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Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'” Essay

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Stevenson’s “Jekyll and Hyde” is an examination and comment on mankind’s dual-nature and society’s need to allow the existence of one type of behaviour. Jekyll is a product of this society and Hyde is his alter ego. Stevenson creates evil within Victorian London and explores its effect and the public reaction to it. He allows it to grow leading to tragic consequences. Evil is represented in many ways, much of which is centred on Hyde himself and society’s rejection to him.

Victorian London was a dark, foggy, mysterious place, there were a lot of back alleys and secret hideouts in that town, where absolutely anything could happen, “London was startled by a crime of singular ferocity”, “…a fog rolled over the city,” (both p31) This was the perfect setting for a book like “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” because there wasn’t a setting to create, it was already there for Stevenson to use. The book is a mysterious gothic-horror, involving murders. With London the scene is already set for a book like this, with all the dark, dingy, old and smelly back-alleys, anything could happen, “…some city in a nightmare.” (p34)

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Jekyll and Hyde was in many ways, similar to the events around Jack the Ripper, it was also written at about the same time as those events happened, so it was constantly compared to it, even though the two were totally different and not related in anyway, and neither influenced the other. The reason for their comparisons is the fact that they both involved murders, both also involved people having two sides to their personalities, Hyde is the evil person, while Jekyll is the respectable public face. Jack the Ripper was a murderer, and his public face was a respectable doctor (or who they thought was a respectable doctor)`, who no one would have ever expected to be murdering people.

That is directly related to the Science vs. Religion argument about people, which is also directly linked to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection, which at the time the book, Origin of Species book was published was considered as a terrible thought. Charles Darwin went far over seas in the late 1800s because he was an ecologist, someone who studies environments, ecosystems and animals. When he went over seas, he found his way eventually to the Galapagos Islands.

The islands are off of the west cost of South America, and are around the equatorial area. He noticed that some species of animals had “changed”, evolved in different ways, depending on the environments, the island the species on animals were living on, so that that animal could, be more efficient at being able to live. This is a theory that different species of animals evolve in different ways according to their environments, this is known as The Theory of Evolution Through Natural Selection.

This was, of cause, a very big thing to say, as these challenged Christian beliefs, which state that God created all beings. Darwin’s theory was totally different to this because he said that animals change to create new animals to suit their environments.

Stevenson believed that people can have many different “personalities” within themselves and that they can be separated. There was a civilised, public face, and a primitive, instinctual, and quite possibly evil side to each person. He showed this by writing the book Jekyll & Hyde, which shows how someone managed to separate themselves into two people, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

The Victorian times were the age of Hypocrisy, where people were expected to do/act in a certain way whether or not they agreed with those standards or not. People, especially men, as in those day men were considered more important, were expected to be polite, wear suits, act in certain ways. This is why Jekyll & Hyde is much more than a gothic story, it is a criticism of Victorian ways. Jekyll is a man driven by Victorian values, to be a perfect social figure, Jekyll, gets his pleasure through Hyde, a person who doesn’t care what people think, he doesn’t care about Victorian values, he has no care for them, he just wants to do whatever he likes.

Stevenson based Jekyll and Hyde on a dream he had, his wife woke him up from it. After the dream he complained that he didn’t get to see the full dream. He kept on having this dream/nightmare, so he decided to turn it into a book. He wrote a first draft, and read it to his wife, she didn’t agree with it, so he burnt the copy and re-wrote the entire story again in three days.

His book was obviously also influenced by society and the fact that people are expected to act in a certain way whether they want to or not.

He was brought up in Edinburgh and Stevenson loved the old, dark side of the town with the back alleys and the mysterious areas, this was the setting for the back alley in which Hyde’s door is situated. The idea of duplicity, living a double, both being separate, one being secret, just like Jekyll and Hyde.

Stevenson had a “proper” upbringing, as a child he was very sickly and had a lot of nightmares, Jekyll and Hyde probably originated in his mind that early in his life.

Stevenson was also highly influenced by other works, other horror stories such as ones written by Deacon Brodie, Mary Shelly, (Frankenstein), and other gothic horror writers. He used some of the ideas in other people’s ideas, as well as incorporating his own to create the book Jekyll & Hyde. All of these books show how people can change, how than can be different, how they can be split into different people.

Jekyll decided to conduct experiments upon himself to try and see if her could “split” himself up. He initially wanted to split himself into a good side and a bad side, and by doing this he hoped that he would be able to ignore the evil side, so it wouldn’t affect him, leaving him as a “good” person ridding himself of the bad side. He decided he was going to do this when he began to think that Victorian rules were wrong, he didn’t agree with the value that “one must” do this, or “one shall not” do that. He thought that was wrong. So when he spilt himself up into Jekyll and Hyde he thought he could rid himself of Hyde, but he couldn’t, he realised, as Hyde he could do what he liked, and no one would care because he is still respectable Jekyll at the same time. He had no care for rules.

Hyde is a brutal person, and brutal is used when you do something and you don’t care about what might happen to you after. He has no care for society’s rules. Brutal is associated with “ape-ish” behaviour, meaning that he is a lowing being. He does the brutality out of instincts, because animals like apes act totally on instincts whether they are right or wrong. Because Hyde has such an instinctive nature, he is able to get his “pleasures” much easier, it is easier for him to do these things, and he doesn’t care what happens.

Jekyll thinks he can become Hyde just when he wants his pleasures, when he wants to do what he likes. But Hyde starts to take over as a character, he starts to become the dominant person, he gets stronger. Then the transformations between Jekyll and Hyde become involuntary, uncontrolled, and unpredicted, almost as if the two personalities were fighting each other.

At first Jekyll doesn’t mind changing into Hyde but after a while he gets scared, because he is scared about what eh might do as Hyde, he like being him, being able to do anything he likes, but he starts to get about what he might actually do as Hyde. He is only driven to this because he can’t stand Victorian society so he splits himself so he can be great in one. The thing we have to remember is that Hyde is Jekyll, Hyde is the evil essence in Jekyll, which means that Jekyll has that brutality within him, which show that everyone does, we all have these features, but ours are not spilt into different personalities. Jekyll kept Hyde being himself secret because people would want to interfere or than would be utterly scared by what they have seen, it would frighten them literally to death. (Utterson & Lanyon)

In Victorian London Christians would think that unleashing one’s evil side is a terrible thing. It would be like unleashing a Devil within everyone. The people who are doing it would be condemned, it would be considered so terrible the consequences of doing and what the Christians thought of you would be horrific.

Hyde is evil. People what to physically hurt him when they see him because he has got such a horrible face. He is brutal, he doesn’t care about what he doing, he doesn’t care about what people think about him, he has no care for a civilised society; which shows he has a very primitive mind. He has no conscience, he just doesn’t care about anything, and he doesn’t feel any regret for anything he has done, and he doesn’t feel any remorse for any of the murders he has committed. He also relies totally on his instincts, he always follows his instincts like an animal. He has no moral values. He is only concerned with pleasure he gets out of being anti-social.

Hyde represents evil in us all, he represents our animal ape-like instincts and origins, he is the beast in man. Hyde is used to show the reader the evil within us all, he is the essence of evil within us all.

Evil is used through Hyde to show appearance and actions of an evil person. In the book, Hyde commits one, possibly two murders. The definite murder was Sir Danvers Carew who Hyde batters to death with a walking stick. The other is a little girl who Hyde trampled over, of which he felt nothing.

When he trampled over the girl, he was like an animal. Hyde “trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground…it was hellish to see.” (p14) “trampled calmly” is an oxymoron, which is something that contradicts itself. You don’t imagine trampled and calmly together, you think trampled angrily, ferociously or horribly. He is like an animal “a damned juggernaut” (p14) like a beast, a monster, just stamping on things, crushing everything as he goes. When he was killing Carew, he was described has having “insensitive cruelty” (p32), he feels no remorse for what he has done to Danvers Carew.

When people see him they want to kill him, his face brings a “sweat out… like running”, (p14) he has a grotesque appearance, “downright detestable”, “I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why.”(p17) He is so ugly, an evil ugly, people can’t work out why they hate his appearance, they think he has some sort of deformity, which they can’t quite spot, they don’t know why they hate his appearance, and they don’t know why they want to kill him.

Hyde is a short, detestable looking anti-social, brutal, instinctual being, who has no respect for rules. Jekyll is a tall man, very polite, quite a social man, who is very friendly. Hyde slumps along as he walks, he doesn’t care about how, or where he walks, he sees himself as a free person, to do what he likes. Jekyll understands the values of Victorian Society.

Jekyll is a tall man, friendly, aged. He is the total opposite of Hyde. They are opposites, in every way, apart from mental strength.

Everyone in this book as something to hide. People don’t want their own Hyde’s becoming real;

Enfield is a very good friend of Utterson, they are also opposite people. Enfield goes out late at night, something a lot of people don’t agree with, we never find out what he is doing, but we know he is doing something. He is the man about town.

Lanyon is a very good scientist (as is Jekyll) with very good, radical ideas about science. He is afraid about what he might become if he became to good of a scientist. He is afraid of the fame, and of the importance of being such a scientist. He is afraid of what he might discover.

Utterson is afraid of what might happen to him if he was to get enjoyment out of things, that’s why many people think he is such a boring person, because he doesn’t allow himself to experience enjoyment because he is scared of what might happen to him. E.g. He doesn’t drink, because he is worried about becoming an alcoholic.

Society drives these people to “Hyde” themselves because they are worried about what might happen to themselves, and how other people reactions.

The door is a symbol of evil. It is a symbol of everything that is old and bad in the world. The fact that a door so old rotten and horrible can even be found in Victorian London means that people (like Hyde) of the same nature can be found aswell.

The door is very hostile, and people are obviously not supposed to got through it because it has “neither bell nor knocker” (p13) showing that whoever lives there doesn’t want to meet people, and more importantly, doesn’t want people to meet him. The door is recognised as a bad place, it is the crowding place of tramps were they sleep in the door. The door is “blistered and distained” (p13) showing that it is not looked after and that is it old. It is not cared about, it is literally just a way of getting into the house inside. Some people even try to pick at the moulds on the door, to see if they could get them off, no one cares about the people doing this. “No one had appeared to drive these random visitors away” (p13) no one cares about the door the people around its location.

It is used as a doorway to the hell that his Hyde’s house. It is like a gateway, and as doors are always like the place the door leads to, it shows what he is really like, what the house is really like. It is a symbolic gateway, the exact opposite of the front door, the face of everything that goes on. What people really see.

The fog in Jekyll and Hyde is used as a mask to hide away things that people don’t want to see/know about in the town. The fog is always present when an event is about to happen in the story, and is always used to show that something evil is happening, or about to happen, it is there around all of the events in the book. When Utterson went up to Jekyll’s house the air was described as “full of dust” (p51), even in the house, there was fog in the rooms, “the fog began to lie thickly” (p37) showing the evil that is present in the house. Which is the other way the fog is used, it is used to show the evil, that is actually is hiding.

Another way in which Stevenson builds up tension is the use of pathetic phallacy, the weather reflects, or influences the mood, the weather is always described in a way of describing the mood. So, when evil is about it will be raining, when everything is happy, it will be sunny.

In this novel Stevenson makes extensive use of adjectives to describe the main characters. Here are a few with an explanation by them;

Enfield is a talkative man, loves enjoying himself, he does things that people don’t know about, and what people would think badly of if they knew about them “I was coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o’clock” (p14) this shows that he does things he is not supposed to. Enfield is a very good friend of Utterson, a distant relation in fact, and the get along very well. Enfield is the man about town, and he enjoys life. This is another form of duplicity, that Enfield lives a double life, but we don’t know what it is.

Utterson is a man who refuses himself such pleases, as he is afraid about what might happen to himself. He is a boring dull lawyer or is quite ugly. He is however the centrepiece of this book as everything that happens relates to him in someway.

Hyde is a small man, who is ugly to look upon “He was small and very plainly dressed,” (p14) “He gave the impression of deformality without any nameable malformation.” (p15) He looks unusual but you can’t actually recognise what is wrong with him. Hyde is a small man, he doesn’t care about anything and he doesn’t care about who he upsets or what he does. He just wants to do what he likes. He is an evil person who wants control. He is the hidden part of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll is an elderly man, who is also a scientist, but a better one the Lanyon. Jekyll is a respectable man who everyone likes, although he has a disagreement with Lanyon about some scientific facts, he is liked by everyone and is very happy, sometimes he looks tired.

Streets of Soho are described as dark and dingy during the night, but quite open during the day. They are cobbled streets, and they are all ordered and in a geometric pattern, so everything is straight. The alley to the door is crooked and is always dark, and has a foal smell, it isn’t the place for people to be hanging around. “…fogged city moon.” (p13) “…full of wind and dust.” (p40)

The laboratory has lots of bottles and equipment lying around, it is a very old, disused, derelict place, very much left, and a few things are broken as if they are done in fits of temper, “…lumber of crates and bottles.” (p41)

A doctor and a lawyer are well educated well respected people in Victorian society, they would have been brought up to speak correctly and they would be expected to as they are in a position of authority within the hierarchy of the town. They would have been told to speak in a specific way, a told how to act. “Did you ever remark that door? …Indeed.” (p5)

I think that the old style, archaic language isn’t used deliberately and is a product of the era in which the book was written. It is the formal style of Victorian England, it is the way things were done in those days, “…a man of rugged countenance,” (p3). It is the style in which we wrote that happens to compliment the mysterious and confusing nature of the book.

During the book Hyde’s speech gets more erratic and more informal as the book goes on, becoming more and more uncivilized. He becomes more and more evil during the book, less and less in control of himself. “Tell him I can’t see anyone.” (p42) that isn’t polite or formal at all.

First person narrative is a very powerful force in the book, as it gives you a much better insight into what is going on, and it makes us feel as if we are better in touch with the book, as if we are there.

Third person is very clever as you are told the story from someone who has already been told it, and you are only given selective pieces of information for good reason, so the story unfold in a order as to make the story much more powerful.

I think letters are great because you are reading them as if the characters are reading them, and you read the story at the same times the characters read the letters.

In conclusion Stevenson uses a range of techniques and style to convey the development of the story and make the reader feel more in touch with the events in the story. He does this to great effect making you feel as if you are there, a invisible person in the story.

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