How does Stevenson present the conflict between good and evil in ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’? Essay Sample
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How does Stevenson present the conflict between good and evil in ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’? Essay Sample
In this piece of coursework, I will be presenting how Robert Louis Stevenson shows the conflicts between ‘good and evil’.
“The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson was born on the 13th November 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The novel was written in the late 19th century and is set in Victorian London. The precise date as to which the novel was written was within 1886. Stevenson wished to create a novel that was based on the duality of personalities which was much depicted within plays and films at that time and tried to make it influential to the growth in understanding the subconscious mind.
Stevenson’s background was strict as he had a strong up bringing in the sense of being forced to do things to ensure that he remained civil and to be brought up into a respectable and courteous man. He had been forced by his father to do civil engineering and also had a few problems and conflicts with his father along the way.
This relates to the good and evil shown within Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This could be conveyed as a case of his father leading him to the ‘correct’ path which he desires his son to achieve, being firm and sophisticated like an upstanding person, therefore portraying the likes of Dr Jekyll in which case is the ‘good’ side of Jekyll’s subconscious. Whereas Stevenson on the other hand, is heading towards the ‘wrong’ path, in which case he is becoming the dire and ill-mannered one which describes him with the same aura and ruthlessness as Mr Hyde who is the ‘evil’ side of Jekyll’s subconscious.
I believe that Stevenson at the time, felt as though he had these different sides to him due to his different emotions that he was going through because of his problems and wrote this novel in essence to explain and express his emotions.
For this reason, I believe that this is one of the key points in which Stevenson has presented the conflict between good and evil.
The genre of this novel is gothic horror and contains a slight amount of science fiction. Stevenson had been influenced by Charles Darwin’s many interesting theories on the topic of evolution and the different species, who in fact had written a book about his different theories, thoughts and suggestions which was called ‘Origin of the Species’.
Because of these many theories that Stevenson read upon and was influenced by, he added a creative scheme of changing a character to create an animal or “apelike” being which was not common and would in those days, be discriminated immediately within the public and society due to physiognomy. This would help to focus on specifically on Mr Hyde’s appearance to ensure that it portrays Stevenson and Mr Hyde like some sort of feral and uncultivated animal or beast that has some form of deformity and inhumanity. This would be the perfect case for presenting good and evil in the novel as the ‘apelike’ creature, who is known and portrayed as none other than the ‘evil’ within the novel is the relentless Mr Hyde, and Dr Jekyll who is the well-mannered, educated and respected being as the ‘good’ within the novel.
This shows conflict between good and evil as it is one person that these two different sides are engulfed within and because of this; it will create immense conflicts between personalities as each side tries to fight and prevail over the other to remain within control over the being.
The book was written in the Victorian times and in those days there existed two types of classes. These were the lower class citizens and the upper class citizens. As you may have already realised, upper class people were respected and had something honourable against their name and had something to uphold, whereas lower class citizens had no morals and had no wealth to their name and were poor and usually uneducated. Within this Victorian period, many of the citizens strongly believed in sins and punishment. This created a large conflict between good and evil as if you committed a crime or any law-breaking of any kind, you will be punished.
Also in the time of this highly orthodox period, Victorian’s believed that if a person was ugly in appearance or inhumane in some way, it displays how ugly their hearts and feelings were and is an external and physical reflection of their inner self. This term has come to be known as physiognomy. It is based upon this belief that the study and judgment of a person’s outer appearance exposes their real nature. It is because of this principle that, the citizens judged every person on their looks and decided what was expected of them immediately based upon what they saw. In Hyde’s case, as the citizens had never seen anything that looked like Hyde before, they pre-determined that he was an awful man or some sort of monster that was ‘evil’ and had no heart or human emotions.
A different novel that is related to ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and has some similarities is a novel called ‘Frankenstein’ and was written by a woman named Mary Shelley in the year 1818. The tales of these two novels are similar as both are known for conducting some sort of unorthodox, scientific modification to a human being or using human body parts. Both novels contain scientists who abuse their creative power, immense knowledge and theories to mess with science and defy the laws of nature.
The only dissimilarity between the novels is that, Frankenstein is a monster that has been created and thus, remains in that form eternally. Whilst Dr Jekyll has the ability to alter his appearance into Mr Hyde controllably at any moment he desires by taking some sort of scientific drug that he has concocted himself through his experiments. In the novel, the perception of duality is easily noticeable as it proves that there is both, good and evil lurking within Dr Jekyll which emphasises his duality of two different personalities that portrays two different beings in one person.
Society since then has changed substantially compared to the present day. Stevenson could have used the example of Edinburgh’s most notorious criminal at that period of time as the idea based on illustrating Mr Hyde’s creature-like personality. The criminals name was William Deacon Brodie and was the son of a cabinet maker during the 1780s. He managed to attain the position of ‘Deacon of Guild of Wrights’, of which his father had also held before him and had also achieved a seat on the ‘Edinburgh Local Council’. This predicament that he obtained placed him in a position where he was set for life and where business success was quite often assured because of his membership in the higher ranks of local government. However, Brodie decided to become a thief and began to burgle.
Although he was set and needed nothing of money in his life, his urges hidden within his subconscious was ‘evil’ and decided upon stealing from wealthy citizens that he knew of. By day he was the respectable councilman that was well-mannered and civilized, but by night he altered into the reflection of his desires within and committed countless robberies to fulfil his needs. This character is familiarly similar to Dr Jekyll as he reacts in the same way as Brodie, within the day he was known for his upper class status, but by night no one knew that he would become Mr Hyde and commit horrid crimes such as murder just to satisfy his true being that holds no remorse or restrictions to the things he does.
This presents the conflict between good and evil as Jekyll being the upper class citizen that he is, has his ‘good’ side, which is then conflicted by his ‘evil’ desires and becomes Hyde who is a ruthless being; performs many detestable things. The novel’s theme is ‘good versus evil’ and consists of mainly displaying duality throughout the novel because of all the things that Stevenson has been through in his life and is expressing his emotions.
For example, as I have stated before, his behaviour with his father played apart in his choice of duality which is contained in this novel as his father wanted him to become a gentlemen, and Stevenson’s emotions brought the bad side out of him. Also, William Deacon Brodie played apart of his emotions because Brodie could be portrayed as the inspiration in creating Dr Jekyll. The ‘double’ of each protagonist, in this case being Jekyll’s ‘double’ who is Mr Hyde, gradually grows more violent into the story as he is in control more and more often which ultimately, makes it harder for Dr Jekyll to keep Mr Hyde restrained.
‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is based upon a sophisticated and advanced man of science and his alter ego; Dr Jekyll, and his unruly and unrestricted Mr Hyde. Dr Jekyll within the story has many sly connections with Mr Hyde. The minute relations are so subtle, that we as the readers do not even realise that such connections exist up until we reach the climactic ending where we discover the truth; Jekyll is Hyde.
As you begin to read through this novel, you will learn that later within the story, Mr Hyde murders a man called Sir Danvers Carew. He was a man who was also highly respected as he was a colleague of the outstanding lawyer, Mr Utterson. This can be taken as one of the key moments within the novel as it is where we could realise by using the evidence, that Jekyll is Hyde. “Mr Utterson had already quailed at the name of Hyde; but when the stick was laid before him, he could doubt no longer: broken and battered as it was, he recognised it for one that he had himself presented many years before to Henry Jekyll”. This first-person thought of Mr Utterson depicts to us, that he was the man that gave Jekyll the stick that was used to kill Sir Danvers Carew by Hyde, many years ago. Mr Utterson becomes in denial and tries to evaluate the situation and see outside of the box. However he is only confused and the evidence is too enlightening to try and mist the truth.
As we probably didn’t realise at the time, Jekyll uses the same stick that Utterson gave him previously many years before, to kill Sir Danvers Carew after becoming the despicable Hyde. Many strange things begin to occur as Dr Jekyll continues his experiments and alters between his ‘good’ and ‘evil sides, as evidence such as this, could cause a propaganda of suggestions as to the many theories that could be given in relation to the evidence that was present. This is also a confliction between ‘good and evil’ as one of the ‘doubles’ of the protagonist is harming the society, which raises a question to Jekyll as to whether or not he should ever re-alter into Hyde again. However, maybe Jekyll has already acknowledged this and no longer wants to become Hyde, however Hyde’s will is too overpowering and Jekyll cannot restrain him for too long.
Many of the citizens are now looking for Hyde and are trying to analyse why Hyde is doing all of these things. But when it finally arrives to the truth and we discover that Jekyll in fact is Hyde, Jekyll realises that he must stop Hyde because he can no longer control his transformations as Hyde’s subconscious power is too overwhelming and ultimately, commits suicide in hope of finally prevailing over Hyde and putting him and his original self-being to their grave.
This novel contains many interesting uses of narrative structures. The novella consists on revealing itself in chronological order; however is miss-leading us away from the truth and we have no idea that this is occurring until we reach a dramatic flashback in the ending which explains all. This flashback retraces into the past in which it fills in the missing gaps that we did not acknowledge at the time.
As within chapter 9 this quote proves to be the most shocking and enlightening quotation within the novel, “For there before my eyes – pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death – there stood Henry Jekyll”. This quote begins to fill all the gaps within the story and the mysteries that were never suggested are beginning to unfold as the readers begin to recreate the story as if they knew that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person from the beginning. They then realise small factors such as how throughout the story they had never seen Jekyll and Hyde in the same place. This is very effective as it makes the reader feel urge to fill in the gaps and solve the mystery for themselves. It is also effective as it leaves a sense of suspense for the final chapter 10, in which all is explained if there is still any confusion.
Stevenson’s use of multiple narrative structures has proven to be very effective throughout the novel. This is because it allows the readers to entail the different perspectives of one character in a number of ways. This allows us to see how the other characters feel about what is being focused on and see how it affects them due to the conflicts between ‘good and evil’ in their own ways. For example, Utterson introduces himself into the novel and immediately begins to mainly focus on the tale of Dr Jekyll. He then uses temporal markers as if you relate this to the ending, the novella explains the same thing and how everything was a flashback; i.e. in chapter 4 Stevenson says “nearly a year later”. This allows the author to return to the past or ‘jump’ ahead of time when ever he/she pleases. This is effective as we as the audience have no idea of what happened within those periods of time and the author can thus, use it to their advantage.
This account however, is depicted to us through a letter. Within the tragic chapter four, as you already know, Sir Danvers Carew is murdered. From this we can see that Mr Hyde is naturally overpowering Jekyll’s subconscious and is taking control over his body and is much more crazed. This relates back to ‘the conflicts between good and evil’ as it is showing us that ‘evil’ is beginning to take over and is growing stronger as time progresses.
The first 8 chapters within the novel are written in the third person narrative and gives us a sense that everything that is being said is all true and we aren’t missing any pieces of necessary information. Also I personally believe that within chapter 4, as it issues the reader with the information of Sir Danvers Carew’s murder, it is displaying it in a form of some sort of newspaper article which is a very effective way of laying out a chapter as you can imagine it is the communities newspaper headlines and no other chapter is being laid out in the same way.
In contrast to the first 7 chapters, chapters 8 and 9 are narrated in the first person context which gives us a clearer idea of what Dr Lanyon and Dr Jekyll are thinking and their feelings towards the situation that was at hand. Being a lawyer in the Victorian times automatically suggested that you were a very trust worthy person and have had a strong and well-minded up bringing and this is exactly what Stevenson wants us to believe.
Stevenson illustrates this right from the start of the novel as he says, “that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dust, dreary, and yet somehow lovable.” So from the very first paragraph, Stevenson wants us to see Mr Utterson as a well-mannered, trust worthy, lovable and social person that knows all of the upper class society. This yet again is another ‘conflict between good and evil’ as I believe that although Utterson is ‘good’, he was the one from the beginning who started all of this off by gossiping and is the one who gives us false conclusions. So I believe Mr Utterson also has a ‘good and evil’ side to him, as he was the one who created the entire drama right from the beginning. That is why Stevenson has used so many interesting narrative structures; so that we can get a feel of every characters ideas and relevance to the story.
Mr Utterson plays a very strong part within the novel as he is the respectable lawyer and upper class man of the society and one of Henry Jekyll’s friends. So as he knows Jekyll, we immediately know that he is going to be playing a strong role within the story without question. From the impression of his status we believe he is reputable as he “approves tolerance for others”, “cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment.” These quotes show that it can be assured that he is ‘good’. Utterson is also not judgmental as Stevenson makes him say, “I let my brother go to the devil in his own way”. This shows us that he will not judge anyone and remains to his word as in chapter 5 he takes Jekyll’s word for it when he explains that no one will ever see Hyde again.
As I have already explained, Jekyll is a very social in a sense of being a member of the upper class society and is respected and acquainted with everyone. He is led by his passion for science into a world of mystery and is taken over by the confusion of good and evil desires, as he is addicted to the very drug that he himself created and can’t stop taking it. Maybe it isn’t because of an addiction that he is taking the drug, maybe he wants to see what keeps occurring after periods of time, or maybe he is being forced by Hyde within his very subconscious.
This is causing him to swerve between both good and evil, which is conflicting between his different lifestyles dramatically and in the end, he decides upon killing himself in order to end everything. Once again, due to physiognomy, Jekyll is mentioned that he has a “handsome face” so he is recognised as an upstanding gentleman. However, Stevenson also describes him as of a person “with something of a slyish cast perhaps”. This quote indicates that he has a minor side to him which perceives apart of Hyde which is being engulfed within him. It shows Jekyll’s shrewd side and the minute characteristic that he earns from Mr Hyde.
Jekyll had been hiding his duality throughout the entire novel and because of this reason; you could say that it was one huge suspense build-up as to when we finally learned of the truth. Stevenson uses an interesting quote, “he stood already committed to profound duplicity of life”. This is stating that Jekyll and Hyde, although in one being, are not the same person and have entirely different lives altogether and shows that there is a conflict between them as one wants to be ‘good’ and the other ‘evil’. So they are having a conflict to determine who lives the life and takes control over the body in which they are sealed within.
Mr Hyde naturally is perceived as the ‘evil’ within the novel and which reflects the difference between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ quite undoubtedly. He is described as being “apelike”, which shows that he has a deformity of some level or has some sort of inhumane body structure which gives a sense of animalistic form. Baring this in mind, and as physiognomy is involved, this suggests that he is ugly and dirty inside as well as out, which is why he was immediately discriminated. “He is not easy to describe” and “He gives a strong form of deformity”, these quotes emphasise the deformity enough; it notifies us that he is so ugly, that there aren’t enough detailed words to explain it. Hyde is apart of the Charles Darwin theory as he relates to it because he isn’t a fully developed person and suffers from some animalistic deformities.
Stevenson presents Hyde as Jekyll’s repressed inner subconscious, which entails that deep within Jekyll’s mind, there is some evil lurking.
Dr Lanyon is a scientist and like Mr Utterson, is a friend of Jekyll’s. Although he may seem not to be such an important character within the novel as he is not mentioned as much as some others, it turns out that in the end he knows more information than Utterson and is aware if the full situation and what has previously occurred. Lanyon’s description is “hearty, healthy, dapper and red faced”, which suggests that he is a very decent, honourable and meaningful person. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to withstand viewing Jekyll’s hideous transformation and died because of it. He emphasises this to us by saying, “my life is shaken to its roots” this signifies that he is light hearted and a sensitive man and how scared he was because of it. It displays a sign of weakness.
There is also a lot of symbolism involved within this novel which relates to the conflicts between ‘good and evil’. These include the very places where Jekyll and Hyde live and the environment that they choose to have as their surroundings. Jekyll lives in the upper class area of Cavendish Square where the rich and well-civilized societies dwell. In contrast, Hyde chooses to live in the lower class surroundings of Soho where the drunkards plague the streets and fights constantly break out. This immediately presents conflicts between ‘good and evil’ as each subconscious is trying to stay at a place where they feel most comfortable.
There is further symbolism involved not just from their surroundings, but also from the doors of their homes. As Jekyll’s home is based around a highly glamorised area, we know that his door gives off a sense of cleanliness and welcoming stature as does others within his community. On the other hand, Hyde’s is repulsive as it is “blistered and distained” is “equipped with neither bell nor knocker”. This shows us that in comparison to Hyde’s community in Soho, his door is unwelcoming and ravaged in a sense of dirtiness. His door also has no knocker, so obviously, he mustn’t want any visitors. All these points show the presentation of conflict between ‘good and evil’ as they show the noticeable differences between Jekyll and Hyde and how they conflict between their different opinions and needs.
Stevenson keeps the story going using many literary techniques along the way. He uses simile, personification, archaic language, metaphor, foreshadowing, Non-Standard English and alliteration. Stevenson has also added for what I think an amazing and very clever pun as a main way to phrase the title to signify murder. In French, Jekyll means ‘I kill’ and Hyde sounds like ‘hide’, thus bringing the very thoughtful title to say ‘I kill and hide’. Which is what is occurring in the novel as Mr Hyde murders someone and then simply alters into Dr Jekyll. Who is the upper classed citizen that he is; within society’s eyes, he wouldn’t harm a fly and Hyde hides as if he had never even existed.
There however could be more subliminal messages concealed within the pun. This could be that the word ‘Hyde’ could also be perceived as ‘hideous’ and therefore effectively reflects Hyde’s appearance as well. Stevenson uses a lot of words that link to hell. He uses these words to describe Hyde by using quotations like, “like Satan” and “hellish”.
All of these creative and clever techniques that are being used are all intentional as they in the Victorian times, anything that went against God was ‘evil or impure’ in some way. So yet again, he is using all this to his advantage to describe how ‘evil’ or ‘ill-tempered’ Hyde is. As it was based in the Victorian times, he uses archaic language as they spoke Standard English in that period of time and it was what they were used to. Useful examples for indicating this is quotations such as, “Full of premature twilight” actually means, that the day was already beginning to get dark, although it was earlier than usual.
Stevenson uses many commas and semi-colons to begin to drag on with a lot of descriptive words and also uses short sentences and foreshadowing to give us small hints that Jekyll and Hyde could be the same person.
However, the real problem of the story was Dr Jekyll’s addiction to Hyde and the drug. It seems as though he was satisfied in some way or another of the feelings that Hyde had brought him while he was in control. It was as though he thrived off of the dark pleasures that Hyde brought to him, thus continuing to take the drug as modern people do when they abuse alcohol and drugs to continuously stimulate their bodies and become addicts.
Ultimately, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is a very interesting and intense novel filled with mystery and suspense with an amazing and climactic ending which makes you feel as though you want to re-read the entire novel with the knowledge of knowing that Jekyll is Hyde to see the small clues that Stevenson has left for us. Stevenson has presented us with many different examples of how he shows ‘good and evil’ within the novel as I have already covered throughout the course of this piece of coursework. I believe that ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is a great novel with a lot of meaning and deserves to be read by anyone.