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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Introduction

Explore the theme of Duality in ?The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? First published in 1886, ?The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? was an immediate success and one of author Robert Louis Stevenson?s bestselling novels. It is a classic example of Gothic fiction and even though it may be seen as just a horror story, with accounts of violent murders and a disturbing, scientific experiment gone wrong, the book also explains the suppression of the Victorian society. Furthermore, Stevenson brought out further ideas of human psychology during the Victorian times, as the story explores the theme of duality in human nature; the idea that every person has two sides to themselves ? a nicer, kind side which can also be seen as ?artificial? as it is displayed in social situations, whereas the sinister, darker side of man is unsuspected and hidden. This will be my main focus in the essay, analysing how Stevenson uses this theme of dual nature in his novel. ?The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? has another unusual twist because, after all the horrendous acts that have been committed and the unpredictable behaviour of the characters, it is only in the last chapter that the plot and the true dual nature of Henry Jekyll are revealed to the reader, through a letter that Jekyll leaves. It is in this letter that he describes in detail his theory of good and evil in one body, his scientific interests and what made him want to create such a potion that could separate his personality. Jekyll starts with an explanation of his family background and tells us how he was born to a ?large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts? showing that he had the best start in life and, even from an early age, it was clear that he had every chance of being successful in the future. ...read more.

Middle

Jekyll becomes helpless and acknowledges that the only way he will ever be able to get rid of Hyde is by ending his own life. Throughout the novel, R.L. Stevenson uses language which portrays both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as two very different characters, both of their contrasting descriptions suggest that they are nothing alike and that they have nothing in common - they are both opposites. If it wasn?t for Jekyll?s will which shows us both characters are well acquainted, we would think that they have nothing to do with each other. As soon as Hyde is just vaguely mentioned in the novel, the other characters and the narrative descriptions use negative language directly towards him. They act as if they?ve been horrifically shocked by his facial features which makes the reader picture him as a repulsive looking creature, especially as he is said to be ?pale and dwarfish? and that he ?gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation?. The text even indicates that there is something so wrong with Hyde?s physical appearance that he can scare away the other characters in the book by simply looking at them ? ?but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running.? Also Hyde is often related to having animal-like characteristics and behaviour, linking to Darwin?s theory of evolution which was newly introduced in the Victorian times around the same period the story was set. The idea that humans had evolved from animals extremely shocked the Victorians. On one hand it was difficult for them to get their heads around the fact that humans descended from apes and that the human mind could be composed of animal element, since they strongly believed that God was the creator of the world and all the species, contradicting Darwin?s theory which challenged creation stories and religious beliefs. On the other hand it was highly disturbing for the Victorians to acknowledge that they too had descended from apes, when they thought that every individual had been uniquely made by God. ...read more.

Conclusion

Likewise, Mr Enfield subtly implies that he is also hiding something when he quotes “I was coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o’clock of a black winter morning” - as he doesn’t give any details about where he was and he was out so late, perhaps he was committing some type of sin, and giving into his suppression. The structure of the book continues to reflect the predominant theme of duality as it has a non linear narrative with a number of characters narrating the different chapters of the story. This suggests that there are more than two ways of looking at something, as the reader gets to see the same event through the eyes of different people and learn about their varying viewpoints, which backs up the author’s theory that “man is not truly one, but truly two”. Although it is effective for us to be told the story from multiple perspectives, since it creates more of a mysterious tone throughout the novel and sets the suspense, it is quite biased as the accounts we are told from the different characters are based on their individual emotions and opinions regarding the events. I believe that Stevenson succeeds in getting his belief of dual nature in humans, across to the readers throughout the novel as the overall message of the book is that the human personality can be split into several parts. There is no one person who is all pure, or all evil, each and every one of us has different personalities and people living within ourselves. At one point in life, all humans will have put on a façade, pretending to be a different person in public whilst their true emotions remain hidden inside. Stevenson explores this concept in depth, and the conclusion is that there will never be just one way of looking at something; there is never just one side to a story. ...read more.

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