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What do we learn of Victorian London and society from Stevenson’s story?

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Introduction

What do we learn of Victorian London and society from Stevenson's story? In "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde", Robert Louis Stevenson describes life in London during the 1880s, the later half of the Victorian period. During that time, society was sharply divided into distinct social classes and their corresponding communities. Very few districts were truly public in the sense that people could move in and out of them with ease. Generally, people were uncomfortable and often unwelcome in parts of town that were not inhabited by their own social group. To avoid wandering into an unknown area, most Londoners stayed in their own neighbourhoods. This geographical and social fragmentation is an essential part of the setting of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Throughout the whole novel Stevenson describes the scene by telling us that it is foggy because of the huge amounts of pollution. He describes the smog as a " great chocolate coloured pall lowered over heaven". He also tells us the face of the city moon is 'fogged' and that it was windy. These are all unpleasant characteristics that make London seem more mysterious. The first thing we are told of London is of Dr Jekyll's backdoor. Dr. Jekyll lived in the low-class area of London even though he was a high class, respected gentleman with a good education and an excellent education. ...read more.

Middle

Again women are shown to be as 'wild as harpies'. As Utterson speaks to Dr. Lanyon about his meeting with Mr.Hyde, he describes London as a 'nocturnal', suggesting London is most lively at night time; when all the bad things happen at night. This shows he knew that many people were not as simple as the seem to be on the surface, but led 'double lives', at night when it was least expected. Throughout the novel Utterson is the main character that tells us of Victorian society, as he is an archetypal Victorian gentleman. We use him as a guide. When we are first given a description of Utterson at the beginning of the novel, we see that the Victorians were very strict with themselves; he "drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages", meaning he liked to drink fine wines but did not want to over indulge. Utterson also enjoyed the theatre but he has "never crossed the doors of one for twenty years". This also tells us that Victorians were very strict with themselves. We are also told through Utterson that Victorians were very tolerant of others and that they did not make judgements about each other: "for he was undemonstrative" Victorian gentlemen would usually associate with people like themselves and of their own kind for reputation: " His friends were those of his own ...read more.

Conclusion

He is described as having a "murderous mixture of timidity" suggesting he is trying to hide something terrible he has done. He is even described as a "mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent?" this tells that Hyde is so evil that this makes him ugly and deformed. Utterson even tells us he is "hardy human!" again suggesting his ugliness. We are told that he lives in Soho, a low class part of London that is famous for its 'red light district'. We are told that his clothes are oversized, this shows us that he is clearly low class. As can be seen from these examples of a high-class man and a low-class man there is a complete difference in the way they dress and in their personalities. With these points I have come to a conclusion that Victorian London and society was not what it seemed to be on the surface. Good aspects like manners and strictness show that people led very normal lives, nothing that was out of the normal but below all kinds of things may happen, for example Dr. Jekyll's secret love of having two personalities. Victorian London was a city of two halves where the two societies had a very different way of life, both told of in this novel. Vin Man ...read more.

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