conceal things from themselves to make themselves feel better. The effect of the reader not knowing what is going on is that they constantly feel the need to keep reading to gain more knowledge about the illusive Mr Hyde. The effect of the reader finding out things at the same time as the characters helps the reader emphasize with the characters so they can see things more easily from there point of view so this helps the reader understand more clearly what is going on in the book.
The consequences of concealment are different for different characters. Utterson was protected from Hyde purely because of his lack of knowledge about him and how he is created. Lanyon, however is killed when all is revealed to him so perhaps it would have been far safer for certain characters to have things concealed from them rather than not. Concealment is what overall resulted in the death of Henry Jekyll, as he thought firstly that he could conceal his evil mannerisms in Edward Hyde and go about his evil under the name of Edward Jekyll but he fails and in the end (all though the other characters do not get to learn this we do) we see that all Hyde is to Jekyll is a disguise, not in fact an evil alter ego, but his own evil way encased in a different person.
Things begin to slowly be revealed through the novel, as documents are opened and characters crack under pressure and share there secrets with someone else. Some things remain concealed almost until the very end such as Jekyll & Hyde being one person. Jekyll was forced to reveal his drug use to unsuspecting Lanyon when he turned into Hyde in the night and could not reach his cabinet to get the drugs out. This was disastrous as the shock of seeing all this evil killed him in the end. At this point it was already too late to help save Jekyll from his ever looming fate. This was successful in the terms of engaging the reader with the story as it leaves you wondering who Jekyll might reveal his deep dark secret to next. People were also made to understand how small & desperate the drug addict can feel sometime, but Lanyon’s shock and unwillingness to help once he new the situation connotes how people would turn a drug user away today because they fear for there own safety; because of all this I believe Stevenson was very successful in highlighting these issues.
At the end of the novel the exact true circumstances of Jekyll’s death are concealed. This leaves the reader to draw there own conclusions from the information they are given by Stevenson. This helps add mystery to the plot and readers can draw there own conclusion, and think up an ending most fitting for them. The modern reader can relate to the text in so many ways, such as the pressure and longing to be bad, teens can relate this to there everyday life because they fell they need to miss behave to gain the respect of there friends. In the league of extraordinary gentlemen men the fact that Hyde is much larger than Jekyll helps show that evil has a bigger presence, and the pull of evil is much more appealing in today’s society. Also some teens can relate to the drug usage in the book as when Jekyll becomes Hyde he does everything he would love to as Jekyll, he can truly be himself.
Teens can identify with this because they take drugs to relax, to have fun; some feel they can only do this with drugs in there system. In society today concealment still plays a very big part, parents conceal evil such as drugs, drinking etc from there children by trying to keep them away from this. But instead children will adapt a Jekyll and Hyde like persona’s one for there parents were the none of these bad things exist and one for there friends were they can be as bad as they like with no repercussions. Stevenson was successful in bringing these issues to light as he helped highlight just how much of the true human nature is repressed and hidden away.