Using the novel ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde be R.L Stevenson as your basis, discuss the nature of good and evil and the quality of a persons nature.
The novel ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ was published in 1886 by R.L Stevenson, set around the Gothic era, yet this dark psychological fantasy is more than a moral tale. It is also a product of time, drawing on contempary theories of class, evolution and criminality, and the secret lives behind Victorian propriety, to create a unique form of urban Gothic.
This novel was written around the time when people were becoming aware of Jack the Ripper; who like Hyde killed prostitutes. It was also written at the time when Darwin’s theory of evolution was introduced. Robert Louis Stevenson tries to show the reader that people do have a good and evil side even though they may not show it publicly. Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes because of what they do, this also brings in the idea of drugs because prostitutes use contraceptives to control pregnancies.
Stevenson portrays Henry Jekyll as the good side, but Dr Jekyll wants to be able to go out at night, do what he wants and not be noticed. The reason he can’t already do this is because he is a well respected doctor. Dr Jekyll being a doctor is able to play around with many different chemicals and create a drug to turn him into another personality. Dr Jekyll finds the right drug and becomes a small man who acts in an apish manner, this links in with Darwin’s theory of evolution about humans evolving from apes.
Mr Hyde when he first appears is smaller than Dr Jekyll because he is representing Jekyll’s evil side which eventually grows stronger and takes over the good side of Henry.
The novel is a similar storyline to those of Dracula and Frankenstein because like ‘The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ they also give the idea of dual personalities.
The main characters in the story apart from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are; Mr Utterson, ‘…the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse backward in sentiment: lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable…’ this is the description that the novel gives us. Utterson is Henry Jekyll’s lawyer, he wasn’t very happy with the fact that Jekyll left all his belongings to the black-hearted Mr Hyde in his will. He thought that Mr Hyde was bribing him.
The other main character is Dr Lanyon who is also a reputable doctor and was great friends with Dr Jekyll until Jekyll started to disarrange his body and looks. He was a hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman, with a shock of hair prematurely white, and a boisterous and decided manner.
Stevenson’s use of language is very descriptive and atmospheric. He uses lengthy sentences to deliver an eerie atmosphere ‘The wind, which only broke in puffs and draughts into that deep well of building, tossed the light of the candle to and fro about their steps, until they came into the shelter of the theatre, where they sat down silently to wait’ this is one whole sentence which gives the reader an effect of a cold and windy night.
Robert Louis Stevenson also uses symbolic language by saying there was a full moon on the night of Sir Danvers Carew’s murder, in the gothic period people were very superstitious and believed that a full moon symbolised evil ‘Although a fog…was brilliantly lit by the full moon…’ this quote was taken from the chapter ‘The Carew Murder Case’.
The novel is also shown to the reader by other narrators; Dr Jekyll’s full statement of the case and Dr Lanyon’s Narrative, both showing different sides of the story, however none of these narratives give an eye-witness account of Mr Hyde’s wrongful actions.
My conclusion to this case is that every person does have a good and evil side and many people choose to only show one of these sides unlike Dr Jekyll. He shows his dual personality in this novel but it gets beyond his control and he cannot then choose whether he wants to show his evil or good side. In today’s society scientists and doctors mess around with human nature no knowing the long term effects of these medications and maybe the effects of these drugs are deformities and may also be fatal, but should we try and change what we’ve been given?