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How did 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' appeal to the collective consciousness of Victorian Society?

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Introduction

How did 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' appeal to the collective consciousness of Victorian Society? When Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' was first published in January 1886, (delayed from December 1885), many factors contributed to the way the (Victorian) public viewed the gothic novel. It was, and is, seen as one of the most chilling tales of its time. One which inspired many other novels; it could be said that it is the story that made the public believe in the concept of a split personality. One example of this is the case of Jack the Ripper in late 1888. Many people believed that he was a normal, everyday man, but at night he claimed his victims whilst under the illusion that he was somebody else. Subsequently, the stage version of Stevenson's fear-provoking novel was taken off London's stages so the public would not jump to the wrong conclusion that Jack the Ripper was similar to the 'wholly evil' Mr Hyde. To make 'Jekyll and Hyde' frightening, Stevenson used the tactic of playing on Victorian society's greatest fears; the fear of alcohol being the most prominent throughout the novel. ...read more.

Middle

and would get scared of their inner negative feelings. 'Troglodytic' is a key quote from the story, meaning like a caveman. This persuades the reader that Hyde is used to primitive methods, such as using a club to kill a man for no apparent reason. It is hinted that Hyde is an angry man, as he is described as having 'ape-like fury' when he 'tramples' on his murder victim, Sir Danvers Carew. Hyde's anger would terrify Victorian society because it would seem that he is capable of doing much more in a rage, that any ordinary man could. However, Hyde is not only compared to apes and cavemen. He has an animal's nature. His instinct is not to die, which is like an animal's. An animal that he could be compared to is a fox. Foxes are sly and cunning, and hunt for their victims, generally sheep. Jekyll's servants can be described as Hyde's prey, as they are 'huddled together like a flock of sheep' when Utterson arrives to find out what the problem is with Dr Jekyll. Poole is seen as the sheepdog, trying to keep the flock safe from their predator. He is very much like a dog, as he knows what his master's voice is like, and recognises when something is wrong with Jekyll. ...read more.

Conclusion

This implies that there is something more sinister going on between Jekyll and Hyde, especially after Poole mentions to Utterson that 'he mostly comes and goes by the laboratory.' This links Hyde to the 'scientific heresies', which gives the impression that Hyde gets involved with Satan and goes against God. This daunting prospect would alarm the Victorian public, as any heresy would be unnerving, but as science was involved, it made it even more dubious, as the Victorians tended to be scared of the unknown. 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' appealed to the collective consciousness of Victorian society, by involving things that were actually concerned with them as a whole, such as repression. All people had been repressed by society, like Jekyll had been, and so they could have been scared that such a thing might happen to them. Also it would have increased people's awareness about alcohol, and the horrific effects it might have, such as turning someone from a respectable person into a terrifying monstrosity. It is possible that people began to question their Christian faith after reading this novel, and could have thought more about Darwin's theory of evolution, and recognised the animal like qualities in all humans. It was certainly a thought provoking and innovative novel, which caused Victorians to think differently about their society. ?? ?? ?? ?? Kelly Barber 10ATA English Coursework ...read more.

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