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In What Ways Would You Say That the Novella "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" is a Product of the Times in Which it was Written

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Introduction

In What Ways Would you Say that "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" was a Product of the Times in Which it was Written? The early Victorian era was one of great confidence. Its people felt reassured by the fact that the British Empire was one of the greatest since time began. They felt confident in the idea of 'Creationism'; that God created humans and the universe to his own design so that they would be perfect. Britain was the first industrial country in the world and led the globe in the production of new machines such as locomotives. However, in the late half of Queen Victoria's reign, this long lasting confidence was being challenged. Events like the defeat in the Crimean War were challenging the Empire's strength and people's belief in it. Individuals like Burke and Hare were digging graves and carrying cadavers away to anatomy rooms for scientific experiments, which were being carried out to expand medical knowledge at the expense of common morality. Charles Darwin published his book 'On the Origin of Species' which challenged the idea of Creationism and therefore its religious basis. As being a god-fearing person was one of the central tenets of Victorian life and culture, Darwin's theory could be seen to seriously undermine one of the essential values of Victorian life. The novella brilliantly represents Victorian society and culture because Stevenson explores the fundamental dichotomy of 19th century life; outward respectability and inward desire, and exposes Victorian social hypocrisy. As an example of this duality, Victorian women dressed very demurely and were expected to behave in a certain way in front of the outwardly respectable men, but these "respectable" males often visited prostitutes, hired murderers and owned images of a pornographic nature. Events such as these showed that Victorian society was one of duality, where outwardly respectable citizens were simply repressing acts they committed behind closed doors, because they wanted to maintain their reputable appearances, and were ultimately scared of the consequences they would face if their true feelings were confronted. ...read more.

Middle

them. These truths, out in the open, will shock the person so much that they will die or never be the same again. I have not mentioned Dr Henry Jekyll in this section because he is quite different from the other characters in that he realises he has two sides, good and evil, and also realises that just by repressing the evil "troglodytic" side, nothing good would come of it. Jekyll's main motive for his experiment was to separate these two "polar twins" so that he could live as a respectable man without a guilty conscience and the lingering base urges at the back of his mind. This way these urges could be released in the disguise of another body without the fear of being caught, or even disowned by the respectable men of the society (because the malevolent side of him could retreat back into the form of Jekyll), for example the fact he has already been renounced by Dr Lanyon. His idea was to use his prowess as a chemist to separate the good and evil inside him and house the evil nature inside a new body, so that "life would be relieved of all that was unbearable". Jekyll shows caution towards his experiment, which is eventually overtaken by his ambition to succeed with it. He admits in the final chapter, "Had I approached my discovery in a more noble spirit, had I risked the experiment while under the empire of generous or pious aspirations, all must have been otherwise, but at that time my virtue slumbered; my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion." This means if he had tried to conduct the experiment with religious or generous aspirations, the outcome would not have been so catastrophic and maybe the experiment would have succeeded the way it was meant to. Mr Hyde is the form that Jekyll turns into after concocting his potion, "the figure to whom power is given". ...read more.

Conclusion

This is because the Victorians put a great show on outward appearances and their respectability. This was why they hid away bits of information (like Jekyll's will) so that this information didn't dent their appearances. Another way that Stevenson shows that the book is a product of Victorian society, is the way he uses women in the novel. Women are very rarely seen in the novella, and when they are they are portrayed poorly. The main example of this is when the maid in the upstairs window witnesses the murder of Sir Danvers Carew (Chap. 4). Women were seen as secondary to men in Victorian society, as it was very patriarchal. They were also seen as emotionally weak, always breaking down in tears or fainting. This is what happened in this scene the maid faints "at the horror of these sights and sounds". This implies that had a man seen the incident, he would have immediately called the police and the case could have been solved. But, as it were, the maid fainted and the police were called hours later, and so the culprit (Mr Hyde) was not caught. Stevenson uses the main themes and characters in the book to represent Victorian society and show the book as a product of it. The novella perfectly mirrors the duality and dichotomy of Victorian society by using Dr Henry Jekyll to represent the respectable side of the society and Mr Hyde to represent the dark and evil layer lurking beneath the pleasant fa�ade. Stevenson also portrays the social hypocrisy that was present in the Victorian times in the book. This is why the Victorian population were so shocked by the first publication of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, because the people could see a reflection of their society in the book. The book also shows what could happen to Victorian society if repression continued, because, like Hyde, the disgusting happenings below the surface would build up, burst out and destroy Victorian reputation and appearance. Fraser Bissett 10 L4 - 1 - ...read more.

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