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Jekyll and Hyde

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Introduction

The unsettling, repugnant and deformed Edward Hyde is a character who provokes extreme visceral aversion from the unwary Victorian reader. Stevenson presents the troglodytic figure of Hyde ingeniously and to crystallize his description of unattractiveness, he uses structure and setting to make Hyde seem ominous and devilish. This chilling build up sets up tension and suspense for the Victorians. The then current religious theory that man had been made out of God's image had been overhauled by Darwin's theory. Darwin claimed that humans were highly elaborate apes. Most Victorians called the theory preposterous. Victorian society was in chaos and heated arguments broke out. The fact that there was a debate of evolution in a book was sensational to the Victorians. Stevenson uses Hyde to explore the theory and split life apart. His "dwarf like stature and resemblance of Satan" would have shaken Victorian society and infuriated readers. Stevenson had created the feeling of blasphemy and in the final chapter makes Jekyll a hypocrite, the spitting image of Victorian society. The book is a tale of contrasts and of self- control. Stevenson's novel demonstrates the adverse effects of scientific experimentation on people which bring out both good and evil sides to them. The Victorian era in general also had its own dual personality: the rich and the poor, the saved and the fallen and the worthy and the disgraced. The Victorian era placed high expectations on the respectable classes and dismissed those who did not meet these expectations. Stevenson demonstrates the fact that the pressures existing in high society were so great that many of the rich and respectable lived a double-life of propriety and shame. ...read more.

Middle

Hyde is a nuanced character. The distaste towards Hyde is mainly because of his hideous looking character. The wrath and anguish felt by those who were affected by Hyde's rebellious actions could not bear to see him alive. When the women are seen to be responding to Hyde trampling the little girl, they are seen as "wild harpies." Hyde's lack of conscience and discourteousness means he is forgiven even less if at all. Even in his first encounter, he raises a fear, an antagonism, and a deep loathing in other people. The reaction of others to him is one of horror, partly because while looking at him, others feel a deep desire to strike out at him and kill him. In other words, his mere physical appearance brings out the very worst evil in other people. Hyde is always seen to be smaller than Jekyll: Jekyll's clothes are far too large for him and Hyde is seen to be more energetic, therefore suggesting he is younger than Jekyll. Jekyll realises Hyde's pessimism but knows that Hyde is an intimate part of him so Hyde builds in vice and becomes a dominant figure over Jekyll. Dr Jekyll is a prominent, popular London scientist with a brilliant reputation and is very successful in his firm of science. He is a large handsome man aged about fifty years old. He owns his own estate and has recently drawn up a will leaving his immense fortune to Hyde. He is a well educated gentleman but this does not stop him from trying to fulfil his wishes of acting immorally without affecting his reputation. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is a detestable sight who is despised by all who look at his dire appearance. Victorian morality was very low and Stevenson shows this by using the novel and splitting man, showing Victorians did not have much strength in their mind. Stevenson is bold to show Darwin's theory in his book. Stevenson emphasises this fragmentation of society by creating the two opposing characters of Dr. Lanyon and Dr. Jekyll. The two doctors both build their trust and work in a demanding London society. However, this is where their similarities end, as their viewpoints differ on scientific morality. Lanyon is content with normal scientific life. Jekyll however, aligned with the Victorian philosophy of discovery and adventure in both science and everyday life, is determined to discover new prospects and areas of study. Stevenson's novel is a classic Victorian gothic thriller. Hyde is actually the original, authentic nature of man, which has been repressed but not destroyed by the complete and total weight of civilization, conscience, and communal traditions. Perhaps man doesn't have two natures but rather a single, primitive, amoral one that remains just barely constrained by the bonds of civilization. Moreover, the novel suggests that once those bonds are broken, it becomes impossible to re-establish them and eventually Hyde will permanently replace Jekyll and indeed he does. Even in Victorian England which considered itself the height of Western civilization, Stevenson suggests that the dark, instinctual side of man remains strong enough to devour anyone who, like Jekyll, proves foolish enough to unleash it. "Here then, as I lay down my pen and proceed" through life, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to" an end. 1 Written by: Sohan Shah 10D ...read more.

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