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Robert Mighall describes 'The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde' as 'more than just a shilling shocker'

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Introduction

Robert Mighall describes 'The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde' as 'more than just a shilling shocker'. It explores in depth the hypocritical society of the Victorian era, and emphasises the darkness that lies behind the respectable fa´┐Żade. Darwin's theories, and other scientific breakthroughs meant that many religious beliefs were being eroded, which led to spiritual uncertainty. Blackmail and sexuality were a big part of many lives at the time, but were kept secret, as people were 'ordinary secret sinners'. Religion pervaded all aspects of Victorian society, and many Victorians were wary of scientific experiments. Change, rather than stability became the norm, and experiments it was feared, would have strange and dangerous outcomes. Stevenson played with this idea in the novel. The creation of Hyde not only makes the reader question the nature of man, but also the question of science against religion. If such scientific breakthroughs weren't being made, would the dark, sinister side of man ever emerge? The novel sees Jekyll returning to religion at the end; 'God knows, I am careless', showing perhaps that an can't exist without God. Hyde lacks a conscience, which Christianity teaches every human has. ...read more.

Middle

It is strongly suggested that Enfield and Carew have their own unsolved secrets. Carew was an 'aged and beautiful gentleman', yet walking through an alley at night. The ambiguous actions of the central 'respectable' characters, in my opinion, acts as a symbol for the higher classes of Victorian society. The constant fear of blackmail at the time added to the instability at the time, and from this we can see how different the reactions to the novel would be by a reader today, as we are not in a constant fear of secrecy and sin; it is expressed more openly. The policeman in chapter 4 is another example. His 'professional ambition' caused him to think more about the rewards and influence on his reputation solving a murder would have, rather than closure for people who cared. Reputation is very important in the novel, with 'upright' characters such as Enfield and Utterson avoiding gossip at all costs. For example when Utterson first suspects Jekyll of being blackmailed, and then sheltering Hyde from the police, he didn't report it, in fear of damage to his friends reputation. This shows, again, how important it was to hide the often sordid undersides of peoples respectable facades. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Stevenson critiques Victorian society using a number of different devices. By symbolising occurrences that happened in everyday life, he was able to show what, in his view, were the consequences of suppressing natural urges. I think he used Jekyll as a symbol for 'normal' people. Jekyll shows initial delight whenever he becomes Hyde, and no matter how appalling the crimes Hyde commits, Jekyll never feels guilty enough to refrain from making the transformation again as soon as he feels the urge. "Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde," Jekyll writes, "but the situation was apart from ordinary laws' But such statements seem little more than an absurd attempt at self-justification Jekyll brings Hyde into being, knowing full well that he embodies pure evil. Jekyll therefore bears responsibility for Hyde's actions. His willingness to convince himself otherwise suggests that the darker half of the man has the upper hand, even when he is Jekyll and not Hyde. Readers responses would be very different now to then. While we may judge Jekyll, Victorian readers may not have blamed him for wanting to break free from 'standard' conventions. In What ways, and with what effects, does Stevenson use his writing to criticise the immoral nature of Victorian society? ...read more.

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