The duality of human nature in chapters 1, 4 & 9 of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In what ways does Stevenson present the duality of human nature in chapters 1, 4 & 9 of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and how does this duality reflect the concerns of the time?

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, published in 1886, regards many of the issues within Victorian culture and it presents the author’s own disgust towards the traditions and affairs concerning Victorian society and the people living in it at the time. Stevenson’s book incited the idea that everyone was capable of committing moral and immoral actions, it had nothing to do with your appearance, and his ‘one shilling shocker’ did what he said it would, it shocked and appalled the Victorian public.

Science was rapidly becoming a more frequently occurring part of people’s lives and it was posing a fast rising threat to religion and its practises, whilst at the same time theories such as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution were severely undermining and attacking the influence that the Christian church could have in people’s lives.

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was another science based book, and this is similar to Stevenson’s book in a way that a Dr [Frankenstein] is using his mind and science for the wrong reasons. People had begun to question the notion that God created the world, and this was exacerbated by Frankenstein’s experiments.

In a clearly divided London, there was conflict between the East and West end, much like there was conflict between the upper and lower classes. Over time, a momentously bitter split was formed between those who were born into wealth, and those unfortunate enough to be thrown into a struggling, lower class background.

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The upper class feared that the lower class would ‘pollute’ their ‘flawless’ society. Habits such as infraction and homosexuality were thought to be associated with the lower class and the upper class feared this.

A recurring theme of the time was that a criminal could be recognised simply by their appearance and reality was discounted totally. When the book was taken to the theatre, Richard Mansfield the actor who played Mr Hyde fit the common recognition of an evil man, and acted so convincingly that the audience actually believed he was Jack the ripper himself. However, Jack the ripper contradicted these beliefs and went against the general beliefs inspired by the theories of Lombroso and Francis Galton (a criminal was short and had a big head as they had devolved).

What is more, it was proven that Oscar Wilde, a lower class man who was six foot six, hence hugely different to the theories of Lombroso and Galton, was having a homosexual relationship with a member of the aristocracy. This furthered the idea of disease coming from the lower class and infecting the upper class. Plus, the book Dracula considers blood transfusions, and it is a parallel to the notion of separation in Victorian London. Blood passed into a normal person’s body from a vampire and infected them, much like the lower class were infecting the upper class.

Firstly, much alike other characters in the book, there is a clear and present duality between the characters (or character) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We are first introduced to Mr Hyde during the incident in which he tramples over a little girl in the street. He is described as a monster, not of this world:

“It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut.”

On any occasion that there is a portrayal of Hyde, we are made aware of his hellish actions and the actuality that someone either dislikes him, or more severely, wants to kill him:

“I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. So had the child’s family, which was only natural.”

In the nature that he is referred to as a Juggernaut, we are told he is an unstoppable force, and he is therefore likened to Jack the Ripper who, although he should supposedly fit Lombroso and Galton’s theories about criminal appearance, is impossible to catch.

During the opening of the book, Hyde is in no way likened to a man, hence insinuating that there is something wrong with Hyde, and he may be like no other man, in either appearance or reality. Stevenson strengthens this notion by stating:

“he gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running.”

Despite this, Dr Jekyll is first construed as a, “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty”. This gives the reader the impression that he is just an indifferent member of the upper class, hence suggesting that he is the exact opposite to Mr Hyde. Moreover, the fact that Jekyll is referred to as, “Dr” and Hyde is referred to as “Mr” suggests that Mr Hyde, a lower class person is polluting Dr Jekyll, an upper class person, fitting in with the common fear that the lower class would pollute and corrupt the idealistic upper class, therefore suggesting the duality of the East and West ends.

The duality between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the time of the book could epitomize the concerns of Victorian society and the theories of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin. The theory enunciated that all human beings began as apes, and that we have developed throughout time to suit the environment, or to adapt, fitting the idea of survival of the fittest. The harsh fact that Mr Hyde has not yet been likened to man suggests he is devolved, and Stevenson is able to convey this point by stating that he “clubbed him to the earth” (in relation to the murder of Sir Charles Danvers). From this statement we are able to infer that Mr Hyde is now being likened to a caveman brandishing a club, a supposed early stage in the theory of evolution. What is more, Hyde is depicted to have, “ape-like fury” which even more so directly parallels him to Darwin’s theory.

Sigmund Freud had proposed at the time was that a person has three ‘parts’; the id, the ego and the superego. The id was supposedly the unconscious mind, or inner desires, the ego being a conscious self, which was a front to interact with society, and finally the superego was the conscious feelings of disapproval that would be hidden away as the guilty conscious.

Mr Hyde could be characterized as the id, as the unconscious mind providing us with physical drives and desires, thus allowing Hyde to live with no moral restraints or standards. On the other hand, Dr Jekyll can be perceived to be the ego, the conscious self being developed by the mind. He is fully conscious of his own actions.

Mr Hyde or ‘Hide’ is the id. We can consider that Hyde (the id) may be hiding within ‘Hide’. Furthermore, Dr Jekyll begins with the French word ‘Je’, or it can translate to ‘I’. Therefore, Jekyll who is the ego, can be seen as ‘I’ or Stevenson could be the ‘I’ in Jekyll, and he could be using him [Jekyll] as a puppet to convey a didactic message.

Amid Stevenson’s ‘one shilling shocker’, there are numerous references to both science and religion. Scientific advances at the time intimate that Stevenson was trying to convey a didactic message by writing a highly controversial book. In chapter one, “it was hellish to see” is but one of the frequently occurring references to religion, along with describing Mr Hyde as, “really like Satan”. This indicates that Stevenson is trying to liken Mr Hyde to Satan, who at the time was thought to be the most evil creature in the universe, by some religious people. However, when describing the dark London night, the quote:

“all lighted up as if for a procession and all as empty as a church”

demonstrates conflicting ideas between science and religion. Stevenson is trying to bring one aspect of duality in Victorian society to a halt, by combining science, with relation to the street lamps, and religion with relation to the church. What is more the church is described as empty, ergo insinuating that science is constantly becoming more and more a part of Victorian society, gradually stripping religion of its influence.

Stevenson utilises two different settings in which he presents the two main characters, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and this explores the conflicting backgrounds and personalities of the two men. In the instance that Mr Utterson is taken to the residence of Hyde in Soho, he enters his room and Stevenson delineates the room as being, “furnished with luxury and good taste”. This is a huge duality, as it would seem strange that Mr Hyde, having been characterized as such an evil looking, ugly man could have such a clean and well furnished room. Yet another quote, “the closet filled with wine” would indicate that Mr Hyde is a rich, thriving man and thus should be of a high status within Victorian society. What is more, we are enlightened that Mr Hyde has a:

“picture hung on the walls, a gift from Henry Jekyll, who was much of a connoisseur”.

This portrayal of the wall hanging and of the entire flat seems to give us more of a concept with regards to the type of accommodation that Dr Jekyll would live in, because of his status as a high class man. However, it is apparent Mr Hyde is living in the flat, due to the, “dingy windowless structure” and, “distasteful sense of strangeness” that Stevenson goes on to describe. Duality of the flat is found in the sense that in one judgement, the flat is elaborately and intricately decorated, but in another, it is dingy and distasteful.

Dr Lanyon is a scientist, much like Dr Jekyll; however, although the two men share the same profession, they do not share the same ideas or moral values. Lanyon may be a scientist, yet he is still a very strong and motivated religious believer, and he tries to distance himself from Jekyll because of what seems to be his [Jekyll] lack of morals with regards to human life, “my colleague [Dr Jekyll] was insane”. Through Lanyon and Jekyll, Stevenson is able to convey the antithesis of science conflicting with religion, and how just as before, Lanyon and Jekyll should live together as friends and in peace, as potentially science and religion can.

Throughout the book, references are made as to the duality between reality and appearance. Mr Utterson, a key featuring character in the book is given a detailed description in chapter one. He is described as, “cold, scanty and embarrassed” and he is referred to as, “dreary” which suggests that he is an extremely dull and irksome man who will play no major role in the book, due to the fact that he is so terribly tedious. Despite this, he is later referred to as, “loveable” and it is said that, “something eminently human beaconed from his eye” thus suggesting that he is a man who likes to keep to himself, but underlying emotions and feelings may expose the real person within, hence connoting duality between his human side, and his dreary, uncaring side.

It is said in the Bible that, “the eyes are the window to the soul” consequently the fact that we are told something human is emerging from his eye suggests that he is not soulless and boring as suggested, there is an antithesis between his cold and harsh exterior, and his softer, more forgiving inside. Stevenson uses Utterson to convey a didactic message that Victorian society is too concerned with appearance, and too little attention is paid to reality.

Additionally, there is a certain duality between the character associated with Mr Utterson, and his personality in reality. In the book it is stated that he:

“enjoyed the theatre but had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years”.

Over time, he has been able to work upon and build his image as a true, upper class gentleman. This can be regarded much like a poet spends an age perfecting a sonnet, and as part of this image, he must obey the rule that the theatre is the place of the common people, and not for someone of the stature of himself. Utterson was a, “nut to crack” intimating that he was really just a man who wanted to enjoy life hiding behind a shell of lies, yet out of fear for his reputation and status, this spirit of free will must be locked away.

Throughout the short book, Stevenson has used more than one narrator to tell the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The book had effectively been written by society and it is highly reflective of Victorian life. Dr Lanyon narrates some of the book, along with Dr Jekyll narrating through his letter. This is extremely effective as it can tell the story in two parts, thus emphasising the split in Victorian society between the East and West end, and the lower and upper class.

In conclusion, throughout the book, Stevenson has epitomised his ideas on the issues haunting an unstable Victorian society, and most definitely, the sentiment of allocation within this society due to the importance and lust for money is one that Stevenson strongly disagrees with, thus allowing him to passionately convey his didactic message to eliminate this divide. Furthermore, Stevenson is sickened by the paradox in which those as evil and immoral as Mr Hyde can live a luxurious lifestyle and do what they want when they want, regardless of the horrific deeds and actions which he has perpetrated.

The dedication to Katharine De Mattos in a way conveys all of the didactic messages that Stevenson is attempting to display within the book:

“it’s ill to loose the bands that God decreed to bind”

suggests that what God has created should be cherished and ordered as he decides, and that science does not have the right to change what God has laid out.

Furthermore, and finally, “away from home” intimates that we are far away from heaven, and our sins will drive us away from God. The word “wind” connotes a force of change, and a well know phrase can be likened to thi part of Stevenson’s dedication:

“one day the wind will change and your face will stay like that”

Although used as a modern day and light-hearted threat from a mother or father to their child, this is relevant to the book as potentially Dr Lanyon could uptake the father figure, whilst Henry Jekyll can appear as the child.

Much as Dr Jekyll changed into Mr Hyde, we too can change from a faithful person with a well led life, to an arrogant and selfish person who had little if any moral values.

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The duality of human nature in chapters 1, 4 & 9 of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (2017, Oct 30). Retrieved from

The duality of human nature in chapters 1, 4 & 9 of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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