The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
“Man is no truly one, but truly two. ” There are two sides to man, a good, and a bad. This book was written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1885 and is set in the Gothic genre. The gothic genre is associated with darkness, the supernatural, and more importantly, nightlife. “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is based on Stevenson’s own double life. In his daily life he was a respectable Victorian middle classed man, however by night he lived the life of a debauched bohemian. The Victorian society at that time and the lifestyle was very strict.
They believed in morality and formality, and the Victorian children were extremely well behaved. The middle and upper class Victorians would meet at public gatherings, for example church and would expect each other to behave in a very ethical manner. This however was not the case at all times, especially men. They would go out late in the night gambling and drinking. Stevenson portrays this using the life style of a doctor who is ethical, principled and lives a very normal and proportioned life. However, by night his personality and his look grow into a monster like creature.
Jekyll is described as tall and handsome throughout the book. He is very well known, and is also very rich indeed. He believes in man having two sides, a good, and a bad. He wants to find out how to separate the two personalities and uses himself to show this. Dr Jekyll, the well respected, good natured man, and Mr Hyde the more primitive and “ape like” of the two. Mr Hyde is also referred to as “simian” and “hairy. ” He is considerably smaller than Jekyll and is therefore looked upon as lower in the evolutionary scale.
Mr Utterson is the main narrator of this book except for Dr Lanyon and Dr Jekyll in the last chapters. Having more than one narrator in a story is a feature of the gothic genre. Utterson is a middle aged Lawyer and is a person who most of the characters can confide in. He leads a moral life, and has a good profession and therefore is probably the book’s most respected character. In a way he also has a contradicting personality in the way that he is meant to be a person who is friendly to anyone, however he secretly despises Hyde. By keeping these secrets, Stevenson portrays a double life lurking inside Utterson aswell.
Jekyll desires to separate the two personalities of man, however he does not tell anybody due to the fact that people may think that he is trying to play God. Later in the book Jekyll becomes addicted into turning into Hyde, and at one time runs out of the ingredients to make the potion to turn into him. Through this Stevenson illustrates that “evil” is much more powerful than “good. ” “My evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion; and the thing that was projected was Edward Hyde. ” During the book Jekyll spontaneously turns into Hyde, which portrays that “evil” is more powerful than “good.
Charles Darwin’s evolutionary scale is hinted at a couple of times in this book. Hyde is described as “less-upright,” “simian” and “ape-like. ” This is the total opposite to the principles expected of the Victorian society. Jekyll’s appearances and personality have been juxtaposed to Hyde. In the book Jekyll is often complimented for his looks and his wealthy nature, whereas Hyde is criticised for his ugliness and the fact that he gives the impression of an animal. This therefore suggests that Jekyll is much higher up in the evolutionary scale than Hyde.
The return of man to the inhuman state is often recognised in the Gothic genre. By linking Darwinism and “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” we can see that Stevenson here is also portraying man higher up in the evolutionary scale as “good” and man lower in the evolutionary scale as “bad. ” A large part of this book is involves secrecy. Dr Jekyll keeps his relation with Edward Hyde a secret otherwise people would have looked at him in a different way, however the irony of looking at him as a different man can be perceived by us, the viewers.
Near the beginning of this book Hyde tramples a young girl, and the family of that girl ask for his name using blackmail, the alternative however was to pay one hundred pounds in order to keep his identity quiet. This shows how much secrecy meant to the Victorian society. Throughout the book there are references to blackmail between Hyde and Jekyll, (ironically the characters in the book do not know that they are the same person), however the only person who believes that blackmailing has occurred between them is Mr Enfield, who is a cousin of Utterson.
Blackmail is slightly engaged with homosexuality and a suggestion to homosexuality is made on frequent occasions during the book. “Your master seems to repose a great deal of trust in that young man… “. Victorian society viewed homosexuality as absolutely forbidden, a famous poet and playwright named Oscar Wilde had a homosexual affair just after marrying, and was therefore imprisoned. Stevenson looks into the theories of Freud. Classing Hyde as the Id and Jekyll as the ego. We can easily class the two in this way from the behaviour that Stevenson portrays in this book.
Jekyll seeks to separate good from evil and therefore has high expectations and is definitely respected for it. Hyde is classed as the Id, as he attacks violently almost in a state of insanity, there is no morality at all in him, he is a total opposite to the nature of Jekyll. He is totally unaware of what he does, and attacks at will. This book is classed in the gothic genre, as it is mainly set in darkness, and it refers to the supernatural and magical things that take place. It presents fear affected on those who live the simplest lives for example, Dr Lanyon who dies purely of fright.
There are also multiple narrations, which is a link to the gothic genre. In this book there are three narrators. Other assets linked to this genre, are symbols like the moon, fog, a special door, city streets, good and evil. The door being a very important feature, as it separates two different types of man, Hyde and Utterson. Through this door Stevenson depicts the two sides of man. Frankenstein and Dracula were also written in the gothic genre and similarly link in the same way as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Frankenstein is about a doctor that creates a monster like man who commits crimes and this therefore links to Mr Hyde who is presented in a similar way in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dracula however, is about a man who lives a double life, and plays a perfect host during the day to those whom he may invite to his gothic style mansion in Transylvania. By night however, becomes a creature hankering for blood. The character Dracula is more similarly related to Jekyll as he plays by the aristocratic nature during the day, and by night changes into the unthinkable, for a person with such principle.
Dr Victor Frankenstein however is less similarly related to Jekyll as he physically doesn’t commit any crimes himself, but it’s his use of science, which links the two characters together. Stevenson, as a student lived life like many of the men that are presented in this book. He lived in Edinburgh, which had two parts to it, a new town where the middle to upper class people housed themselves and lived moral lives, and an old town where many lower classed people slept on the streets and those who earnt a little more lived in disgusting, diseased filled, houses.
Due to educated and well-known parents, Stevenson lived a good life as a child and educated himself at Edinburgh University. It was here where he and a group of friends carried out mischievous things, and then he came to realise that he had two lives, a life where he respected others and was a hard workingman like his father, and also a life where he was free from morality and principles. It was this experience that he had which probably led to this story of a man who is trying to prove that there are really to sides of man, “good” and “evil. “