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Jekyll and Hyde Study

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Personal Study The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde "Discuss the author's theme of the duality of man and the techniques he employs to convey this to the reader." Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the most pioneering authors of his time, and is seen in the modern literary world as an author of extraordinary human understanding and an author who wrote way ahead of his time. His knowledge of the era in which he lived is now seen as praiseworthy, as his themes were often underwritten with the tones of the era that he wished to address. 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' has such clarity in theme and message that it is, upon reflection, an effective insight into human nature. The novella begins with the introduction of the character who becomes the narrator of the story - Mr Utterson. His friend, Mr Enfield, tells him a story about a mysterious man who trampled a small girl by night. This intrigues Mr Utterson, and soon links between this man, named Hyde, and a respectable doctor (and a friend of Utterson) named Jekyll. Utterson immediately believes Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll, but as the story unravels, we discover Jekyll and Hyde is actually the same person. Jekyll eventually realises he will succumb to the power of his alter-ego, and debates what Hyde will do after his potion runs out - it is revealed midway through the novella that he takes his own life. ...read more.


In the middle of the novel, when Hyde murders Sir Danvers Carew in cold blood at night, London is full of a 'glow of rich, lurid brown' through the eyes of Mr Utterson, suggesting that the darkness and evil of Hyde is beginning to taint London's very atmosphere, much like Jekyll's steady tainting of his own body. As the narrative progresses, a 'thick fog' begins to descend upon the city, which progresses as Hyde's reign of senseless murder, and Jekyll's crisis of control over his alter-ego, deepens. At the beginning of the story, though, London is described as 'bustling centre of commerce'. Clearly, the author uses the setting as another means of allowing the reader subtle access to the changes between Jekyll and Hyde. Often throughout the novel, the characters who are speaking or narrating, or even the third-person narrator, refuse to communicate their fears or disgust at what is occurring. Such failure of articulation is present even from the start, as Utterson and Enfield refuse to discuss the nature of Hyde's personal appearance and characteristics. Whilst this could be easily be attributed to natural disgust at Hyde's physicalities, further similar events cannot be explained so easily. The most apparent example of this rejection of language comes when Hyde's 'sordid behaviour' and his life vices are not described. ...read more.


However, the other interpretation of the theme, equally backed up with evidence, is that we are all, in essence, one hundred percent Hyde with a veneer of civilisation in Jekyll. The fact that, in the text, Jekyll eventually loses all control of his transformation into Hyde and, eventually, any semblance of his old self altogether, is proof of this. This is the much more shocking of the two possibilities, suggesting that our very world is a cover and humans left to their most immoral and animalistic devices are akin to the revolting Hyde. The combination of possibilities left unsolved at the end of the novella makes the theme much more compelling and intriguing as the hints left question the society in which people live, as well as challenging them strongly and directly. 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' is a perfect example of a well thought-out, universally applicable and well-written story. Stevenson has set out from the beginning to make a story that will not just live long in the memory of the reader like so many other themes, but rather it will challenge the reader to search themselves for the personality traits that make Hyde such a revolting, but strangely fascinating, character to study. The duality of man is a theme that could be covered with an indirect and abstract plotline but Stevenson's choice of making the thriller so personal and penetrating has changed the way the authors of today relate to the reader and communicate their themes. ...read more.

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