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How does Robert Louis Stevenson present the nature of evil in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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Introduction

How does Robert Louis Stevenson present the nature of evil in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? First published in 1886, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson, tells the story of Mr Utterson's concern when his friend Dr Henry Jekyll, a well known chemist, befriends a rather mysterious, short-tempered man named Edward Hyde. Worried for his friend, Mr Utterson decides to investigate and soon enough discovers the terrible truth about Jekyll and Hyde's unique relationship. In this essay I will explore whether the rules and restrictions of society cause enough anxiety to create the Hyde type character; or secondly, that evil is an innate part of everyone's character, we are all capable of Hyde's actions but the rules of society prevent this from happening. Stevenson was a Calvinist. Calvinist theology is sometimes identified with the five points of Calvinism: Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints, and nature of the atonement. These five points state that God has planned out everyone's life for them, they also state that if everyone is born with either a good or bad soul. If you have a bad soul but lead your life completely without sin you will still end up going to hell. ...read more.

Middle

Duality is also shown in Mr Enfield. Mr Enfield is described as "the well-known man about town. This shows that he is a very well respected man. However as the book progresses he tells Mr Utterson about a time when he was out in the middle of the night: "I was coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o'clock of a black winter morning" The fact that he will not tell his friend, Mr Utterson, where he was at such a late time leads the reader to believe that he was leading a double life similar to Jekyll's. However Mr Enfield's secretive life differs to Jekyll's because, instead of sneaking off in the dead of night to avoid detection, Jekyll splits the good and the evil side of his nature, forming a different character completely. Mr Hyde. This supports the idea that evil is an innate part of everyone's character and the rules of society prevent us from carrying out the actions of Hyde. Duality as a theme underscores the other themes of good and evil in one person and of science and religion existing equally in society. Stevenson highlights the way nineteenth century society wanted people to completely hide and deny any so called "evil" feelings by contrasts between Jekyll and Hyde. ...read more.

Conclusion

Suggesting that education can help people suppress evil but this still might be too much to ask of them. Mr Utterson chooses to cope with the rules of society in a very secretive manner. No one, even the reader completely understands his character, even after the extensive description in chapter one: "lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow loveable." Though he is well respected, and clearly a successful lawyer, he appears to be very cold. Secrecy is reflected through the book in many different symbols; there are locked doors, barred windows and windowless structures. We are therefore uncertain if Utterson is to be seen as a "good" character or not. Stevenson suggests that people who judge others (for example the middle class) are secretly no better than the "evil" working class. I conclude that Stevenson presented evil as an innate part of everybody's character, we are all capable of Hyde's actions but the rules and restrictions of society prevent this from happening. Jekyll creates his other self, Hyde, as a way of coping and finding a way around these rules. Because Jekyll is middle class and Hyde is working class, the expectations of society for him would be much higher than Hyde. Therefore creating Hyde leads him to be able to enjoy anything (within reason) that middle class society would prevent him from doing. ...read more.

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