Robert Louis Stevenson’s Views on the Human Psyche Essay
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Robert Louis Stevenson wrote this novel in part to present his views on Human personality. Explain how he uses metaphors, setting, motifs and themes to present his views on the human psyche.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ to convey his thoughts and theory on the human mind and the divided self. Robert Louis Stevenson describes his views on the human psyche through setting, motifs and themes and metaphors. He uses setting a lot to convey good and evil and our inner self.
Robert Louis Stevenson uses setting to create atmosphere in ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is set in two contrasting houses in London. Jekyll’s house is a bright, grand and light house. Hyde’s small cabinet is down a dark, secluded and foreboding alleyway, but the two houses are joined with Hyde’s being hidden at the back and repressed. Jekyll’s house represents the exterior and predominant good side of him, while Hyde’s cabinet represents the less apparant hidden dark side of Jekyll.
In the first chapter Stevenson describes the bright and colourful shop fronts, in a dirty back street alley in London, but as you go on you enter the dark alleyway behind the shops full of run down buildings.
This is symbolic of people who put masks on to cover up their inner evil self. ‘…Shop fronts stood along the throughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswoman…'(Stevenson, 10) these are the masks over the dark and dingy street they are in. ‘…At that point a certain sinister block of building thrust forward it’s gable on the street…'(Stevenson, 10) As the reader sees more of the street he comes to Hyde’s door, the darker part of the street. This deception of setting creates a good atmosphere.
Stevenson also uses fog in the setting to represent things hidden and covered up. ‘…A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven…'(Stevenson, 31) the fog is lowering over heaven, symbolically lowering over the goodness and blocking it out, like the repressed dark side rising up and over taking the good. As Robert Louis Stevenson writes ‘…A haggard shaft of daylight would glance between the swirling wreaths…'(Stevenson, 31) a battered ray of goodness is glancing in between the swirling evil, representing the little bit of good in everyone however much they cover and hide it.
Stevenson also uses motifs and themes in the book to express his views. For instance he uses light and darkness for Jekyll and Hyde. Hyde mainly comes out at night and stays in the dark. All of Hyde’s crimes are committed at nighttime. This represents the evil side of Jekyll coming out in the dark and working under the mask of darkness similar to how in the day, Hyde turns back to Jekyll and the social side of him is alive in the light. Darkness has always represented evil, i.e.
Vampires, zombies and werewolves, all the old myths worked under darkness. Light has always represented goodness with Jesus being the light of the world and Heaven being light whereas Hell is dark, underground and for the evil people. Robert Louis Stevenson compares Hyde to Satan, the king of hell. Robert Louis Stevenson writes ‘…mournful reinvasion of darkness, like a district of some city in a nightmare…'(Stevenson, 32) this is how Stevenson describes Soho, like Hyde. Hyde is the nightmare inside Jekyll and Soho is turned into a dangerous place when Jekyll’s evil is set free at night.
The other central motif that Stevenson uses throughout the book is hidden objects, which clearly represent Hyde is the inner hidden self of Jekyll, which constantly battles against Jekyll to let him out not only under the cover of darkness. Jekyll has to constantly repress Hyde and keep him hidden, Hyde’s name sounds like ‘hide’, therefore representing him being hidden behind the door in the cabinet and behind the mask of Jekyll. The Cabinet hides things like Hyde when Jekyll got stuck in Hyde and wasn’t able to get to Jekyll he had to hide in the dark cabinet. The cabinet also hides the potions Jekyll has made, which, by extension, hide Hyde.
Utterson’s safe keeps Jekyll’s will in it and the will is hiding Hyde because Jekyll explains about him in it. ‘…The packet slept in the inmost corner of his private safe…'(Stevenson, 43) until Utterson opens the will Utterson is hiding Hyde from London as well as Jekyll. The door to the cabinet is hiding the exterior mask hiding the interior and evil Hyde. At the end Utterson and Poole break into the cabinet and they uncover Jekyll’s hidden secret of Hyde; they break into his interior self through the door. At the same time Utterson reads the will which was in the corner of his safe and discovers Hyde. By reading the will he has taken it out of it’s hiding place and uncovered Hyde. This metaphor is about Jekyll’s friend uncovering Hyde and letting his friend’s secret out.
Stevenson uses the metaphors of darkness, hiding things and the division of man by good and evil throughout the book. In darkness, Jekyll’s evil and dark side comes out and is let loose in the streets. Hyde kills Carew and tramples the girl under the cover of darkness because it keeps him from being found. Robert Louis Stevenson describes Hyde attacking Carew, ‘…He broke out in a great flame of anger and carrying on like a mad man…'(Stevenson, 30)
This metaphor is saying that the flame in Hyde broke out like a madman, because it was at night and Hyde’s anger and evilness was at the surface waiting for a excuse to burst out. Jekyll tries to hide and repress Hyde all the way through the book because he doesn’t want his evil to come out and take over. Stevenson also believes that inside every evil man there is a bit of good, which gets repressed by the evil. Robert Louis Stevenson uses the street to represent this ‘…The street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in a forest…'(Stevenson, 10) The good of the shining street is the bit of good in the dark, evil town.
By the end of the book Hyde takes over Jekyll. Jekyll realizes in his statement at the end that it is too late and Hyde takes his good part over. ‘…The powers of Hyde seemed to grow with the sickliness of Jekyll…'(Stevenson, 86) Hyde is growing inside Jekyll and Jekyll becomes his worse self. Stevenson chose Jekyll and Hyde’s names carefully as they to represent evil and hiding. ‘Je’ means ‘I’ in French and kyll sounds like ‘kill’, so it suits Jekyll because he kills people as Hyde and eventually kills himself.
Stevenson shows his views of the divided self and inner evil through Hyde being inside Jekyll and always being hidden inside him and in darkness. As we hide our bad inner personality. Stevenson also shows that if we let our evil side out too much, we either get addicted to it, or it powers over us and takes over our good side, which is what happened to Jekyll as Hyde from his escaped hiding place and took over Jekyll.