In this essay I will be investigating how Stevenson creates a world of double standards and hypocrisy. I will link this to the themes, language and settings. I will then explore the message Stevenson is trying to convey throughout his novel ‘The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’
Stevenson lived in the Victorian ages at which time the industrial revolution was in progression. The rich and poor were segregated throughout his home town, Edinburgh, with the poor in the old town and the rich in the new one. Old Edinburgh was overcrowded, a situation common to many Victorian cities.
Stevenson was a man of double standards and led two unconventional lives. During the day he was a well-respected lawyer and by night frequented in pubs and brothels in the Old Town. The double standards and hypocrisy of Stevenson links to his book, ‘The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’
Other authors that wrote during the Victorian times have influenced Stevenson’s writing, such as Hogg, who wrote similarly to Stevenson, using the theme of double standards and hypocrisy. This was in his book, ‘Memoirs and confessions of a justified sinner.’ Authors like Hogg wanted to show that everybody has two sides to their character.
The main characters that are used to explore the double side are Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Jekyll has a double life. This is the main theme, yet he is insistent that he doesn’t want the evil of man to reappear, yet however continues to become Hyde. Hyde is the evil manifestation of Jekyll’s other side, he isn’t even referred to as human.
“He cried out like a rat and ran from me.”
It symbolises evil, filth and badness, it is used to emphasise Hyde’s evilness, this symbol foreshadows Jekyll’s other side.
An additional character, Utterson, also links to the dual nature of man. He constantly contradicts himself. Utterson is a lawyer, his profession requires him to be argumentative and confident, but he is described as being self-conscious:
“A Lawyer cold and scanty and embarrassed in discourse.”
Evidently how can a lawyer get embarrassed, when their profession is to represent people? This is an aspect of Utterson that links to the divided nature of man.
Finally another character Lanyon, is also used to express the theme of the double. Lanyon at the start of the novel appears to be jolly and bossy. However he is a total contrast of the readers first impression.
“He was a hearty, healthy dapper…and a boisterous decided manner.”
He later declares himself to be in trouble, but he deteriorates quickly.
“Lanyon declared himself a doomed man”
Once he realised he too, had two sides.
This reinforces his narrow-mindedness and shows a sudden change. Once he realises Jekyll is right.
Many of the characters in the novel were hypocrites, but the main one was Dr Jekyll. This is why I will focus on him. Jekyll seems to like the best things in life, such as fame and fortune. He wants everything to be clean and of good quality. He is sure that he is good and likes good things, but can’t resist further experimenting with Hyde. Jekyll wants to indulge his evil side, whilst his other side is shown through his possessions. His house is described as having ” a great air of wealth and comfort”. However, when he’s Hyde, he is described as “A face that was without bowels of mercy”
He couldn’t resist on indulging on his evil side, this is why he creates the potion, to act through someone else. Jekyll isn’t prepared to give his respectability and possessions up. This shows he is a hypocrite and we see he is in denial that Hyde could be a part of the great Henry Jekyll.
Although Hyde is linked to Jekyll, he is the least hypocritical character, he is never good, just plain evil:
Hyde was “…sort of murderous mixture of tumidity and boldness.”
Throughout the whole novel what you see of Hyde is what you get. He is evil and hates being Jekyll. This is clear throughout the book, especially as Hyde becomes stronger.
I will now look at the final theme that Stevenson has used in his novel, this is secrecy and control. Stevenson links hypocrisy to secrecy, but mainly explores secrecy through settings. We are all hypocrites to some extent, we all have something to hide and we all like to be in control of ourselves. Dr Jekyll and Hyde show how control is threatened and how it disappears. At the start Jekyll is in total control of his evil side:
“Mr Hyde was pale and Dwarfish.”
He then grows in power and has control over Jekyll.
“The body of Edward Hyde had grown in stature”
Hyde is now capable of taking over Jekyll. Jekyll loses control, Hyde surfaces and takes over. There is only one way out for Jekyll and this is to take his own life. This shows how the secrecy of the novel allows the evil side of man to grow and to take over goodness. It shows how Jekyll gets control and loses it. This suggests that evil will eventually dominate the respectable side of man.
Within the setting of the novel, the theme of secrecy is explored. The fog and wind hide the secrets and events. This also creates tension. All events take place early in the morning or late at night.
“A fog rolled over the city, a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in-between the swirling wreaths,”
“…Full of wind and dust.”
This creates mystery and secrecy, it also suggests a hidden sense of danger. Stevenson is foreshadowing the horror of what will happen, as if the fog is keeping it safe within the city. The reader automatically knows something bad has happened and will only get worse. The buildings also link to secrecy.
There are two doors, which are used to enter Jekylls house, one at the front and one at the back, this is the door at which the lab is entered.
The front door, which the respectable Jekyll used, was described as having
“Freshly painted shutters, well polished brasses and general cleanliness”
The back door which Jekylls evil side, Hyde, used to enter the house was described as:
“The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained.”
This reinforces the doubled nature of Jekyll. Hyde only uses the blistered door, and this creates a dark and gloomy setting. Jekyll enters from the front of the house along with visitors. This is where the well-respected Jekyll is seen and puts on his public face. When comparing the two doors they symbolise the good and bad side of Dr Jekyll.
I will now look at the secrecy of the windows. They were always barred and locked. This creates an eerie and cold tension, and also creates a sense of danger, suggesting something is being hidden. The windows are boarded up:
“He eyed the dingy windowless structure.”
This shows Jekyll feels the need to be protected, and for his evil side to be hidden in order for Jekyll to stay in control.
Within the novel, Stevenson used different styles of language to put across his theme of double standards and hypocrisy. Although Hyde rarely speaks, when he does it’s different. It is short and abrupt. He speaks in an evil manner:
“With a hissing intake of breath”
He also uses short sentences,
“That is my name. What do you want”
As you can see Hyde’s language already represents his evilness. His language links to his personality by talking in short sentences it creates a certain affect, it creates tension and suspense. It also is quite blunt and questionable.
Jekyll talks in somewhat of a refined manner, using grand words to make him be considered more of a respectable person.
“That is just what I was about to venture to propose”
… “Just to put your good heart at rest.”
He speaks in a long flowery posh voice, he uses long flowing sentences. It shows how his two sides are so different. This links them together. They both are part of the same man and are yet so different even in language. This links to the dual nature of the character that Stevenson created.
To summarise I will now link this to the essay question: Discuss how Stevenson, through the themes, language and setting, creates a world of double standards and hypocrisy.
His themes foreshadowed throughout the book through the settings. “The fog rolled over the city” this creates the secrecy of the novel. I have noticed this his controversial life is reflected throughout the book and through the characters. I think readers during the industrial revolution would have frowned upon the impression created throughout the book. Stevenson in his time would be considered somewhat of an outrage, his views were immoral and would offend the readers. Those who chose to live so secretly set a bad example to the Victorian society. Stevenson was a prime example of this.