How are the Contrasting Characters of Jekyll and Hyde Presented in the Novel?

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Alice Walton                                                                                                                                                 -  -

How are the Contrasting Characters of Jekyll and Hyde Presented in the Novel?

‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is a late nineteenth century novel that incorporates themes of mystery, medicine and good and evil into a chilling tale. It is about a doctor called Henry Jekyll, who experiments by taking medicine to separate the good and evil sides of his personality. He takes a drug to transform himself into Hyde, the evil side of his personality, and enjoys the feeling of freedom immensely, as he can do whatever evil deed he pleases and yet be completely free of remorse. He does this more and more frequently, but in the end this results in him requiring medicine to stay as the good Dr. Jekyll and stop him from transforming into Hyde. The novel explores the concept of splitting one’s personality, and also the attitudes to good and evil and experimenting with science shown by the Victorians.

The Victorian attitudes to the new scientific movement were extremely hostile, as evidence suggested that the evolutionist theory that humans descended from apes was correct. This meant that we had no soul, which shocked and frightened a lot of the public, who were very religious. It undermined the Bible, which was taken very literally at the time, by arguing that the creationist point of view, the story of Adam and Eve, was incorrect. The Victorians also believed strongly in the Christian morals of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and that people must try to be as perfect as possible in order to appear virtuous to others. When somebody did something that was regarded as sinful by society, it was often covered up. This hypocrisy meant that people could be blackmailed into giving money to witnesses, if they had seen someone rich or influential do something shameful. The Victorians were highly suspicious of medicine that altered the mind, because they believed the mind was controlled by the soul, which God created. Therefore, the whole idea of splitting one’s personality into good and evil sides using medicine would have been regarded with fear and suspicion.

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Throughout the novel, other characters refer to Mr. Hyde negatively, but nobody seems to be able to describe exactly what it is about him that is so disgusting and frightening. For example, Utterson thinks that he gives “an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation”. I think that this technique that Stevenson uses, leaving a lot of the description of Hyde’s deformity to the imagination of the audience, is very effective. It makes Hyde’s appearance seem as frightening as possible because each individual imagines him in the way that they, personally, find the most terrifying. Hyde’s appearance is also referred ...

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