Explore the Representation of Evil in Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde
The stereotypical view of evil is shown through dark colours and beings such as the devil, these contrasts with murders and killings as shown in Jekyll and Hyde. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde the views on good and evil are shown through characters appearances, their behaviour, the modern standard of living and suppression; there are communicated by gothic horror. Throughout the story, there are references to light and dark which metaphorically relates to good vs. evil, not only between characters, but in the conflicting sides of the same character. At the setting of the play (Victorian era) Science had just been introduced into the Victorian era and was treated as unexplainable circumstances as little was known behind the theory of experiments. This caused for mystery in the Victorian era, thus making Jekyll and Hyde a more horrific and frightening novel. Stevenson had an obsession with the darker side of life and he relates to the character of Hyde by being a respectable man during the day but losing to his obsessions at night. Stevenson, can relate to his novel as he lived in Edinburgh, though in the more affluent area. The setting of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is London but it was based on Edinburgh with the contrast of two sides of poor and rich. In this essay, I will explore how evil is represented in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the Victorian era.
At this time, crime was extremely high in the poorer areas which lead people, in desperation to make a living, to involve themselves in crimes (murder, rape, prostitution…). The Victorian era was host to many notorious murders such as Jack the Ripper, who, as seen stereotypically was never identified. The murder knew his way around the human body showing a sign of education thus having as he appeared to have a great anatomical knowledge, hence making him a respectable man by day and a butcher by night. This may have greatly influenced Stevenson, with the magnificent degree of mystery surrounding the case, it may have given rise to thoughts on how to a great, mysterious villain may operate, fuelling Stevenson’s imagination. Dr. Jekyll was an intelligent man with scientific knowledge, but his reflection; Mr. Hyde was a violent crook.
Smog was extremely thick London due to the highly populated industrial farms, causing for the environment to be covered. This made for it be close to impossible to see in distances, so villains could use this as an aid for means of escape. These city conditions were the perfect environment for elaborating deaths, murder and mystery to show pure evil. At the beginning we see Mr. Enfield witness the incident of the little girl, and he describes the magnitude of the smog.
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There was an incredibly strict code of conduct in the Victorian times, with many natural desires being repressed. The seven deadly sins are a perfect example of some of the things that were repressed. These are lust, gluttony, greed, pride, sloth, wrath and envy. The repression of lust was so great that table legs would have been covered at all time. Middle-class men would have been expected to conceal their secret desires, and if they wanted to express them, they would have to do so in darker parts of the city. This can explain Dr. Jekyll’s desire to transform himself into Hyde, as it would give him a way to release some of his desires and not be discovered doing it.
When Stevenson was young, he developed a medical condition that would live with him for the rest of his life. Stevenson was raised by his nurse who extravagantly showed him the divide between good and evil. This troubled him as a young child, giving him terrifying nightmares and tormenting memories through out his life. It is suggestible that the idea of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came from one of these night mares. With all these troubled thoughts on the topic of good and evil, Stevenson may have developed many different superstitious views of what good and evil were, and therefore written about them in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The Victorian era was a revolutionary time; religion was on the decline and scientific and medical discoveries were growing like never before. This influenced writers such as Mary Shelley. She was the author of Frankenstein; a science fiction horror about a revolutionary experiment that goes wrong. This concept mad scientists getting in deeper than they could handle is one of the main themes in the book. As very few people knew what was possible with this new found phenomenon it would appear as though anything was possible. This was important because the key to a good horror is truth and as no one knew anything about it, no one was in the position to question its reality.
It is obvious that the appearances of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are intended to make a distinction between how each character behaves. The smart image of Jekyll is easily contrastable to the primeval image of Hyde. The audience would expect Hyde to dress fairly scruffy when compared to Dr. Jekyll, however we can see him always dressed smart and in a suit, playing of the social context where we would expect eh evil Mr. Hyde to be in shabby tattered clothing
Mr. Hyde is described as a short stocky man, leading us to assume him to have deformities of some sort. Mr. Utterson, Dr. Lanyon and Mr. Enfield all describe witnessing something horrifically evil in Mr. Hyde’s face. It is as though he emits a sense of foreboding to everyone he meets. He is often described as having the characteristics of an animal, suggesting that he has not evolved entirely into a human being. He is infamous for his horrific actions such as trampling over a little girl and for the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, despite this he still appears to hold a civilised manor whilst talking to his associates; however, he still appears to be blunt, rash and eager to avoid convocation.
Mr. Utterson also has an inexplicable presence; he is described as “the last good influence in the lives of down-going men”. This gives the reader the impression that this story is going to result with the end of someone’s life.
It is apparent that in this book, Mr. Hyde represents the beast in man. Every man toils with his fine side and his dark side; most people find a balance between these two faces. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it is clear that Hyde is the malevolent side while Jekyll is the sincere side. Hyde is described as the beast in man because he appears to be unable so control his instinctual desires. This lack of self restraint is what separates him from the rest of the respectable society, isolating him and making him an enigma.
Two major crimes are committed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These are; the incident with the little girl and the Crarew murder case. They were both un-provoked acts of violence, and on both occasions the culprit, Hyde, was caught.
The first crime that was committed was the unfortunate incident with a little girl who was on her way home, when she was trampled over by Hyde. The main witness, Mr. Enfield, describes Hyde as “some damned Juggernaut” which presents a demonic image of an unstoppable beast attacking an innocent victim. When Enfield catches Hyde he stated “I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight”, this is very unusual as someone must either be seriously evil or very ugly and unfortunately for Hyde, it seems as though it was a bit of both. The evil sense is perpetuated partly from Hyde but also by the reaction from Mr. Enfield. “I saw Sawbones turn sick and white with the desire to kill him” this is a rather explosive reaction to meeting a complete stranger making Hyde even more mysterious.
In the second instance Hyde crossed paths with a very important man called Sir Danvers Carew. They held a brief convocation before Hyde lost his temper and battered him to death. A maid witnessed the spectacle and was so over whelmed by the ordeal that she fell unconscious. This was also quite an elaborate reaction to Hyde’s unruly behaviour. The maid describes him as having “ape like fury” yet again referring him to an animal. The scene is set very innocently; a beautiful night with a feeling of peace and contentment. Everything seems calm but then bang! Hyde goes mad and batters a man to death.
Another mysterious event is when it is revealed that Hyde has defaced all of Jekyll’s books; this gives the unaware audience the sense of a vicious betrayal, while actually it was a representation of the torment with in the conflicting sides of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Not only is evil represented through the split personality of man, but through subtle symbols, such as; Dr. Jekyll’s house with the windows always shut and the heavy attacks of fog. All these subtleties contribute to the malevolent setting. There is an obvious divide between the two towns; one debauched and daunting, the other attractive and inviting. In the first chapter the mysterious atmosphere in branded into the mind of the reader.
Symbolism is a superb way of giving an abstract message in a sophisticated manner. Stevenson does this proficiently creating a whole new world for the reader to fall into. The symbols are everywhere; colours, figures, characters and objects.
Dr. Jekyll’s house is described as “well-appointed.” He is also described as having “a great air of comfort and wealth about him.” This is symbolising the good in man. However, his laboratory is described as having “the marks of profound and sordid negligence.” This symbolises that underneath all this there is the corrupt and perverse life of Hyde. The street that they live on is described as being one, but to most, they would think that they were two different streets. This symbolises the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde as there would not be a detectable relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The style that this novel is written in is a rather brisk, business like manner, with everything documented in great detail. This is due to the perspective that the story is told from. For example; most of the story is told from Mr. Utterson’s point of view and as he is unaware of what is going on, the story unfolds in a mysterious way. However, when the perspective changes, not everything is revealed but subtle clues are dropped here and there to steal the reader’s attention and make him more eager to read on.
It is apparent that Mr. Utterson’s goal is to relieve the strain from Hyde on his good friend Jekyll consequently arousing an investigatory feel to the book. As he digs deeper into the mystery surrounding the case, more clues are unearthed, allowing the reader to make their own deductions on what is going on and what may happen next.
Dr. Lanyon’s narrative is a letter written to Utterson explaining what is going on. However, it is intended that Utterson only read this after both Jekyll and Lanyon are dead. As Jekyll is not yet dead, the reader will never know the truth until the end of the book; hooking the reader into the malevolence as the plot thickens. This presents another, smaller mystery into the larger picture, as the cause of Lanyons death is unknown. This presents the reader with the question: “what could Jekyll have done to kill one of his oldest and closest friends?”
The final and long-awaited perspective for the story to be told from is from Dr Jekyll’s. This is where the entire story is unravelled. This is shown by a confession from Jekyll. He explains the reasons that everything was left in a will to Hyde, the correlation in the handwriting and the build up to the brutal murders. He also explains why many of his books and belongings had been defaced while he was in the form of Hyde. This is another symbol of the struggle between men and their beasts.
As the novel progresses, it is noticeable that Hyde gets more and more quick-tempered and uncontrollable. He behaves like a lost soul in the grip of a gross heroin addiction, on the road to mans’ ruin. When he encounters Utterson, his ferocity is less subtle on each occasion. This gives the reader the sense that something is definitely wrong.
The title of Stevenson'
The title of Stevenson’s novel shows a relevant depiction of evil. The title shows metaphoric value showing the consequences of the repressed behaviour of a respectable male. All the crimes committed within the story can show a relation the Dr. Jekyll’s mental state and emotions. Nobody wants to be controlled which shows why Jekyll loses control in order to take the form of this deformed being and exact his freedom. We can see throughout that freedom of the mind is the true evil in the Jekyll and Hyde.