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Explore the Significance of the Character Edward Hyde and the Way he is perceived by Readers in Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde
In 1859, when the book was written class and religion was very important to the Victorians. People were given more respect if they were higher class. Hyde represents a very low class and doesn’t have a lot of admiration from other people. Hyde has a house in Soho and always uses the back door leading to Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory because Jekyll is ashamed of him and doesn’t want anyone to connect Hyde to himself because he does not want to damage his reputation. The front door symbolises that this is what he wants people to think of him, that’s why he does not use it with Hyde because he is seen as a monster.
Hyde would be seen by the Victorian audience as evil and devilish, he is described as ‘a gust of devilish fury’, and people would be scared of him because of his deformity and the way he looks. Dr. Jekyll is upper class and if anyone found out that he was associated with Mr Hyde, who was the lowest of the lower class then he would lose all his respect he had gained.
Jekyll creates Hyde because he wants to fulfil his needs to be wrong and do things that he couldn’t do as his normal self. He was fond of things that society didn’t approve of and was tired of hiding in his real personality. This suggests that the class system in Victorian was very wide; there were strict rules for upper class and hardly any rules for the lower class.
It was immoral for Jekyll to create Hyde for his own enjoyment and to satisfy his curiosity because people aren’t meant to change the way they are born and bought up. He shouldn’t hide the fact that he wants to be different and should either be one or the other, not both. He abuses his scientific knowledge to make this happen, the readers perceive Hyde as a scientific mistake or something that shouldn’t have happened.
The genre of the novel can vary between everyone because it has many genres. A lot of people view it as a mystery novel because the end is unknown until right at the end of the novel; some people see it as a gothic and dark book because a lot of wrong things that are associated with the dark world are happening throughout the novel. Another genre that could be linked with this novel is suspense because no one knows what is going to happen next because everyone has been shocked from the things that have happened already. The book is also very secretive and no ones knows much about what is happening at other places and times until at the end of the novel.
Stevenson uses a lot of techniques to make Hyde seem so evil and repugnant to the readers. A lot of these are use of language such as similes, metaphors and alliteration. An example of alliteration used to describe Hyde is ‘spawn of Satan’; this links Hyde to the devil and evil. Stevenson also uses symbolism and pathetic fallacies to make Hyde seem so evil to the readers. The use of fog is used often to symbolise mystery and also is mentioned just before something bad is going to happen, for example just before he runs into the little girl in the street the narrator mentions the foggy weather, the same thing happens just before he murdered Sir Danvers Carew.
Hyde shows us that evil can take over someone without them realising it. Hyde picks on weak people as victims and Jekyll has no control over Hyde at the end. He uses his strength in both attacks that we know about on innocent, vulnerable people that stood no chance in defending themselves for example when My Hyde attacked Sir savers Carew the maid described Carew as ‘innocent and old-world kindness disposition’ this tells us that Carew didn’t do anything wrong to deserve it.. At the start Jekyll had full control over Hyde and only wanted to fill a part of himself which wanted to be slightly mischievous, after a while Jekyll could not control what he was doing or when he changed to Hyde, this tells us that evil slowly takes over good and destroys lives. He says after that’ for two months I led a life of such severity as approving conscience’. This tells us that it had got worse towards the end and he started to realise that it had got worse.
Victorians would perceive Hyde as evil and not human, a lot of Victorians were very religious and would like to see the good side of him win over the evil side, a lot of them would be disgusted at the things that Hyde did, especially to the young innocent girl he trampled over in the middle of the night. Stevenson gets the audience going by making a huge contrast and difference between the good Dr. Jekyll and the evil Mr Hyde. He makes them chose only one side to be on and lets their imagination create pictures. In the end good prevailed over evil but Dr Jekyll had to kill himself so that Mr Hyde could never return and kill more people or harm others.
Victorians might perceive Hyde as an evolutionary throwback because Stevenson uses language that describes him as monkeys and ape like creatures. For example he says that Hyde hits someone with ‘ape-like fury’ and that Hyde resembles an ape. Victorian readers might have preferred to perceive as not fully human because they do not want to think that someone human could be that evil and sick-minded that Hyde is. Stevenson refers to Darwin’s theory because it wasn’t fully believed in the time the novel was written. The audience would have been shocked for Hyde to have been described that way.
As a modern reader I have different views on Hyde and perceive him in a different way to the Victorians. I still see Hyde as an evil person but he doesn’t have a very big impact on me because I am used to things like this, unlike the Victorians who had rarely seen or spoken about such things before.
I think all of us have evil inside of us but only if we keep it locked up inside of us and do not admit that we have any it starts to get the better of us and takes over, slowly after time it starts making choices that we do not really want to make and we react differently to normal and do things maybe we should not do.
Stevenson creates Hyde to show the audience that everyone has evil inside of them but not everyone uses it and keeps it shut away from the world and surroundings.