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How does Stevenson explore the possibilities of the split between "good" and "evil" in "the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"?

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Introduction

How does Stevenson explore the possibilities of the split between "good" and "evil" in "the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"? Robert Louis Stevenson first wrote this novel with the intention of writing an exciting tale. After a suggestion from his wife, he then decided to include the two-sided nature of man and society as a whole. Some people even believe that Stevenson wrote the novel as an exploration of his own dark nature. The hypocrisy of Victorian society is one of the values, which Stevenson explores, in the strange case of Jekyll and Hyde. He implies that, although on the outside many high-class men may seem to be good citizens, inside, they hide dark secrets and a more sinister side. Like many other famous writers (such as William Golding in Lord of the Flies), Stevenson shares the view that some evil is inherent in everyone, "...all human beings...are commingled out of good and evil." Although the novel itself seems quite light-hearted, Stevenson is very careful to portray the evil Mr Hyde as being very deadly. This can be seen, in particular, after the trampling of the little girl on the street corner and the brutal murder of the MP. Throughout the novel Stevenson uses various contrasts to display the continual conflict of good versus evil. ...read more.

Middle

Another duality, which Stevenson explores, is man and the reversion back to Neolithic characteristics. Hyde is often referred to as being animal-like. This theme seems similar to William Golding's book, 'Lord of the Flies', in which the character's regression to an animalistic state seems to be due to instinct and evil. This seems to bear many similarities to Jekyll's experimentation with Hyde. One of the more interesting themes of the novel is that ultimately evil is stronger than good. The first noticeable point that indicates this in the novel is that in Hyde there is no Jekyll, whereas in Jekyll, Hyde is always present. Stevenson implies that there is no way to break free from the evil inside you. Hyde is not a completely separate person, but a projection of Jekyll's darker side. Although Jekyll seems to have no control over Hyde, once he has transformed, it is Jekyll's original attitude towards evil in the first place, which lands him in this trouble. He regards the ability to lose moral control and be free from the ties of society as a kind of liberation, which is why the transformation into Mr Hyde is so appealing to him. It is not that he has no regard to society as a whole, else he would have committed the crimes he did, without the need for transformation, but cannot tolerate that certain behaviour is prohibited. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is a downward spiral for Dr Jekyll. The circle closes, however, with the imagery of the last paragraph. The novel began with Jekyll's desire to separate the moral aspects from himself, so that he could commit evil without feeling remorse (although he often did, once he transformed back into Jekyll). The cost of this, though was a deadly reversal of dominance. In the end, Hyde cause Jekyll to commit the ultimate act of self-destruction; suicide. Stevenson uses various ways, such as narrative technique, foreshadowing, contrasting characters and setting and a broad exploration of man's two-sided nature in order to portray the split between 'good' and 'evil' in the strange tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He does this, in particular, by suggesting that good cannot be present without evil and that evil is inherent in us all. He also implies that evil will always, ultimately, overpower good if it is given the opportunity to surface, as it cannot easily be controlled. This is shown by the suicide of Dr Jekyll under the influence of Mr Hyde. What Stevenson portrays throughout the whole novel is that if you give evil an inch, it will take a mile and evil will ultimately overcome good, even if that wasn't the initial intention. Simon Croft ...read more.

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