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How is evil represented in Stevenson's 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'?

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Introduction

How is evil represented in Stevenson's 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'? This essay will show how evil is represented in Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'. 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' is about evil and the duality of people's personalities. To show this I will focus on Stevenson's use of characterization, setting, historical, social and cultural context, settings, symbols and language. Robert Stevenson lived in the Victorian era, this was a very repressive and strict society where it was expected that middle class men would visit prostitutes. This was because people were not supposed to be like animals and have animal instincts such as lust. This meant that middle class men would only sleep with their wives so they could have children and carry on the bloodline. This society would have influenced Stevenson as he was a middle class man himself and he would have experienced his own stifled emotions and hidden instincts, such as lust and rage. Stevenson may also have taken inspiration for the character Mr. Hyde from the crimes of Jack the Ripper who was committing his violent crimes on women at that time. Stevenson may have also been influenced by Mary Shelly's 'Frankenstein', which also deals with the themes of dual personalities and evil. In the text Stevenson uses a lot of powerful imagery when describing Mr. Hyde. He uses words such as detestable and deformed. ...read more.

Middle

Hyde going very fast and of grinding, screaming machinery but it also shows that he has no conscience. By comparing Mr. Hyde to a machine Stevenson is showing that he has no feelings, it also represents that he was not born naturally but created by Dr. Jekyll as machines are by humans. Stevenson may have linked Mr. Hyde to a machine because at the time in which he lived people were very wary of science and believed that it was in effect 'playing God' which was very wrong to them. This may in turn be a sign of Dr. Jekyll's ultimate fate because he was doing something so wrong and not taking responsibility for it that in the end it would catch up with him and he would be punished by God. In the description of the attack on the girl Stevenson has also used a certain amount of pathetic falacey as he writes that it took place "about three o'clock of a black winter morning". Pathetic falacey is when nature reacts and mirrors human emotions and what is going on in human lives. Thus this then shows that Mr. Hyde is evil and that bad things are going to happen. Stevenson has made the attack happen in the winter, this is important because it continues the theme of duality that is present in this novella. This is because winter is the opposite of summer and in the winter things are dead but in the summer they are alive, these seasons can be compared to good and evil, Dr. ...read more.

Conclusion

original Victorian readers would not know what was going to happen at the end and so by telling the story through Enfield, Utterson, Lanyon and at the end Jekyll himself Stevenson is building up suspense and mystery until the climax that is Jekyll's confession. Today almost all the readers of this novella will know the story as it is so famous and widely told but that does not mean it is irrelevant today. There are many warnings from Stevenson that are still relevant to a modern day audience such as; suppression can lead to violence, drugs are wrong and don't play God. This last one is particularley important and relevant due to the advances of science, which have seen scientists able to clone human embryos. As we can see in 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' and also in Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein" people who play with nature and do not take responsibility for their work and creations ultimately end up creating evil things which they do not understand or know how to control. It could be said that Stevenson wrote the story as a warning to Victorian society about repression and science or maybe it was just an interesting mystery story, which happens to have like many fictions and stories to have become almost true. To conclude I think that evil is effectively portrayed in 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'. Stevenson does this by focusing mainly on the themes of duality and suppression of and in human nature. ...read more.

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