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“Dr. Jekyll deserves our sympathy – he is a victim of Victorian Values.” Discuss.

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Introduction

"Dr. Jekyll deserves our sympathy - he is a victim of Victorian Values." Discuss. Victorian society was split between the very rich, and the very poor. Jekyll was part of the former, born 'to a large fortune,' 'inclined by nature to industry' and he was 'fond of the respect of the wise and good.' However, there was great hypocrisy caused by this social divide, which resulted in Jekyll having a hedonistic side to his personality. While the rich were respectable and 'austere,' the poor visited prostitutes and partook in illegal gambling. However, what Stevenson does in his story, is to unearth the true facts about the rich in Victorian life. He claims that even the most undemonstrative of Victorians indulged themselves in the 'lower elements' of life. Indeed, a conservative estimate gives evidence that there were over 8,000 prostitutes working in London at that time. Therefore, a large number of the male population, being much smaller than today, must have at some time indulged in this ghastly activity. Jekyll knew this and he reflected that, after all...I was like my neighbours.' Dr. Jekyll also refers to religion a lot. He says that it brands his 'pleasures' as evil. ...read more.

Middle

'There is something wrong with his appearance.' This feeling of utter disgust is conveyed to us throughout the book. Each time, however, the person cannot describe what they actually hate about Hyde, they just despise him. The female witness 'had conceived a dislike' to Hyde, and even Utterson had an 'unknown disgust, loathing and fear' of him. After the trampling incident, Jekyll is very arrogant in the fact that 'the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde.' This certainty leads us to ask ourselves a question, is Hyde that easy to get rid of? The Carew murder caused considerable discomfort for Jekyll. The day after the incident, when Utterson visited Jekyll, he was 'looking deadly sick.' Could this mean that Jekyll was implicated with Carew? Jekyll, at this point, shows great remorse and says 'I bind my honour to you that I am done with him in this world. It is all at an end,' 'he will never more be heard of.' This is a change in tone from when he was very laid back about Hyde; however, he still has the arrogance to be sure that he can 'be rid of him.' However, a paragraph later, it says that he has 'lost confidence in myself' so maybe he is not so sure of Hyde. ...read more.

Conclusion

In fact, Hyde has taken over completely. In the final paragraph of Jekyll's statement, he asks 'will he [Hyde] find the courage to release himself...?' This is not answered, despite Jekyll eventually committing suicide, as he could have done so because of his fear of being hanged, or alternatively, for the good of society. The former would have been selfishness, the latter, would be for the good of humanity. I conclude: Dr. Jekyll was a victim of Victorian values. If he had been allowed to engage in his experiments and his pleasures without the fear of being discarded into the gutter of a London street, then he would not have created a permanently evil person. However, because of the pressures of society, he was forced to commit these actions in private. As discussed, he did not have to create Hyde, and so brought the suffering upon himself. If he had had the discipline to not allow Hyde to take over, then we may feel more sympathy, but he 'chose the better part and was found wanting in the strength to keep it.' Jekyll was selfish, but he cried 'tears of penitence' and admits he made a mistake. If it was not for the social divide, his mistake would have been forgotten and therefore we can feel sympathy. Andrew Brooman Page 4 of 4 ...read more.

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