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How does Stevenson play with the Concept of the Double in 'Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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Introduction

How does Stevenson play with the Concept of the Double in 'Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The novella in question is 'Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1885 at his residence in Bournemouth after a tragic nightmare. I am going to discuss the subject of duality in the novella. It is set in the nocturnal streets of London in the Victorian era, a period in which doubles and opposites were frequent. Curiously, this novella looks at the life of a scientist called Henry Jekyll who formulates a potion enabling him to temporarily transform both his personality and physical appearance. This new individual is Mr. Hyde, the 'id' or the simian who 'hides' inside Dr. Jekyll. In many ways, this book reflects Stevenson himself and the Victorian period as a whole. I look at this novella from a various different origins; the father to son relationship as in Jekyll's confession 'Jekyll had more than a father's interest; Hyde had more than a son's indifference.'; the hypocrisy in the Victorian age as Carew the MP gives the impression of being a homosexual and finally, the adolescent boy inside the grown man which due to Hyde's physical status, he looks and feels younger. ...read more.

Middle

By showing this, Stevenson is trying to show the hypocrisy in society at the time as Carew was both a homosexual and a Member of Parliament that had outlawed such behaviour. Mr Hyde is probably the most complex and mysterious character in the novella. All the characters that see him, sense this unidentifiable deformity in him. This could be due to moral depravity. At the time, deformity was not accepted and those who were deformed were unwanted in the society. Stevenson captures the way people perceived Hyde's deformities in one passage of the book 'Snarled ... savage ... pale and dwarfish ... deformity ... husky ... murderous ... hardly human ... troglodytic ... foul soul ... Satan's signature on a face.' We have the impression of an amoral, 'ape-like' being who is of a different order to the rest of society. As Mr. Hyde attacks the little girl and tramples over her he again gives this barbaric image of an untamed beast or a 'masked thing like a monkey' on the other side of this mask is the opposite of this beast. The opposite of the beast; Jekyll is the 'ego' and the respectable face in society, a doctor and a wealthy middle aged man. ...read more.

Conclusion

whilst on the other hand, there are 'the glass cases full of chemicals' giving a different atmosphere to the rest of the room. 'Several books on the shelf... open... annotated... startling blasphemies.' The book that is laid next to the tea things, presumably a holy book, had been written on with wickedness by Hyde. We can relate this to the fact that it was open meaning that Hyde had been unleashed. The last object yet, probably the most significant in the room, is the cheval-glass. Stevenson shows his bilingual skills and produces a bilingual pun. In French, a cheval glass is also called a phsyc� which is another way of saying psyche. As Utterson and Poole peer into this glass and see nothing, it is another way of saying that they peer into the psyche of Jekyll and Hyde and see nothing as 'they' are both dead. This pun tells us a lot of what Stevenson thought of society at the time. Stevenson uses the cheval-glass to say that the Victorian era was not yet ready for psychoanalysis. There are various ways in which Stevenson shows the socio-historical characteristics of the novella and of the time. The typical Victorian gentleman was well known for his duality. ...read more.

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