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Consider Stevenson's exploration of duality in his Novella 'The strange case or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'

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Introduction

Consider Stevenson's exploration of duality in his Novella 'The strange case or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' From the very beginning of this novella, duality is an obvious theme. Even before the reader opens the book they can see the duality captured in the title. Stevenson was famously fascinated with the idea of man as having two sides to him; two polar opposites that balance out each other; in 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' Stevenson hypothesises what would happen if one of these sides were to break free. Just as Stevenson's theory of man is based on binary opposites, the book is also filled with dual conflicts and contrasts: good versus evil, religion versus science, facade versus reality, responsibility versus freedom, necessity versus excess and right versus wrong. The most obvious struggle between two forces in the novella is the struggle between good and evil; both in a religious context and within the human psyche. Dr Jekyll's conflict with Hyde represents suppressing the natural evil within us all- Stevenson puts forward the idea that man is in fact a compound; a mix of good and evil: "man is not truly one, but truly two". Is 'Jekyll and Hyde' merely a metaphor for a man allowing the evil side of his dual-personality to become the strongest? ...read more.

Middle

The theme of hypocrisy or contradiction is even embodied in the setting; especially Jekyll's house which in a way epitomises the idea used throughout the novella of an attractive, elegant surface or veneer that hides a sordid, sinister underside. In the way that Jekyll's house contrasts with the dark, ominous dissecting rooms where Hyde lives, which we later find out is the back entrance. This is somewhat a metaphor for the Jekyll and Hyde relationship: two entities that seem to contrast each other to a great extent that we later find out are one and the same. The Victorian emphasis on appearance and reputation is also what drives Jekyll to endeavour in his experiment- as he feels that his responsibilities as Dr Jekyll have prevented him in indulging in what he really wants to do. The tension between responsibility and freedom, between conscience and immorality is also prevalent in this text. "I had to drink the cup, to doff at once the body of the noted professor, and to assume like a thick cloak, that of Edward Hyde" Jekyll uses his alter ego to evade responsibility and almost as a scapegoat so that he is not forced to confront himself or his conscience. Although Jekyll's actions as Hyde are in many ways shameful, his desperation to free himself from his uncontrollable urges is in many ways what makes Jekyll such a sympathetic and likable character. ...read more.

Conclusion

on the thought of the separation of these elements." In this quotation Jekyll talks about the years leading up to his discovery and his intentions. He wanted to separate the good and evil sides of his nature; to free his good side from his immoral urges, and his bad side from the restrictions of conscience. However he obviously fails to do this, instead he merely frees his evil side, Hyde, who then eventually becomes dominant. Freud's theory alleged that the 'ego' and the 'superego' were needed to censor the 'id', in order to create a socially safe and stable human. Therefore maybe the reason that Hyde dominates Jekyll is because he needs jekyll's ego and superego to control him. Or maybe Jekyll was wrong about man's two sides being equally balanced; maybe he was slightly more evil than good, as he himself says: "had I risked the experiment while under the empire of generous or pious aspirations, all must have been otherwise, and from these agonies of death and birth I had come forth an angel instead of a fiend." - Here he suggests that it was his selfish intentions that led to Hyde (the 'id') prevailing over the angel (the 'superego'). There is no definite answer to this question and Stevenson deliberately leaves it open for the reader to make their own choice; thereby using duality of meaning in order to leave the reader questioning their own beliefs and morals. ...read more.

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