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Explore the Ways in Which RL Stevenson Uses Setting to Portray Good and Evil in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Introduction

Explore the ways in which RL Stevenson uses setting to portray good and evil in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer of this novel, was born on the 13th of November 1850 and was immediately indoctrinated with religion. His parents and his Nanny, both equally influential during his childhood, were strictly religious. They read the bible to him every night and encouraged him to lead a religious lifestyle. Throughout his life, Stevenson suffered from weak lungs. He was told that it was a punishment from God and that he had evil within him. People often avoided or judged him because of it, which caused him to question religion and rebel against it. His parents had chosen which university and career they wished their son to follow, but Stevenson disappointed them on both notes. He started to associate with people from working class families and was fascinated by their different lifestyle. The fact that two different extremes could live so closely together amazed him. The division between classes in 19th century London lead him to set his novel in that city as it is an analogy to the personality of Jekyll and Hyde. Through the character of Mr. Utterson, we learn how reputable and restrained in demeanor the upper class society of 1866 was encouraged to be. He was described as "lean, long, dusty, dreary", someone that enjoyed many things but held back to agree with society's strict moral codes. ...read more.

Middle

Stevenson uses fog metaphorically to depict the battle between good and evil. "the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths." In this quote, fog represents evil and daylight represents good; evil defeats good, which is an analogy to how Hyde is slowly taking over Jekyll. Fog is also a metaphor for concealment; it covers up misdeeds and crimes. "The fog settled down again upon that part, as brown as umber, and cut him off from his blackguardly surroundings" It prevents clarity in vision and thought whilst also creating a sense of confusion. In one scene, Utterson is on his way to Hyde's house "about nine in the morning" however, because of the thick fog, the day appears like "twilight" and "it would be dark like the back end of an evening". By transposing evening and morning, Stevenson creates an atmosphere of darkness as well as a great sense of confusion and mystery. This represents how society was confused and unsettled at the time. It also illustrates Utterson's confusion around the issue of Jekyll and Hyde. Stevenson continues to reinforce his point of evil defeating good by repeating this concept and using language from a semantic field. "A great chocolate covered pall is lowered over heaven" Heaven is metaphorically being weighed down by a dark and heavy object. In this quote, he's also making a connotation of death, which adds to the mystery and darkness in the scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

Throughout the novel, there is a definite fight between good and evil. In the build up to the end of the novel, Stevenson repeatedly illustrates evil defeating good, but at the end of the novel, I believe it is good that wins. Though the character is in the form of Jekyll when he dies, with him dies Hyde. Stevenson uses Jekyll and Hyde as an analogy to the hypocrisy in the upper classes. I believe, when Jekyll dies, Stevenson is illustrating how society changes and with it, so do their moral codes. Instead of the upper classes rebelling against their own morals, they slowly begin to change their views and ways of thinking. When Hyde dies, Jekyll goes with him. Stevenson could have chosen to let Jekyll live and for the evil part of Jekyll, Hyde, to die, but he didn't. By doing this, I believe he is trying to prove the point that one cannot live without the other. To have good in the world, there must be evil, which translates into Victorian society. I think he is trying to illustrate his belief that evil exists and to have it is just part of being human. He's trying to establish that the thing that is morally incorrect is not evil itself, but denying evil. The 'evil' that existed in Victorian society was the things that were deemed to be evil rather than those that were implicitly evil; for example drinking, bawdiness, and sex. Stevenson is highlighting the point that society in Victorian times was very hypocritical, and the book attempts to mock the hidden nature of their desires. ...read more.

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