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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Essay

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is about the fight between the good and evil sides of a human character, Stevenson shows this by using Mr. Hyde as an evil character and uses Dr. Jekyll as the good side. In every person there lies good and evil.

During the Victorian era the society were Christian based and had strong morals people had concepts of good and evil. The definition of good is a very broad meaning, if we do good acts such as giving charity we will be known as a good person. The definition of evil is very broad as well meaning if you do bad acts such as having pride in ones self he will be known as an evil person.

The church made up seven cardinal virtues and seven deadly sins; if you were practising these aspects you would be a very likeable chance that you would enter heaven or hell. The seven cardinal virtues are; Faith, hope, charity, justice, fortitude, prudence, temperance. These seven virtues were made by the Church of England. The seven deadly sins consisted of: Pride, Wrath, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice, and Sloth these 7 deadly sins were made up in the medieval times were the where parodies of stories from the bible for good and evil.

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Real life incidences of good and evil have occurred such as the Crusades in the medieval times being the good, when they were led by King Henry with other Christian countries to recapture Jerusalem which was also Christian holy land to them as well as the Muslims, The Muslims were given the evil side.

There is also the example of the Cold War. The Cold War was the period of conflict, tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union and their allies from the 1940s until the early 1990s. These are just a couple of examples throughout history of what was good and what was evil.

The atmosphere created depicts evil as being fun and jocund. Dr. Jekyll admits this to Utterson in his letter, saying, “It seemed natural and human. In my eyes it bore a livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more express and single, than the imperfect and divided countenance I had been hitherto accustomed to call mine.” Stevenson, using the dialogue of Jekyll, is indicating that all people are a compound of both good and evil. He asserts, “…all human beings…are commingled out of good and evil.” Stevenson is leaving the thesis of his novel and questioning human nature.

The topic of conflict between Good and Evil has also been the topic of many writers’ stories for example “The Lord of the Rings” series by J.R.R Tolkien and the fantasy books written by David Eddings such as “The Belgariad” or “The Mallorean”. We can also use stories from the Shakespeare such as “Hamlet”, “Macbeth” and even “King Richard”

Robert Louis Stevenson was always interested by things that were considered evil and what affect they could have on other people. The reason is unknown why this particular topic took an interest to him, some may say that it was because of experiences he had as a child, others may sat that it was because of the Victorian upbringing he had and he was rebelling against the beliefs of his society to stand out or for whatever reason. At some point in his life he and a cousin named Bob formed a club on socialism and atheism. He also used to have strange recurring dreams in which he were on an unending staircase and surgeons operating on “monstrous malformations”. He would also dream about people murdering their own fathers, so this may have led to his interest in the evil side of life.

When Stevenson was young he used to spend a lot of time with his nanny Alison Cunningham because his mother was often ill so this may have led to his depression and had to take cocaine for the depression as well as a bad chest that he had along with other illnesses in which he needed laudanum and morphine.

Stevenson also showed a lot of bravery despite his depression and religious upbringing in his forty-four year life. In the world of today many people decide to switch between religions as freely as they like, some people don’t have religion or worship the devil as some would say. However in the Victorian times in which Stevenson was raised you were either a Christian who worshipped God regularly every Sunday or you were a disbeliever who didn’t deserve to live in Christian society.

Some religious Victorians saw medical and scientific practices as a sign of evil at the time. When scientists of Stevenson’s time used to conduct experiments on dead bodies people would say that they are committing an act of evil because they would not let the souls of the dead rest in peace. They may also not have approved of medicines at the time because they believed illnesses as an outward sign of sin and medicine was a way preventing people seeing it.

The two reasons above combined may have led to Stevenson writing stories such as “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

The depression and illnesses combined with the cocaine that he took may have been the cause for his mental state of mind and the stories and poems he wrote for children about evil things may have only encouraged him to write more.

The dreams he had may have provided him with ideas for the stories while the club he formed with his cousin Bob about atheism must have supported his ideas while the total disregard of his fathers religious feelings and their constant arguing had given reason to Stevenson to write such stories, so that he could hurt his fathers pride and reputation. This may have started in his youth when his nanny Alison Cunningham told him stories of ghosts, body snatchers and heaven and hell.

Stevenson’s original draft of Jekyll and Hyde was a typical Gothic horror story, but he later changed the story because he wanted it to have a deeper meaning and a normal message.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is based on the story of Edinburgh’s infamous Deacon Brodie, who was discovered to have been living a double life, coupled with a dream Stevenson had one night, what he called “a fine bogey tale,” about a man who drinks a potion made from a white powder and subsequently transforms into a devilish creature.

The next morning, Stevenson started to write a detective/horror story in the style of those written by Edgar Allan Poe, and three days later his draft was complete. After a critical response from his wife, Stevenson threw the draft in the fire and started a new one that he completed in another three days and revised during the next six weeks. This version became, with minor alterations, the published version of the text, with its compelling illustration of one man’s futile attempts to weed out the evil inclinations of his soul.

Most of Stevenson’s readers would agree with Stewart F. Sanderson’s judgment that the complex characterization of the tortured Dr. Henry Jekyll creates “a work of extraordinary psychological depth and powerful impact.”

Stevenson’s original draft of Jekyll and Hyde was a typical Gothic horror story, but he later changed the story because he wanted it to have a deeper meaning and a normal message.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is based on the story of Edinburgh’s infamous Deacon Brodie, who was discovered to have been living a double life, coupled with a dream Stevenson had one night, what he called “a fine bogey tale,” about a man who drinks a potion made from a white powder and subsequently transforms into a devilish creature. The next morning, Stevenson started to write a detective/horror story in the style of those written by Edgar Allan Poe, and three days later his draft was complete.

After a critical response from his wife, Stevenson threw the draft in the fire and started a new one that he completed in another three days and revised during the next six weeks. This version became, with minor alterations, the published version of the text, with its compelling illustration of one man’s futile attempts to weed out the evil inclinations of his soul. Most of Stevenson’s readers would agree with Stewart F. Sanderson’s judgment that the complex characterization of the tortured Dr. Henry Jekyll creates “a work of extraordinary psychological depth and powerful impact.”

Stevenson’s develops the character of Jekyll and Hyde threw the eyes of different narrators, each giving their own point of view, only at the end do we know what really happens through the confession of Jekyll.

We are given definite descriptions of Jekyll, but Hyde, as his name infers, is a vague and illusive character.

Jekyll and Hyde are two completely unique individuals trapped in the same body. Jekyll in the book is described as “a large, well faced, smooth man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness”. This would be perfectly normal description for anyone who fitted it except where it says “slyish cast” which tells us that there is more to Jekyll than we see, dark secret that is hidden under his respectable exterior.

Edward Hyde however is a completely different person he is a strange man whom no-one knows anything about and have absolutely no idea as to how he got there, why he is there and most importantly why he has access to everything that is Jekyll. When Mr. Enfield is describing Mr. Hyde at first he says he was “a little man” but afterwards when he catches Mr. Hyde after he tramples over a little girl he says that he looked “like some damned Juggernaut”. Also Mr. Enfield says “For the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground” this shows that even with people who were smaller than him he had no tolerance for them, after that it is when he describes him as an “damned juggernaut”.

Enfield uses adjectives describe Hyde that are ill defined. Enfield says Hyde’s appearance was “displeasing…….detestable” but he says he does not know why. Enfield says that Hyde “must be some deformed….although I couldn’t specify why.”Stevenson uses deformity because being deformed in the Victorian era was a bad thing everyone gave you the name of being an evil person because they came out deformed.

When people first set eyes on him they have an instant dislike of the man, nobody seems to know why but through out the book the first time people see him they instantly “dislike” him and think of him as “a really damnable man”. When Mr. Enfield first meets Mr. Hyde when he tramples over the little girl Mr. Enfield, the little girl’s family and the doctor whom they had called for when the little girl met with the accident with Mr. Hyde they all were “sick and white with desire to kill him”.

Even though the men felt that “killing being out of the question” the women “were as wild as harpies”, instead the family receives compensation of one hundred pounds.

Hyde would have been less of a threat if they had talked to the police because he would have been locked away and none of the for-coming acts would have applied.

There is a variety of description when it comes to Edward Hyde and another is when they are investigating the mystery of the Carew murder case when they are asking the maid of her version of the killing as she was watching outside her window when “she became aware of an aged and beautiful gentleman” walking down the street and as he was making his way along the street he encountered another “very small gentleman”. The maid also describes him as “particularly wicked-looking”. When going to Dr. Hyde address they see that ” the street showed him a dingy street, a gin palace, a low French eating house, a shop for the retail of penny numbers and two-penny salads, many ragged children huddled in the doorways, and many women of many different nationalities passing out”.

When they arrive at the house they are met by the house wife “evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy”. As soon as the pulled over at the street it gave out the impression that it was a place were a lot of prostitutes hanged out, this shows more evil because it wasn’t the best of places for a house and were there are prostitutes evil will be committed. As the elderly man “accosted the other with a very pretty politeness”, she took a look at the other man whom she had seen and “she was surprised to recognize in him a certain Mr. Hyde who had visited her master “for whom she had conceived an instant dislike”. After meeting with “an aged and beautiful gentleman with white hair” Mr. Hyde lifted his heavy walking stick and clubbed the old gentleman to death. Indeed, the blows which he struck were so thunderous that “bones were audibly shattered,” and then, “with ape-like fury,” Hyde trampled the old gentleman underfoot.

At the horror of what she saw, the maid suddenly fainted. Shows us that Hyde has completely lost it and that evil is running through his veins, it says that he gave blows “with ape-like fury” shows Darwin’s theory and also shows that he had no control over the actions of Hyde. When Utterson is shown the murder weapon, he recognizes it immediately. It is the battered half of a walking cane which he gave Dr. Jekyll many years ago this leads into him getting curious of what Dr. Jekyll is up to where he see in the chapter “Incident at the Window”.

In the chapter “Incident at the window” Mr. Utterson sees Dr. Jekyll and has a conversation asking him to come out with him, this leads me on to say that they are gay, but Dr. Jekyll refuses because he knows that they will see the transformation into Hyde. Mr. Utterson carries on asking and speaking than “before the smile was struck out his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two men (Enfield & Utterson) gentlemen below”. This incident is when Hyde reveals him self. Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield find this very disturbing because they have never seen a man which was deformed as much as Hyde, there blood stopped because they were frightened that Hyde might commit the acts he accomplished on the girl and on Sir. Danvers Carew.

Evil is not only shown but evil can be heard. The butler Poole had never of seen Hyde until during the end. Poole notices very strange acts that his master commits “Poole hears his master prowling the house in a strange manner in the middle of the night.” This was the beginning of when Poole starts to get worried, evil is shows there by something going on in the middle of the night. The next day “Poole notices a worrying change in his master’s personality.”

Poole promises that he would look over his master and will ask him what he was up to in the laboratory. “It was talking, shouting really, and it was drifting in through my open window. A further moment’s thought and I realized that it was coming from my master’s cabinet.” Poole was worried about this because his master told him not to worry so Poole kept his promise and wanted to find out what is wrong with his master. As Poole was making his way to his master’s cabinet he could hear a “voice” and was frightened of this so dint not show himself. This was the voice of Hyde which shook him up.

There and then he walked in and “Poole witnesses his master’s split personality and then finds the blood-stained trousers.”

In the confession Jekyll has written what has happened he gives us the impression that he is going to kill him self “I delay too long to bring my writing to an end; for my narrative has hitherto escaped destruction.” This shows that because he cannot control him self that he is going to kill the evil of him for him and for the Victorian society. “Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.” Jekyll also says that “I just wanted to have fun, but as soon as I became Hyde his desires were monstrous. He delighted in hurting people, and his heart was as hard as stone.”

Hyde has no concern for people but he had concern for him self that was to hurt and harm people. When Jekyll has killed him self in the state of Dr. Jekyll evil has committed it self to him so much that when he lay there his body turned to Mr. Hyde.

Jekyll should be known as a hypocrite because he said that “man cannot have a good and evil side to him (double morality)”, he criticized the Victorian era for saying this however these words hit back at him.

In all the parts of the story throughout the book whenever Hyde is described by anybody new for the first time, no matter who they are they always seem to at first think of him as small and very dislikeable which goes to show even if Hyde does nothing you could hate him for the way he was doing nothing. The way Stevenson gets all the characters to describe Hyde will make you instantly dislike Hyde even though he is a character of somebody’s imagination.

This also shows how there is nothing to like about evil whether it is in terms of appearance or in the way they move.

In the final chapter of the story it is completely focused on Jekyll’s own version of the events and what happened and how it happened and what it led to. Jekyll starts off telling us his date of birth and how he was born into a rich family and his pleasures and pastimes. He tells us that he liked his drink but he concealed this from the eye of the public and the members of his family. We also get to know that he was really somewhat of a genius who was very interested in pursuing in his studies and his furtherance of his own knowledge. Over time when he discovers “that man is not truly one, but truly two” this led to Jekyll’s interest in trying to separate the two personalities of the human nature.

All he ever really intended to do was get the good and evil in man and just see if they could be “could be housed in different identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable”. If we think about it really all Jekyll set out to do was to try and create something that would separate the good from the evil so his motives were really to try and make life that much easier so people could live a better life without any evil acts happening throughout it. He thought that he was a Good Samaritan trying to do a good deed that he thought could change the behavior of man forever making the world a better place. In the end however Jekyll is overcome by the evil that is Hyde, this shows that even if a man has two personalities one cannot exist without the other.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for its time came as a shock to its Victorian audience because the man who at the end is portrayed as a villain is an ordinary, respectable man who has a very respectable job and has a high standing position in the community.

I personally do not take an interest in the tale but that is only because I was not part of the intended audience however I believe my opinion of the book would have been completely different had I been growing up in the same era as Robert Louis Stevenson. I do feel sympathy for Jekyll because all he was doing was trying to make a miraculous breakthrough in the world of science that would have changed the world forever. Hyde however from what I heard is the most dislikeable man your ever likely to meet so if everyone he ever met hated him then I don’t think I would be any different.

I think Stevenson achieved his aim of producing a story book that goes into the study of good and evil and I think that he done it very well. I think his message is generally “stay away from things you will never understand” because when you play about with things you will never understand it can bite you back much harder. As a whole I think the story is great and would be good for someone who wants to read a horror story.

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. (2017, Nov 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-mr-hyde-essay

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