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Explore how Stevenson has presented the character of Mr. Hyde. Comment on how the author has created a sense of evil in this character.

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Introduction

Pre-20th Century Prose Study Assignment title: Explore how Stevenson has presented the character of Mr. Hyde. Comment on how the author has created a sense of evil in this character. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson is a novella written in the gothic style, first published in 1886. It is linked to other works written in the same period of time and in the same style, most notably "Dracula" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray". During that period, it was believed that people had doppelgangers, or evil twins; this is how Victorians explained the duality of a person. Duality is a theme greatly explored in the novel; not only the duality of an individual but the duality of Victorian society as a whole. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" demonstrated the fact that many high class citizens, who appeared fine and upstanding, hid dark secrets, especially sexual ones: exactly like Henry Jekyll. Another theme explored in the novella is that of the importance of reputation and class. For example Utterson and Enfield try to avoid gossip and maintain their respectability. Similarly, Utterson tries to preserve Jekyll's reputation, even though he senses something is not right. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" has an episodic narrative structure in the fact that it is divided into specific significant events. ...read more.

Middle

Here, Hyde is compared to Satan again: "Satan's signature upon a face". Victorians would be very shocked by the reference to Satan as to them Satan was the most powerful force of evil on Earth and his "signature upon a face" would make the person extremely wicked and malevolent. Next, the random act of violence in "The Carew Murder Case" greatly affects the readers' opinion of Hyde. Stevenson has built up the feel of iniquity in Hyde through the maid's description of the crime. The verbs and adverbs used are particularly effective. For example, the verbs "clubbed" and "brandished" develop a sense of cruelty in Hyde. What's more, the aural imagery used allows the reader to visualize the crime, accenting it and Hyde's brutality. The maid describes Hyde as behaving "like a madman" and having "ape-like fury", which suggests Hyde may not have been in control of his actions and maybe even suffered from a mental health disorder. However, Victorian readers would not have interpreted that in this way, as there was limited knowledge regarding mental health during that time. Rather, it would have just emphasized Hyde's malice. Hyde's choice of accommodation reflects his character as he dwells in a "dingy street" with "blackguardly" surroundings. ...read more.

Conclusion

Additionally, Stevenson has withheld the details because they probably would have offended a Victorian audience. Nonetheless, this would be different with a modern audience as a modern audience is exposed to much more than a Victorian one. And, the text is more effective without the details as readers are left to guess, which means Hyde's secret could be any one of hundreds. Again, Stevenson is being deliberately vague, just as he was with Hyde's appearance: making Hyde's secret all things to all readers. In conclusion, by not revealing many details about Hyde, Stevenson created a truly evil character, as humans inherently fear the unknown. When the (few) details are revealed to the readers they are extremely unpleasant, with Hyde being "deformed", "ape-like" and "repulsive". Still, the real horror in the story is not Hyde. Jekyll, at the start of chapter 10, describes himself as "being born...endowed besides with excellent parts...with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future". Stevenson could have been describing every person in this way, as we are all born expected to be excellent, principled humans, "with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future". Therefore, in at least one way, everyone can relate to Jekyll. So, the real horror is not Hyde, but rather that every person, good or bad, is a Jekyll and a Hyde. ...read more.

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