The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Essay Sample
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- Category: fiction
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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Essay Sample
“With Close reference to the text discover the nature of good and evil and duality of a person’s nature in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”
Dictionary definition of Duality: Being twofold. The theory that in any domain of reality there are two independent under laying principles, e.g. mind and matter, form and content. The theory, that the forces of good and evil are equally balanced in the universe.
We are first introduced to Mr Hyde in a story told by Mr Enfield to Mr Utterson, a lawyer. Mr Enfield tells a strange story connected with a door that is in a bright little street in a dingy part of London. The door belongs to a sombre Building at one end of this street. Very early one morning Mr Enfield had passed this place. He saw a strange man, who we later find out to be Mr Hyde, collide with a young girl and knock her over. Instead of stopping he trampled on her and kept going. Mr Enfield had stopped him and the child’s parents arrived with the doctor.
The people present decided to force the man to pay compensation to the child’s parents; he agreed and went through the grimy door to the sombre building. He returned with cash and cheque, but, he was obviously not trusted instantly as the cheque had been signed by another person. This to me was the first indication that there was something odd about Mr Hyde. We are first introduced to Dr Jekyll in the same story. Mr Enfield tells Mr Utterson that the name on the cheque was of a good honest man: Dr Jekyll, and he comes to the conclusion that Hyde must be blackmailing Jekyll.
We are introduced to the clear definition of good and evil in this story, it also indicates the truth about society in the 19th century. There were strict codes of conduct in those days. Respectable men sleeping around, having many mistresses, lurking in back allies, trampling children in dingy parts of town, this was unheard of at the time. It doesn’t mean to say that it didn’t go on, in fact it was more common than it is now. All of this happened under pretence; the men put on false faces and let their reputation go before them to disguise what happened on the inside. Just like the way Dr Jekyll discovered his face, quite literally, he found a way that he could easily get away with these unrespectable, down grading things. At first he hated it, but then he became addicted to it and he started to love it.
Utterson then discovers in a strange Will made by Dr Jekyll that stated everything was to be left to Mr Hyde in the event of the doctor’s death or disappearance for more than three months. Later on in the story, as the mystery behind Jekyll and Hyde is starting to unravel, we see that when Dr Jekyll made this Will he still didn’t know what life he wanted to lead; a life of no conscience, Prostitutes, drunken pleasures and darkness or a life of Morals, good reputations, a conscience and principles.
Robert Lewis Stevenson was pointing out two facts: he was giving people the true insight to Victorian society and its contrasts through Jekyll/Hyde: Mr Hyde represented the prostitutes, dark allies, blackmail, thieving, uncontrollable drinking, the smell and the dark cloud of second hand factory fumes that hung over industrial cities.
I think that he was describing the Victorian London that wasn’t particularly known of, when he was describing Mr Hyde: “something not quite right” I think Stevenson was implying here that people knew there was a side to the “perfect society”, which had been invented during the industrial revolution, that wasn’t ‘quite right,’ there was something wrong, which indeed there was. Although the industrial society was employing people, the factories and workhouses were also killing children as young as three. Many orphans were being created and the richer society did nothing about it, they simply pretended it wasn’t there, just like Dr Jekyll tried to hide Mr Hyde.
On the other hand there were the Dr Jekylls of Victorian society: the reputable gentlemen and women, the new scientific, medical and mechanical discoveries, a reputation of greatness. Great Britain gave itself this name because of the vastness of our empire during these times, and because of the fantastic reputation that went before the empire the Hyde side of society flourished underground
Stevenson was also pointing out a fact of life that is within everybody, even if we don’t realise it, we all do things that we regret afterwards and there are two sides to everyone. We all have a split personality in a sense, we have two wavelengths: right and wrong. There is a Mr Hyde in all of us: Anger, Frustration, Murderous thoughts, the animal instincts that still live within us today, even though we have evolved so much, fighting and pride, the feeling of wanting to protect are all instinctive that every animal has, so when Stevenson used animalistic imagery to describe Hyde he was making another thought known. Morals, education, helping and unselfishness are the Jekyll side of us. The side of us that we have learnt from good society and moral upbringings with strict codes that were laid down to represent the respectable London of those days.
Chapter ten begins with Jekyll’s account of his life, beginning with a description of his character. He was fortunate enough to be talented and have the opportunity of a successful career. His only weakness was a certain impatient light heartedness-when he wanted to be seen as serious and important so he pretended that the lighter side of him did not exist. But he felt guilty about doing this. He found that there was a deep division inside him between the civilised and moral part of him and the passionate, physical part. His scientific research led him to think more about experiences beyond those of normal everyday life.
He came to the conclusion that every person might not be two sided, as he had experienced himself, but actually made up of many different personalities. He began to dream of what it would be like if he could be two separate people, so that each ‘half’ of him could be complete. Once he had discovered the potion and taken it he felt fresh, lively and evil-this is what we all have inside of us. Sometimes for example, if we are down or depressed we put on a front, a mask, to hide what we are truly thinking and feeling to keep others happy or to make people think that we are someone that we are not to make a good impression.
Sometimes we need a refuge, we need to break the rules or be angry or just enclose on ourselves, to escape the cornered and trapped predicament that we put ourselves in to keep up appearances and for the sake of others around us. For some this refuge from good can be addictive and dangerous as it was for Dr Jekyll. He got addicted to ‘Hyde’ in the same way that people get addicted to drugs, smoking or alcohol, but when we take these bad habits too far it can get dangerous for us and those around and that’s when our guilty conscience takes over, we are snapped back into the Dr Jekyll in us for the sake of ourselves and others. This is what happened to Jekyll: Hyde murders a man (that’s the addiction going too far). Jekyll’s conscience takes over and starts driving him mad with guilt and so he was snapped back into staying as Jekyll.
Jekyll enjoyed his addiction, as the doctor he was innocent and respected he felt he had to push down his un-respectable thoughts and actions for the sake of his reputation. As Mr Hyde he would explode with every bad thought and lustful action.
In the end Henry Jekyll realised he had reached a turning point in his life. If he had taken the mixture while he was experiencing purely good thoughts, his second body, Hyde might have been that of an angel. Instead it was that of a devil. So his two persons were: Jekyll- a mixture of good and evil, with good controlling evil-and Hyde who was purely evil.
But as time goes on Hyde becomes more and more evil because of the murder and Jekyll begins to remember things, terrible things he had done as Edward Hyde, but he cannot stop the addiction. The problem comes when he starts running out of chemicals to make his potion he is driven completely mad and hates himself and Hyde and in the very end to protect the name of Dr Henry Jekyll he says in his final confession: “Will Hyde die upon the scaffold? Or will he find the courage to find himself at the last moment? God knows; I am careless: this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns another than myself. Here as I lay down the pen, and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end”.
In conclusion, this last statement says the most about what Stevenson was trying to imply: Jekyll was the good and respectable London, but he wasn’t happy because it was all a front, which is exactly how Victorian society worked, it had an ugly malformed under layer but at least it was the truth. If Stevenson had been open about what he was implying about Victorian society, his book might never had been published. Instead he wrote his view through characters and recreated what he believed to be the truth about Victorian society.