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Is Dr. Jekyll a victim of his times?

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Introduction

Is Dr. Jekyll a victim of his times? Does he deserve our sympathy? To answer this question we must first look to the period in which Dr. Jekyll, and in fact the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, lived. Victorian society was one with huge social divides, the poor got poorer and the rich got richer as society was polarized. As we know the Victorian age saw huge advances in many fields, and many of the Victorians themselves believed that it was this stern morality that gave them success, an idea championed by Samuel Smiles. Therefore, there was a massive pressure on high society to be the epitome of respectability, morality and discipline, and thus succeed. Many would still yearn for, and seek out, the 'undignified pleasures' as Jekyll puts it, in secret; we see this in the book when Enfield, a respected man, known for his frequenting of fashionable places, states the he was "coming home from some place at the end of the world about 3 o'clock of a... morning", this is echoed by George R. Sims a Victorian writer who wrote that the slums of London were "A Dark Continent within walking distance of the Post Office", which most definitely fits with Enfield's place of origin in his comment. However not many of the respectable people of Victorian society could afford to venture into the slums to satisfy their urges for gambling, prostitutes and drugs as they were held in higher regard than Enfield and could not, therefore, risk even the slightest chance of being recognized. ...read more.

Middle

These animal references go a long way to show the bestial like attitude of Hyde. Does Dr. Jekyll deserve our sympathy? To explain this we must look, almost exclusively at the final chapter 'Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case'. In this chapter Dr. Jekyll explains his side of the story and it is here and here alone that we can properly decide on whether he deserves sympathy. Jekyll was born into a respectable family, and so was automatically expected to lead a respected and fulfilled life, so Jekyll did not even have the chance to make the mistakes of youth; he was forced into a 'perfect' existence. It is true that he had the ambition to match his expected future, however I believe that it is significant that Dr. Jekyll never got a chance to fully experience the adventures, good or bad of childhood. Jekyll does admit to keeping things a secret, concealing his pleasures, leading a "Profound duplicity of life". Jekyll hid things that that many would have embraced, however Jekyll wanted to be the highest of the high and guarded his small pleasures with a "almost morbid sense of fear" saying that it was "rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults" showing that the things he did would not have been 'bad' if he had not wanted to be so 'good'. Jekyll claims that he does both good and bad but is "in no sense a hypocrite" as, he claims "both sides of me were in dead earnest". ...read more.

Conclusion

He does return to being Hyde and kills Danvers Carew, this in a way frees him, as now if he were to turn into Hyde he would be put to death, but it was not his choice. Jekyll is not forgoing his transformation by willpower, not truly making himself give up the joys of being Hyde, in no way relinquishing his changes for a positive reason, he was forced into it by the threat of death. Jekyll then tries to make up for all the bad he did as Hyde. But a vain thought sends him back to being Hyde, and destroys the balance of his soul. In the statement Jekyll is always switching between the 3rd and 1st person, a fact he does at one point admit; "I..I cannot say I." This shows that Jekyll has lost his sense of identity and does not really want to be associated with either Jekyll or Hyde. So, finally: Was Dr. Jekyll a victim of his times? Yes, the strict Victorian society did not allow him to experience even the slightest deviation from perfection, and therefore he turned to other means which lead to his physical and mental breakdown. And does Dr. Jekyll deserve our sympathy? Only the same sympathy given to a self inflicted drug addict, which was, ultimately what Jekyll is, he was addicted to evil and could not stop himself, he was a victim of his own personality and deserves only the sympathy which that would allow. 1 Non sequitur example from 'www.wikipedia.com'==> Search: 'non-sequiturs (logic)' Noel S. Liggins M5S ...read more.

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