The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll Essay
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Just as ‘The Italian’ includes “a stone chamber, secured by doors of iron”, “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” too contains a peculiar locked “cabinet” in which Poole, Dr Jekyll’s butler, believes his master has been murdered and that the person who has locked himself away is Hyde. The fact that these secret rooms are included in the novels, allows the reader to speculate the strange things that might be going on behind the sealed doors of the rooms. All in all, Gothic literature is extremely evident in “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” but at the same time it is heavily influenced by Victorian psychology, which I will now be commenting on.
Victorian society was heavily based on power, wealth and culture. Victorians believed they were ethical, moral people and their society was that of an ideal one; however with the amount of crimes taking place – i. e. Jack the Ripper – this was not the case especially since Victorians were sexist and racist. Even though Stevenson sets his story in the heart of London using such respectable professional people as lawyers, doctors and men of science, what he shows us is a city fraught with divisions.
Such divisions included those between the rich and poor, men and women, country and city, science and art, and also good and evil – shown to us by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, who not only does he represent a form of rebellion against the arrogant domination of the upper classes and government, but also “the beast in man”. Stevenson greatly investigates the duality of human nature in his novel. This theme does not emerge fully up until the last chapter, when the complete story of the Jekyll-Hyde affiliation is exposed by “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”.
Therefore, we confront the theory of a dual human nature unambiguously only after having witnessed all of the events of the novel, including Hyde’s crimes and his eventual eclipsing of Jekyll. Dr Jekyll describes his dual personality as “the animal within me licking the chops of memory”. The text not only posits the duality of human nature as its central theme, but forces us to consider the properties of this duality and to contemplate each of the novel’s episodes as we weigh various theories. Such a theory includes that of Freud’s theory of the id, ego and superego.
The id is entirely unconscious and represents the primitive self of us. It is the self indulgent and selfish side of us. The ego, however unlike the id, spans the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. The ego is the only component of personality that can interact with the environment. Lastly, the superego is the part of personality that establishes standards of right and wrong. The superego is the ethics and morality behind our personality. In the 19th Century, it was believed that the id was represented by a troll like figure, and Hyde is described as being “pale and dwarfish”.
As Stevenson probes the depths of human psychology and challenges our perceptions of good and evil in society, we are struck by the disturbing face of evil. Dr. Jekyll tries to repress and kill off the Mr. Hyde in himself, but that alter ego is a part of who he is. He cannot renounce or destroy that part of himself. In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Dorian, represented by his ego and superego, is in conflict with his id represented by the picture painted of him as a young, handsome man. In “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case” the story of Jekyll’s downfall is revealed to Mr Utterson.
Jekyll suggests to us that mankind has a split personality when saying “severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature. ” Stevenson provides us with the message that man has two sides to him – not just Jekyll. There are many quotations to suggest this too. Such examples in this chapter include: “primitive duality of man”, “the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling”- this is in fact a metaphor describing our consciousness being like a womb, “man is not truly one, but truly two” and lastly “I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life”.
From what Stevenson has produced, I can conclude that “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” cannot easily be seen as having more to do with Gothic tradition than late 19th Century psychology. We must take into account that psychology is a subject matter and Gothic is a style, however I consider the novel has been written carefully and equally in terms of Gothic tradition and late 19th century psychology as I believe the style of Gothic literature has been heavily influenced by Victorian psychology.
Some might argue against Gothic tradition being the more dominant argument, simply for the reason that Stevenson has not included involvement of haunted castles and dungeons, two of the most obvious Gothic traits. As a closing statement to this essay, I can admit “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” was published truly as a chilling shocker in 1886 and still today remains as an original classic. Simran Kooner 10HA English Coursework – 1 – Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.