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“The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was written by R L Stevenson in 1886, in the Victorian times. The novel focuses on the theme of duality in man which was very evident in those times. The doctor belief that within each human being there exist two countering forces, good and evil, leads to his experiments that try to separate the two. This, however, was not done merely for scientific reasons, but also because he enjoyed escaping the confines of the respectable guise of Dr. Jekyll. In the Victorian times, many respectable and honourable men and women used to go out late at night to give went to their illicit feelings, but to the society they all showed a faï¿½ade of being honourable people with respect. Stevenson himself was the same.
In front of the world he was a respected gentleman, but in private he was another man, who often visited sordid places of Old town in Edinburgh. Dr. Jekyll creates an alter ego as society would not allow him to live a life of evil and they would attack him if we tried. “I was driven to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life which lies at the root of religion, and is one of the most plentiful springs of distress.” Stevenson feels it is society which forces us to lead a dual life. His “shilling shocker,” conceived in a dream and written in a white heat, captured both his own deepest divisions and insights into the callous folly of late-Victorian hypocrisy. Stevenson had himself considered suicide at least three times and yet persisted through ill health to natural death.
Maybe it was religion that led Stevenson to write the book. In the Victorian times, religion had a very strong hold on people. The nineteenth century was marked by a revival of religious activity unmatched since the days of the Puritans. This religious revival shaped that code of moral behaviour, or rather that infusion of all behaviour with moralist, which we still call, rightly or wrongly, “Victorianism.” It was near the end of the decade that the Church of England started losing its power. Perhaps it was this loss of religious hold on the people that led Stevenson to write his book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which showed the truth about many of the people living in that time. If the Church still had a strong hold on people during the 1980’s when Stevenson wrote his book, things would have turned out to be very different and probably I would not be writing this.
Religion at that time caused people to stay confined within their set boundaries, that is why much of the honourable people in those times were forced to seek out illicit ways to let out their feelings, the loss of power by the Church allowed a little more freedom and so Stevenson was able to question the duality in man which under the influence of the Church may not have happened. This same reason may be given for Jekyll to create a Hyde. Religion caused Jekyll to be so confined within his boundaries that he felt a need to create a Hyde so to let out all his inner feelings. Yet maybe it was the strong hold of religion that caused Stevenson to write the book, criticizing the dual life that religion forced people at that time to live.
Stevenson has portrayed Jekyll and Hyde as one person but with totally different personalities. This is because he wanted to show the wide chasm between good and evil and also how they co-exist. The difference between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are many. The two are as apart as the North and South Pole of a magnet and yet have a fatal attraction for each other.
Stevenson gives us a vivid description of Hyde through Enfield’s words as “Something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked and yet I scare know why.” And also someone who “gives a strong feeling of deformity” We see from this description that Mr. Hyde was unlike any man. People hated him at sight. Mr. Utterson describes Hyde as a small man who even at a distance went some how strongly against the watchers inclination. Utterson goes on to say that Hyde was
“Pale and dwarfish” and “deformed” with “a displeasing smile” who spoke with a “husky whispering and somewhat broken voice” Also the maid of the deceased Danvers Carew describes Hyde as “particularly small particularly wicked-looking”. Lanyon describes Hyde as “small” with a “shocking expression” and a “remarkable combination of great muscular activity” From all these descriptions we see that Hyde is not a pleasant sight to see. Stevenson has made Hyde younger and more agile then Jekyll to show us that if we keep all our feelings suppressed within us and not let the evil out it will grow within us and when eventually we do let it out it bursts out just like in a volcano all the pent up lava when given an opening, erupts with such great force that it is uncontrollable. That is the same for Hyde when he was released he come out so strong and powerful. People can see that there is something wrong about him yet they cannot point out what it is.
People probably recognize Hyde as something truly and fully evil and so they try not to be associated with him as they are hypocrites and don’t want to see their own evil-selves in Hyde, they want to hide it from society. Dr. Jekyll is described as a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, and with every mark of capacity and kindness.” People enjoy the company of Jekyll and are pleased to be in the company of him. Jekyll is viewed as an honourable and honest man who has a place high in society. So where Jekyll is a recognized and honourable man whom people do not mind being seen with, Hyde is a dishonourable man with whom people would not like to be seen with. Stevenson has created Hyde from the inner most illicit feelings of man. He is the evil within each person so when any one sees Hyde they recognize him as their own inner evil and as they all are hypocrites who in all there lives have tried to hide the feelings inside them, they cannot bear to see their own evil that is why, Stevenson says in his essay “Lay Morals”: “We should not live alternately with our opposing tendencies in continual see-saw of passion and disgust, but seek some path on which the tendencies shall no longer oppose, but serve each other to common end.”
To behave otherwise, his tale implies, is to court the death of authenticity, the loss of one’s self. If altruism and bestiality are both embedded in human nature, one must not only know this rationally as did Jekyll, but must live comfortably with this knowledge. Jekyll fears exposure more than death Hyde must be hidden if it takes death to hide him, and Jekyll must ultimately be his own murderer to avoid full disclosure of the duality. Here Stevenson is not only revealing human natures deeply intertwined double nature; he is also castigating Victorian hypocrisy. People are not ready to accept the fact that there is a Hyde within each one of them. They wish to see Hyde as something which they can never be they deny the very existence of their own evil self.
Like so many eminent Victorians, Utterson lives a mildly double life and feels mildly apprehensive that an ugly dwarf like Hyde may jump out from his own boxed self, but for him such art unlikely creature is still envisioned as a toy. Although, from the beginning Hyde fills him with a distaste for life, it is not until the final, fatal night, after he storms the cabinet, can Utterson conceive of the enormity of Jekyll’s second self. Only then does he realize that “he was looking on the body of a self-destroyer”; Jekyll and Hyde are one in death as they must have been in life. Poole, Jekyll’s servant, and Lanyan, his medical colleague, are even more incredulous.
When Poole sees Jekyll/Hyde in his final form, he thinks he sees his master with a “mask” on his face: “that thing was not my master and there’s the truth”. People simply cannot believe that anything like Hyde could really exist. They are in constant denial of their own duality. That is why Lanyan never survives to that final night. An earlier party to the knowledge that Jekyll and Hyde are one, he has already lost his life to that secret. Lanyan simply cannot adapt to the truths uncovered in the revelation of Hyde. He sinks slowly into death, his body following the lead of his “sickened” soul. Lanyan simply cannot accommodate himself to the horror of Jekyll unveiled. The truth that there can be another side to person is too much for him.
Another aspect in which Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde differ in is their personality and their impact on people. We can see their personality through their belongings. Dr. Jekyll’s house as described by Mr. Utterson wore a great air of wealth and comfort. His house was in a well-to-do, posh neighbourhood, where the people were all respectable and honest people. This reflects Dr. Jekyll also. It shows us that like his house he too was respected and honest and well to do. Mr. Hyde’s house on the other hand was in a dingy neighbourhood, with muddy ways slatternly passengers Utterson describes it as “a district of some city in a nightmare.” Hyde’s house and surrounding as described by Mr. Utterson “a dingy street” “many ragged children huddled in the doorways” and “many women of many different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass.” This shows us that Hyde lived in a low down dishonest part of town, it also reflect Hyde’s personality of being a dishonest not respected person.
Jekyll socializes with other people; he holds many parties and has many friends. Hyde on the other hand is a loner he has no friends. He wishes to remain in the shadows and not socialize with other people. He has no friends, the complete opposite of Jekyll. Also the inside of their houses also differ. Jekyll house is “large, low roofed” with a: comfortable hall” which warmed by a “bright, open fire”. Hyde’s house on the other hand shows the duality of man. His house was decorated with “luxury” and “good taste”. But at the time of Utterson’s visit, the house bore every mark of “having been recently and hurriedly ransacked” “clothes lay about the floor” and there lay “a pile of grey ashes, as though many papers had been burned” This show’s us that although on the outside everything may look good, the inside may be another matter and so it was the same for Jekyll. On the outside he looked like a well respected gentleman but inside him he had a Hyde hidden away.
Dr. Jekyll always has time for a kind word or phrase, Hyde has no time for idle chit chat. He speaks in short questioning sentences as seen in his conversation with Mr. Utterson. “That is my name. What do you want?” Also if Dr. Jekyll was transformed into Mr. Hyde, he would always use the back door of his house and if he is in the form of Dr. Jekyll he will use the front door. This is just like people in those times. For evil acts they will use the back street or the back alley and do it when they are hidden, but if they are doing something good then they will do it openly in front of everybody, not hidden. Whenever anyone saw Hyde he/she is filled with revulsion and hatred for Hyde. Hyde puts a “shudder in the persons blood” the person fells a distaste of life and a gloom in their sprits. This was the effect that Hyde had on people. All the people agreed that Hyde had a “haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholder”
Much of the movement done by Hyde is done in the blankets of darkness under the cover of the fog while Jekyll moves around in daylight and does everything openly. This shows us how Stevenson has used the fog and darkness to convey evilness so that when ever we read of a thick fog or a black night, we at once think of evilness.
Hyde is presented to the reader as an animal representing disorder while Jekyll represents order. Stevenson has used animal imagery in connection with Hyde to show us that Hyde himself if like an animal. “The animal within me licking the chops of memory” Hyde thus becomes Jekyll’s demonic, monstrous self. Certainly Stevenson presents him as such from the outset. Hissing as he speaks, Hyde has “a kind of black sneering coolness . . . like Satan”. He also strikes those who witness him as being deformed — “pale and dwarfish” and simian like. Another place where the animal in Hyde is brought out is at the time of the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, where the maid describes Hyde as having an “ape-like fury” this goes on to show us that Hyde was like an animal also indicating the point that Hyde was not yet fully human and still was like some of his ancient cousins the apes. Most of Hyde’s other audiences also relate animal imagery to Hyde.
Although they had a lot in difference they also had a lot in common. They both wanted to commit shady acts yet they are not allowed to do so. They both like each other as they both help each other. One of them commits the evil acts and then hides in the form of the other person. Also they both want respect and wealth as that is the one main thing that society looks at. If a person has no respect or wealth he is not worth knowing.
This also shows us a little bit about the people at that time. They used to judge people harshly on the basis of their wealth and respect and so some people would pay any price to keep their respect, even Hyde. In this point both Jekyll and Hyde are the same they both want the respect of people. When Hyde stamps on the little girl, early in the novel and the crowd threatens to make a huge scandal out of it, Hyde is prepared to pay a huge amount of money to keep them quite. This shows us that people most have respect even if they must buy it with money.
Near the end of the novel Jekyll’s feeling for Hyde begin to change. We saw at the beginning that Jekyll is fascinated by Hyde’s “wonderful” love of life and remarks, “when I know how he fears my power to cut him off by suicide, I find it in my heart to pity him” Jekyll feels that Hyde too has a right too live and also Jekyll is fascinated by Hyde. Jekyll feels that Hyde is his progeny and cannot even think of killing Hyde. It is not until later in the novel that Jekyll even considers killing Hyde. This can be seen quite clearly as in the beginning he see that Jekyll knows he risks death in taking his drug, but he does so quite deliberately. If not uppermost in his mind, suicide lurks there all the same. Jekyll often uses telling language, words like “I had come to a fatal cross roads”
It is not later that he considers killing as this is the only way to get rid of Hyde, as Hyde is his own soul and how can he get rid of it but by killing it, but this is not unseen because Jekyll’s name itself means suicide for in French Jekyll’s name means ‘I Kill’ ‘Je’ meaning ‘I’ and ‘kyll’ meaning ‘kill’. Maybe Stevenson did this to show us that the only way Jekyll could get rid of Hyde is by killing himself. Jekyll does not care whether or not Hyde survives: “I cannot say that I care what becomes of Hyde; I am quite done with him” Hyde has in the eyes of Jekyll gone too far in doing evil acts and so he wants to stop Hyde but is unable to as Hyde has grown too strong. Jekyll no longer likes Hyde; Jekyll sees Hyde as an abnormality and wants to have nothing to do with him. Jekyll begins to hate his life and wants to end it yet Hyde want to continue the life he is living.
The reasons why Stevenson writes this are many. Perhaps it was the duality that Stevenson saw within himself and his community or perhaps the pressure of religion or maybe even because he just thought up the idea in a dream of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde we can only guess but what we do know is that his book reflects on the life of Victorian hypocrisy. He showed the many differences in Jekyll and Hyde to show us the many differences between us. The good and the evil within us are constantly in conflict and it is up to us to see which one triumphs. His book is not a confusing one nor one which’s meaning is very clear but it is far from starting another Werther-craze, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde pioneered as a modern admonition of blind, self-destructive behaviour.
Stevenson’s fictional lawyers and scientists show dangerous second sides because they have not persisted in self-knowledge. His fictional workers, like the butler, Poole, see masks in place of the “horrors” that their presumed betters have become because they have opted for distorted vision over clear-sightedness. Stevenson beautifully portrays the difference between Jekyll and Hyde and links it to the two Jekyll and Hyde within each of us. Stevenson has clearly stated his point and made it understood that in all of us there are two side, the Jekyll side and the Hyde side.
We can learn from this that we should not let our evil side even peep out for if given an inch it will take a yard. As in poor Jekyll’s case, he made a great folly of believing that he could control his Hyde and that was his greatest flaw. He failed to recognize Hyde as evil and when he did it was too late as Hyde was to strong to control. Perhaps it was Jekyll himself who was evil as they say, ‘evil begets evil’ meaning evil gives rise to evil and if Jekyll created the evil Hyde then he too must have had some evil within him. Yet in the end we are able to say that good has triumphed over evil as Jekyll succeeds in killing Hyde who was true evil and that Jekyll must have had some good left in him to have caused Hyde to succumb to death.