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The Representation of evil in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

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Introduction

The Representation of evil in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson published his short novel "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". A recurring theme in the novella is that of evil, a popular subject in Victorian literature as it is such an interesting concept to interpret. The story was set in London, a city put across in the novella as being a dark, intimidating place (as most of the scenes were set in the night-time), and where otherwise respectable men and women indulged in "evil" activities such as gambling, sex, violence and drugs. Stevenson makes many references to the id and ego, which Sigmund Freud wrote about earlier in the 20th century. Freud believed that the id and ego were in constant battle with one another, the id being the unfettered self, and the ego a personality you project on society. The id very much represents the "evil" side of man in Stevenson's novella, and this is shown when the respectable Dr. Jekyll takes the potion to release Hyde, his animalistic id. ...read more.

Middle

What comes across to the crowd and audience as an evil action because no flicker of remorse is shown, is actually not intended. The first time we hear about him is when we are told of a madman knocking down a small child and walking straight over her. 'It sounds like nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn't like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut.' The phrase "juggernaut" suggests Mr. Hyde is amoral, not evil. Hyde isn't bothered about who or what he hurts; he doesn't have a conscience to speak of. He never feels guilty of his actions. As he gets more out of control, he acts more like an animal, and quite insanely. "And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot." When Jekyll tries to control his evil side, after a while, it doesn't work because, as stated before, when the "evil" is suppressed it comes back more powerful than before. Jekyll starts to change into Hyde without taking the potion. Hyde is gradually taking over and Jekyll is becoming more evil. ...read more.

Conclusion

Back then, these 'deformed' people would have been shut away and often the public thought that only a deformed or evil soul could cause such deformities on the outside. These real, sadly common reactions from the late 1800s probably had a huge influence on the attitudes that Stevenson's characters had towards Hyde in the book. The book seems to associate evil with animal quite frequently. This can be seen in the way the book describes how Hyde acts, but also in the way he speaks, often using the term "hissed" and "croaked". In many religions, certain animals are associated with evil, like in the bible, where a snake was personified as Satan. This can be linked to the then recently published theory of evolution, which shocked many people. Darwin's theory stated that animals evolved, rather than being created by god, which contradicted the heavily Christian Victorians beliefs. It seems ironic that Darwin was a man of the church, trying to prove religion right. It seems to me that Robert Louis Stevenson, while writing this novella, set out to make the repressed Victorian society think about its morals and beliefs, and, like many great writers, to challenge the public to think in a new way about themselves and the society they live in. ...read more.

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