“The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is a story set in 19th century London and revolves around the relationship of the respectable, righteous Dr Jekyll and the violent, detestable Mr Hyde. The book was written by Robert Louis Stevenson who was raised in an extremely strict religious family which had a belief that man was either good or bad and could not be in between. The strict upbringing is noticeable in the book as Stevenson includes a number of questions on whether Dr Jekyll’s work (carrying out experiments to separate his personality) is morally right. Stevenson grew up during the early Victorian times where practally no one questioned their religious beliefs but he was one of the few exceptions as he continually questioned religion as he became older. An example of him going against his religion can be seen when he married a divorced women. He was taught this was a sin in his upbringing.
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There were many factors that changed Stevenson’s ideology of belief in his religion, to beginning to question it, this can be seen in the book. An example of a factor that changed what Stevenson believed was when Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species”, in 1859. At the time Stevenson was nine years old and many people saw the book as an attack on Christianity because it introduced “The Theory of Evolution” which made it impossible to believe that God created the world in seven days. Many also believed that science had become dangerous and that it was meddling in matters which only God should have control over. Stevenson shows this in the story by what Jekyll’s experiments do and questions whether it is morally acceptable. Another factor that is shown by Stevenson in the novel is the natural versus the supernatural. The novel alludes to the time of Stevenson’s early life where they thought there was a close link to the increasing sense of conflict between science and religion was the idea that humans have a dual nature.
In the novel Mr Hyde is represented as all the evil in Jekyll and all that is bad and wrong in him. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are easily viewed as emblem about the good and evil that exists in all men, and about the struggle these two sides in the human personality. Hyde has a short temper and is even made to look evil. “I have observed that when I wore the semblance of Edward Hyde, none could come near me at first without a visible misgiving of the flesh”. Jekyll is arguing that Hyde is the perfect physical embodiment of the evil inside him, implying that Hyde looks evil. Stevenson also explored which aspect of human personality is superior, good or evil. Since Hyde seems to be taking over, you could argue that evil is stronger than good. However, Hyde does end up dead at the end of the story, suggesting a failure of weakness of evil. At points in the novel, Mr Hyde’s evil is represented as stronger, “And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on…like a madman”. The maid’s trust and faith in the goodness of people is horrible overturned by Mr Hyde’s act of evil. Since Hyde represents the evil in Jekyll he is therefore, symbolically represented being much smaller than Jekyll (Jekyll’s clothes are far too large for him), and furthermore Hyde is many years younger than Jekyll, suggesting that the evil in Jekyll did not actually develop until many years after he was born. However as the novel progresses, Hyde’s evil grows and eventually becomes more powerful than Jekyll. The reason Hyde eventually grows more powerful than Jekyll is maybe due to the fact that Jekyll vicariously enjoys what Hyde does, which alludes Hyde gradually destroying the good Jekyll.
The main technique used frequently in the book is symbolism. The symbolism is used to heighten the contrast between good and evil. A symbol used in the novel is light and darkness. The sense of security conveyed by daylight is false. The nocturnal landscape is of Utterson’s nightmare with its lamplights, shadows, swift movement, that characterises the moments of suspense. The main symbols used to this extent are light, shadow, fog and cold. Light appears as “lamps, unshaken by any wind”, with the full moon, and as the “haggard shaft of daylight”. The shadows provoked by these lights make the houses “plunge…in darkness”, so that everything is “dark like the black-end of evening”. Furthermore there is a presence of fog as “a fog rolled over the city in small hours”. The fog and other factors hide the view of inhabitants but also symbolize hiding the identity of Mr Hyde.
Another symbol used is the city. Instead of the story taking place in only one part of London it is set in many different areas, each meant to reflect the character that either goes there or lives there. For example, Mr Hyde lives in an area described as being dark and scary; this may associate with Hyde’s soul. Another symbol used is the use of firelights, lighted lamps and light in general to represent Jekyll as they are the opposite to fog because they are safe and have illuminating qualities. Stevenson also uses the other symbols to represent duality. These include the locked doors and windows, which represent the way Jekyll implements effort into trying to put himself away and repress Mr Hyde. The door to the laboratory is another symbol as it is thick and heavy and shows how is repressing Hyde because he does not want to be seen and wishes to lock himself away.
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In conclusion I believe that Stevenson’s view on good and evil in humans is one of duality and that the only duality in humans is not just good and evil but also rational and irrational, reputation and true nature and so on. “With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by that partial discovery I have doomed to such a dreadful ship wreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two”. In this quote Stevenson is saying that humans have two sides to them, not just one and whether that duality is good and evil or something else the duality is there and I belief it is this that Stevenson presents in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
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