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How does Stevenson explore the theme of duality in the novella 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' and how does this reflect the time in which it was written?

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Introduction

How does Stevenson explore the theme of duality in the novella 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' and how does this reflect the time in which it was written? 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' is a novella which still captures the interest of readers worldwide. During the 19th Century, it was devoured by Victorian readers who were intrigued by the ideas it proposed. Human duality particularly interested them; they were fascinated with the idea of the doppelganger. The duality and hypocrisy of the characters reflected life in Victorian society. Outwardly respectable upper-class gentlemen often had a hidden darker side, perhaps visiting East End prostitutes. Other novels written at the time such as 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', 'Dracula' and 'Frankenstein' also reflect the contrasting aspects of human nature. At the time that 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' was written, one of the most popular genres was Gothic. This included certain tell-tale features, such as the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses, madness, secrets, doubles and castles. The novella has some of these, for examples doubles and secrets. Stephenson originally dreamed the story - 'a fine bogey tale' - and, with his wife's encouragement, wrote the novella to explore the darker side of human nature. He in particular believed in the duality of human nature, with everyone consisting of two opposing sides. The personality and actions of Mr Hyde may have represented Stevenson's darker desires, such as his visits to local brothels. The idea of a part of you that had no conscience and simply acted on basic desires both scared and interested the reader, encouraging them to look deeper into their own souls and wonder about their hidden sides. ...read more.

Middle

The use of the word "imperious" implies that he sees himself as and emperor, superior to the other citizens of London. It appears that he does not believe here is much wrong with him the way he is. This is shown when he says "the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety". This also suggests that he has a somewhat undignified wish to be joyful, which Mr Hyde fulfils in his own way. This view of himself is not necessarily shared by others. Dr Lanyon describes him as an "old school-companion". This suggests that whilst they went to school together, as this is the most Lanyon can say of him, they have seen little of each other recently - perhaps he is not as social and respected as he believes. Utterson is worried about him, which he shown when he says "he [Jekyll] is in deep waters", This shows that Utterson is aware of part of the situation and can tell that there is something worrying Jekyll ,which makes him anxious as he is a close friend of Jekyll. There are clues in the novella as to why Jekyll created the potion to transform himself into Hyde. He writes in his confession "life might be relieved of all that was unbearable". His high quality of life makes the reader wonder what Jekyll sees as unbearable - is there something he has not revealed? He also has another apparent reason. This is demonstrated when he writes of the "temptation of a discovery so singular and profound". This description suggests that he wants to discover something completely new, which would make him famous - is this what he craves? ...read more.

Conclusion

Of course, Jekyll will later find that he must pay with more than money for his foolishness. He also goes out of his way to be "beneficent and innocent", trying to be the opposite of the selfish and evil Mr Hyde. It also appears that he is giving as if to counteract what Hyde takes from society. He becomes "surrounded by friends", as if trying to demonstrate that he is sociable and friendly, in direct contrast to Mr Hyde, who would be incapable, if he tried, of making friends. His breaking down of his self-enforced seclusion may represent his dealing with other problems and trying to avoid the biggest - Mr Hyde's gradual takeover of his personality and appearance. I believe that Stephenson succeeded in his purpose of exploring the darker reaches of human nature. He also includes a moral of the story; that each person has two sides, and we must be careful to keep the balance between them if we do not wish to meet an unpleasant end, like Dr Jekyll. Of course, modern society dictates that we experience the novella differently to Victorian readers. Before I read the novella, I already knew the vague storyline as it is part of the popular consciousness. Our society is also very different, particularly that we, in general, hold our religious beliefs more loosely and accept more widely things which were concealed in Stephenson's time. However, for all that, I believe that the novella is still effective in being a 'bogey tale' and in getting its darker message across. It also encourages the readers to look deep within themselves, just as it did when it was first published. ?? ?? ?? ?? Claire Watkins Pre-1914 Prose Coursework ...read more.

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