Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, speaks about a person with a split personality. It tells of a person leading two parallel ways of life. At one time, he is a being but at other times, he has a different personality all together.
We will write a custom Essay on Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde specifically for you
301 certified writers online
At one time, he is a human, exhibiting human nature and character but at another moment, he is an ogre trampling on children and killing innocent people. Robert Louis’s novel presents a misanthropic view and a general disregard for human nature.
His work leans towards a general disliking of human nature, which is shared by a few other misanthropists who have expressed this through their satirical writings. A good example is Moliere’s Character, Alceste, in a 1666 play. Alceste states that his hate is general. He hates all men because some are evil and filled with wicked deeds, and hates others because of their permissiveness towards the wicked.
This is a story that is perceived from varying angles and perspectives. The novel tells a story about one doctor with split personality. The story dissects the existence of duality within the life of a person or basically the duality of human nature.
Robert Louis suggests that within every human, there exists the evil and the perfectly human and good side. As a consequence, the bad nature is occasionally cast upon the human side. Dr. Jekyll is one person who has continuously veiled a life featuring wicked and evil acts and he feels like he is always fighting within himself.
He was wondering what side of him to expose and at what time1 (Stevenson 132). He happens to scientifically create a concoction that has the supernatural ability of transforming him from one side of his dual nature to the other. However, after taking it for a longer time, he realizes that he does not need the portion in order to transform. This is a fact that eventually brings him down.
The Victorian norms dictated that things had to happen with due consideration to class, and no class was to overlap the other in its areas of operation. The class system demanded that issues leadership, governance and politics be left to the upper class.
To the upper class, Mr. Hyde represents the working class. To them, the working class does not consist of gentlemen but rather people of no status. This relation shows how the story challenges the Victorians’ ideas on a political platform.
This novel, as most philosophers and literary persons argue, was meant or rather the events in the novel were a forecast on what was to be the situation in Victorian England, which is the setting place for the novel.
One very outstanding modern world challenge as manifested in the novel is scientific research. Some scientific researches are carried out by unscrupulous scientists who have ill intentions with their discoveries just like Mr. Hyde in the novel.
The modern world is faced with the challenge of regulating the work of scientists. Recently the world has had to deal with the controversial issue of human cloning. We as humans are not quite sure where this scientific move will lead us to, but we fear the ability of cloning to create a million terrorists.
The world over, people are faced with the weakness of being economical with very vital information. This can be seen in the book, where Utterson attempts to hide his friend’s ugly deeds. He also prevents him from engaging in a dangerous affair with Mr. Hyde.
In the same sense, Jekyll goes an extra mile to conceal Hyde’s identity2 (Pagden 83-85). Dr. Hyde is hiding his rather despicable scientific work and his beastly behavior. Utterson denied providing information to the police when he discovered about his friend.
He was doing this in order to protect his friend’s integrity and public image. This, in a modern sense, reflects the many different inside jobs within the society. This includes the people living with and hiding evil. People are upholding status quo since no man would ever want to appear any lesser.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
The aspect of class is also portrayed. People who can afford excesses are graded as the upper class, while those who can barely afford basic needs for themselves belong to the lower class.
The people in the middle class also exist and they are either graded as upper middle class (since they are closer to the upper class) or lower middle class (just next to the lowest class). In this book, class is reflected in the physical appearance or rather the architecture.
The book describes Hyde’s residence as a shabby looking place. In opposition to this, Dr. Jekyll’s place is luxurious, well kept and majestic.
The modern society, just as in the book, is marred with violence. There are records of various acts of violence. The scenes always involve the culprit – who is Hyde – and a victim who is always an innocent individual. In the earlier chapters of the book, another bad side of Hyde is witnessed.
He is recorded to have trampled on a young girl in the street without any mercy. This was done without any prior provocation3 (Kiely and Robert 64-65). Just as the novel concludes, we discover that Hyde seriously enjoyed committing those heinous acts of violence.
He drew a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from violence. Through this, we see the imagery that Stevenson’s work depicts on the modern society, which is the constant acts violence.
Even more interesting is the fact that the final victims of Hyde’s violent episodes are Jekyll and himself. Jekyll commits suicide in front of Utterson and Poole. However, it is ironic that, in this case, none of the victims is innocent.
Another challenge that the modern society is faced with is male domination. The novel (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), in a way, depicts a classic touchstone of the Victorian society and its ways of life. The novel reflects what the Victorian society really was.
Most essentially, it proves the fact that this was a male-dominated era. The men had all privileges and possessed the powers that were bestowed upon them by the society. Just as in the modern society, this was a society fighting male domination.
In the entire novel, female characters are very few, if any. All the main characters in the book are male or rather professional gentlemen. This basically reflects what the era upheld and respected – men of status. The modern society is trying to wreath itself out of male domination with worldwide calls for gender equity and gender balance.
The first female that we come across in the novel is the young girl who is literally run over by Hyde. This further depicts the female members of this society as very feeble, helpless and in need of help from others (males) in order for their voices to be heard.
The modern society is also faced with the challenge of people having different sexual orientations. Apart from the book having very scanty information regarding women characters, there is also no information on any of the characters having intimate female relations.
Most of the literary persons suggest that Louis Stevenson, being a worker under the Victorian restrictions, was rather reluctant to relay information regarding its monkish patterns of existence4 (Calder and Robert 198-199). It can be rightly argued that Jekyll indulged in rather secret pleasures. Another discovery is made about Lanyon, Enfield, Utterson and Jekyll. Firstly, they are all bachelors.
Secondly, they derive their friendship and intellectual stimulation from one another. Many have thus postulated that this absence of active female characterization suggests that Jekyll’s secretive adventures were homosexual tendencies that were so common a practice at the time.
Undeniably, homosexuality is a feature that is of great concern all over the world, juggling between acceptability and rejection.
A new and somewhat radical thinking by Sigmund Freud suggests that the story is about psychoanalysis and issues of the subconscious. He reiterates that the conscious entails everything we are aware of including those that we can talk about and even think of in a rational manner.
The subconscious is the store of feelings, desires, thoughts and memories that are not within the conscious awareness. The subconscious controls behavior and experience even though one may be consciously unaware of the influences within.
Freud also identified the preconscious. He defined it as the memory. He states that the memory is not always a component of the conscious but can be recovered or retrieved with less difficulty at any time.
He believes that humans’ acts and deeds are influenced by a powerful impulse that they will never be able to comprehend. This is visible in the story whereby Mr. Hyde is a representation of Dr. Jekyll’s subconscious. Dr. Jekyll’s conscience desires to be set free from the existing boundaries of humanity.
These boundaries have been cast upon him by the Victorian society5 (Rogers and sorrel 168-169). The modern man is fighting within himself to be rid of the primitive form, which is a form that is wild, violent and uncouth. People have to conform to the set codes of conduct or face the consequences.
It is rather important to note that the primitive form is the true and genuine version of a person. The modern form has merely been molded by the modern society.
Another modern societal challenge is poor communication. The persons in the book opt to withhold issues of great importance to the society. In the first chapter of the book, Enfield conceals some important information. He refuses to tell about the culprit who ran over the girl on the street.
He claims that he is avoiding gossip. However, later after naming Hyde, the book states that Utterson and Enfield unceremoniously ended the conversation. This silence reflects the moral character of the Victorian era, which was an era that greatly emphasized on the outward appearance and no one would have liked to be identified as a gossiper.
The novel is also a reflection of the modern London City. During that time, the city was undergoing great transformations and in effect did not lack the challenges that come with urbanization. The city appears to be the central place for majority of the novel’s scenes.
The city is described as being idyllic and of much splendor but at the same time, it is also revealed as dangerous, dark and full of mysteries. This is a rather accurate description of the current cities and city lives. The cities are faced with challenges of holding extremities.
The modern city contains the pious people and on the other hand, it contains the ‘wrongdoers’. During the daytime, this city is bubbling with seemingly legitimate activities. However, at night, the city is literally handed over to the masters of the dark who include the prostitutes, gangsters, tricksters and such related persons. At night, the dark is left in the hands of the law enforcers.
Another novelist, Dan Chaon, gives his two cents about the novel. He reiterates that Robert Louis used the setup of a modern city in order to make the situation as realistic as possible. It was a perfect place that Hyde could ever live. He adds that Hyde needed the anonymity. This anonymity could be easily provided by the masses present in the city.
In conclusion, it should be noted that, as Joseph Jacobs wrote in the year 1894, this novel stands next to Gulliver’s Travel and The Pilgrim’s progress as one of the three most intriguing works of allegory in English.
However, this book is set in the Victorian era and is an anticipation of the Twentieth Century. Undeniably, the story strikes the reality surrounding the human nature. This story, as observed from the above discussion, signifies the modern gothic and relates minimally to the traditional Victorian era.
Calder, John, and Lee Robert. A Life Study. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Print.
Kiely, Ray, and Lee Robert. The Fiction of Adventure. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964. Print.
Pagden, Ann. About Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Print.
Rogers, George, and Timothy Sorell. The Dual Nature of Man. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.
Stevenson, Reed. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: Scribner, 1886. Print.
1 Stevenson, Reed. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (New York: Scribner, 1886). 132.
2 Pagden, Ann. About Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) 83-85.
3 Ray Kiely and L. Robert. The Fiction of Adventure (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964) 64-65.
4 John Calder and L. Robert. A Life Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980) 198-199.
5 George Rogers and T. Sorell. The Dual Nature of Man (London: Routledge, 2000) 168-169.