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The Problem of Duality in R.L Stevenson?S the Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The problem of Duality in R. L Stevenson? s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde The book ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ was published in 1886. Although in the book R. L. Stevenson does not ever state the exact year, it was at the time recognized immediately as a grand work. The original idea occurred to him in a nightmare from which his wife awakened him. In fact, Stevenson was disappointed that she had interrupted his dream but eventually developed the idea into a full-length story. Originally Stevenson’s idea was to compose a straightforward horror story, with no allegorical undertones.

However, after reading the original version to his wife, she suggested more could be made of the tale. After initially resisting, Stevenson burned the original manuscript and rewrote the entire novel in only three days. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was an incredibly well plotted story which became immensely popular. The main theme running throughout the book is about the duality of human beings and the battle in all humans between good and evil. Stevenson examines man’s relationship with good and evil, and comments on the constant war and balance between the two.

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In the broadly cultural context of the Victorian era, Hyde might be comparable to Western culture’s fascination with perceived “savage” countries and cultures, specifically in Africa and the West Indies, while Jekyll is the embodiment of English manners, pride, and high culture. In examining, visiting and conquering remote countries, England and Europe believed they were civilizing savage peoples, most often working to convert the inhabitants to Christianity. Although fascinated by these strange new cultures, Europeans dismissed their ways of life as base. Thus, Dr.

Jekyll represents the European approach to colonization in his examination of base, savage ideals. However, he proves unable to control his evil self or hide (Hyde) his fascination with it and thus dies in the process of trying to regain his original refined identity. The story is told mostly from the perspective of a third party, the lawyer Mr Utterson. The opening chapter of Jekyll and Hyde brilliantly begins the largely allegorical novel. The novella’s structure is unique in that it is not cast entirely as a first-person narration, as it would have been possible to tell the story in the manner of a confession from Jekyll’s point of view.

The gradual building up of horror and destruction is achieved through a slow accumulation of unemotional detail, which begins in this chapter. Here, we learn of a mysterious, dark, and violent Edward Hyde who is apparently familiar with Dr. Jekyll. We can only assume that further reading will reveal more about Hyde, Jekyll, and Utterson. The well-known basic theme of the novel surrounds the duality of good and evil, but also provides an examination of hypocrisy, as encompassed by Jekyll and Hyde. The book has been referred to as, “one of the best guidebooks of the Victorian times,”.

Hyde’s first victim of cruelty is a female child, which serves to immediately emphasize his moral depravity. The description of the fateful street where Hyde lives reinforces this theme of duality in Victorian culture. It is described as an anonymous street in London, whose shop fronts “like rows of smiling saleswomen” have a brightness that stands out in contrast to the poor neighborhood. And yet, two doors from the corner stands a dreary, Gothic house, which, “bore in every feature the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. Later on, we learn that Hyde’s mysterious, threatening and sinister door and derilict building facade is in fact a back entrance to Dr. Jekyll’s wealthy, respected, and large mansion. The theme of duality is also marked by the symbolic nature of the name, Hyde, which represents the hidden aspects of Jekyll’s nature. Indeed, when resolving to find and speak with this man in Chapter 2, Mr. Utterson claims that “If he shall be Mr. Hyde . . . I shall be Mr. Seek. ” The first chapter reveals the true evil of Hyde’s character and foreshadows future criminal acts.

Enfield refers to Hyde as “really like Satan. ” A few lines later, Hyde remarks “No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene. ” In contrast, Utterson is presented as the typical true Victorian gentleman who is loyal to his friends, no matter what. He is also highly rational, searching for logical explanations in the very strange events surrounding Jekyll and Hyde. In this way, Utterson’s grounded approach to the novel’s happenings provides a stark contrast against the supernatural themes revealed as the novel progresses.

Interestingly, there is a clear absence of female characters in this novel. The only female the reader encounters is this first chapter is the young girl from Enfield’s story. This pattern of female exclusion continues throughout the novel, as the action is dominated by men, whose lives appear to be independent of female influence. In the second chapter, Utterson begins his detective work that continues throughout the novel. He seeks out and meets Edward Hyde for the first time, and Utterson describes Hyde as, “pale and dwarfish . . deformity. . . husky. .. murderous. ” .

He also notes that Hyde inspires “disgust and loathing and fear,” but cannot pinpoint exactly why. The best that he can do is to call Hyde a “troglodyte”, a savage un-evolved being lesser than man. Thus, the reader is continually reminded that Hyde is similar to the devil and evil, but it seems impossible to define the exact qualities that place fear in the hearts of those that meet him. Decent people instinctively know that Hyde is morally corrupt and evil. To support this perception, Stevenson often describes Hyde in animalistic terms, including imagery such as the “hissing intake of breath”.

Utterson exhibits his classic rational approach to the increasingly strange issues throughout this chapter. To connect this highly rational character with the supernatural themes of the novel, Stevenson gives Utterson a highly disturbing dream sequence, which surrounds the terrible actions of a faceless and monster-like Edward Hyde. Every time Utterson sleeps, he sees “[Hyde] glide more stealthily through sleeping houses, or move the more swiftly … through wider labyrinths of lamp-lighted city, and at every street corner crush a child and leave her screaming. Clearly, Utterson is fascinated by the relationship between Hyde and Jekyll, and is convinced that there is something dark and ominous linking the two. Yet, Utterson stops short of allowing for a supernatural explanation, as any rational individual would. Utterson’s obsession with Hyde allows for an admission of hidden sins and secrets running rampant through Victorian London. Jekyll’s house is described in great detail. It is a mansion with “a great air of wealth and comfort” that is secretly connected to the doctor’s laboratory.

The laboratory fasade appears run down and neglected, and can be entered through the mysterious door described in the first chapter. The reader later learns that the laboratory is in fact where Dr. Jekyll undertakes his transformations into Mr. Hyde. Thus, the two areas of the house are clearly related to their two inhabitants. The respectable Dr. Jekyll lives in the well-kept wealthy mansion, and the despicable and evil Mr. Hyde inhabits the run down, neglected laboratory. The next chapter reveals the extent of Hyde’s evil. He brutally murders an innocent man, without provocation, and pparently without reason. Sir Danvers Carew is the second known victim of Hyde’s violence. Enfield witnessed Hyde trampling a young girl, but he did not kill her, or even seriously injure her. Rather, his behavior seemed to simply disregard the humanity of the girl or her right to walk down the same street as him. In contrast, Sir Danvers Carew is viciously murdered, apparently without reason. It seems that Hyde kills Sir Danvers Carew simply to demonstrate his power and to release his evil. Thus, Hyde’s evilness is gaining in strength, which forebodes further tragedy to come.

Much of this chapter consists of a contrast between Utterson and Jekyll. Utterson is still quite the Victorian gentleman, putting image and appearance above all else. To protect Jekyll’s reputation, he goes to visit him and discuss the issue personally rather than informing the police of Jekyll and Hyde’s relationship and having them do the questioning. Moreover, even upon discovering Hyde’s letter is almost certainly a forgery, Utterson refrains from confronting Jekyll. In this way, Utterson loyally protects his friend. In contrast, Jekyll lies to Utterson, defending Hyde with a fake letter.

Here, for the first time, the reader begins to see hypocrisy in Dr. Jekyll. He claims to be a loyal and honest man, but in fact he is a liar and forger. Interestingly, through Stevenson’s detailed description of Jekyll’s residence, the reader gains insight into the character’s evolution. In the laboratory, Utterson describes “three dusty windows barred with iron. ” One year previous, Mr. Enfield described the same windows as, “always shut but… clean. ” This slight detail provides a glance into the tumbling personal world of Dr. Jekyll.

At this point in the novel, it is important to examine what Utterson suspects of Jekyll. While Jekyll clearly is acting abnormal, Utterson does not yet comprehend that his friend and the evil Mr. Hyde are one in the same, although he appears to suspect foul play. Thus, the detective story continues, the intrigue grows, and the supernatural influence in the novel becomes stronger. However, from this point forward, supernatural imagery begins to appear more frequently, and Stevenson’s language becomes increasingly descriptive and poetic.

These changes assist in heightening the novel’s suspense, and successfully carrying an intrigued reader to the shocking conclusion. Bit by bit, Utterson’s logical grasp on the world is loosening. Jekyll’s behavior is becoming increasingly suspicious and mysterious, and Utterson cannot logically determine its cause. Moreover, his friend Lanyon who had been friendly with Jekyll only a few days before refuses to speak of the man and claims he has suffered a deathly shock. Lanyon had previously acted as a pillar of reason, who clung to powerful principles and dismissed Jekyll’s scientific theories as “balderdash. However, he now claims to have witnessed a shock so great that it will cause his demise. Apparently, Lanyon has been shaken to the core, and perhaps his belief in logic and sound science has been proven wrong. In this chapter, mystery and the supernatural begin to take over. As Lanyon passes away, and Jekyll admits serious although vague wrongdoing, Utterson’s world begins to tumble out of control. The beginning of Chapter Incident at the window, as Enfield and Utterson walk past Hyde’s mysterious door.

To Enfield, Utterson, and the rest of the world, Jekyll has imprisoned himself within the confines of his home and of his alternate identity, Hyde. At this point, the reader is still not meant to know of Jekyll’s dual identities, and the sense of mystery surrounding Jekyll and Hyde’s relationship and Jekyll’s reclusive behavior grows. Meanwhile, Utterson’s world has become increasingly dark and horrifying, as Lanyon dies and Jekyll hides himself from the world. Through these events, Utterson’s rational and logical world is slowly disintegrating into a world of confusion and mystery.

Moreover, while the events of the novel become increasingly strange, the language and detail becomes increasingly sparse. This pattern first appears in an inability to describe the specific horror of Hyde’s face, grows more powerful when Lanyon refuses to discuss the specifics of his horrific shock, and continues to develop in this chapter when Enfield and Utterson silently agree not to speak of Jekyll’s apparent seizure and strange behavior. Thus, as the dramatic action continues to develop, the suspense and mystery surrounding Jekyll grows.

Undoubtedly, Chapter 8 contains more action than any other chapter in the novel. Finally, Utterson has reason to confront his friend and actively pursue the answer to the mysterious incidents that have been plaguing the past year. Stevenson writes many narrative sequences in this chapter, and a great deal happens. Poole reaches the end of his patience and finally reaches out to Utterson for help. Utterson violently confronts the man hiding in Jekyll’s closet, who appears to be Hyde. Hyde commits suicide, Utterson and Poole search unsuccessfully for Jekyll’s body, and Utterson is eft with mysterious letters including a new will and Jekyll’s personal confession from which to glean the details of Jekyll’s disappearance and his involvement with Hyde. We have yet to learn about Jekyll’s experimentations and dual identities, but we are inching closer. The other chapters in the novel tend to surround the details of one “incident,” but this chapter contains many. It is important to note that in the beginning of the chapter, Utterson stays true to his logical, reasonable personality in trying to explain away every piece of strange evidence Poole provides.

Although initially concerned, and willing to return to Jekyll’s home with Poole to resolve the situation, it appears Utterson is not finally convinced of the awful seriousness of the circumstances until he hears Hyde’s voice from within Jekyll’s chamber. After that, Utterson is convinced of wrongdoing, and urges Poole to help him break down the cabinet door. Both Poole and Utterson believe the man in Jekyll’s room is Edward Hyde. Even after breaking in and finding Hyde’s body, wearing clothes far too large for him, they are convinced that the man murdered Jekyll, and that his body must be in the nearness.

Utterson is still confused by the situation, as he cannot understand where Jekyll could have disappeared to or why Hyde, such an evil man, would commit suicide. Furthermore, Hyde’s key to the outside door appears purposely smashed and quite rusted, meaning the man had no means to exit the cabinet, unless through Jekyll’s home, where the servants clearly would have seen him, and he would have been arrested for the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. At this point, the reader is not yet aware that Jekyll and Hyde are in fact the same man, and that with Hyde’s suicide, Jekyll is also dead.

These details will surface later through Lanyon and Jekyll’s letters. However, as Utterson and Poole inspect Dr. Jekyll’s cabinet, looking for clues to his disappearance, they discover evidence of the Jekyll/Hyde duality. For instance, Utterson finds a book which Jekyll held in great esteem that has been, “annotated in his own hand with startling blasphemies. ” Utterson is again confused upon finding an altered version of Jekyll’s will where Hyde’s name is crossed out and his own is written in. It seems strange that Hyde would have left the will this way.

To make matters worse, Utterson reads one of Hyde’s letters, dated the very same day, and recognizes the man’s handwriting. Utterson thinks Jekyll must have been there, in that room, that same day, but is now nowhere to be found. In his note, Jekyll writes, “When this shall fall into your hands, I shall have disappeared. ” Utterson’s final act is to protect Jekyll. He goes home to read the letters, in hopes of saving his friend’s reputation, and promises to return before midnight to call the police.

Here again Stevenson stresses the importance of reputation in Victorian England, and how even after witnessing death and highly strange events, Utterson wishes to delay involving the authorities in an attempt to save face. The final two chapters of the book consist only of the text of documents: first, Lanyon’s letter, and then Jekyll’s confession. The reader sees no more of Utterson, and is left to wonder how he came to terms with the strangeness of his friend’s work, and the reality of his dual existence. Finally, in the chapter, the nature of Jekyll’s experimentation and his dual existence as Jekyll/Hyde is revealed.

Lanyon’s description of that fateful night reveals the otherwise mysterious relationship between Hyde and Jekyll. Through this letter, Stevenson finally directly embraces the supernatural theme of the novel, and reveals the horror Jekyll’s transformation inflicted on Lanyon. Lanyon includes many details in his letter, even noting the colors of the various vial contents in Jekyll’s drawer. However, although he is very detailed in what he witnessed that night, Lanyon does not provide an explanation of how such a transformation could occur, or how Jekyll’s scientific experiments advanced and progressed to this point.

Lanyon purposely does not include this information, as he simply finds it to offensive to write about. Clearly, this is important information, but Lanyon refuses to discuss it, just as he refused to share this information immediately after witnessing it. Instead, Lanyon forced society to wait until Jekyll’s death or disappearance and his own death before the truth would be revealed. The novel contains many other silences, such as the lack of description of Hyde’s face, and mutual agreement between Enfield and Utterson to avoid speaking of Jekyll’s apparent seizure and suffering at the window.

Lanyon’s silence here is a reflection of how intensely he wishes to reject Jekyll’s work. We learned earlier that Jekyll and Lanyon, the rationalist, had a falling out over the legitimacy of pursuing mystical science. Now, having been proved wrong, Lanyon refuses to accept or acknowledge scientific achievement or work that is entirely contrary to his perspective. So offensive is the shock of Jekyll’s work, that Lanyon is affected physically. He grows weak, internalizes his pain, protects the truth, and eventually dies as a result of the shock of witnessing Hyde’s transformation into Jekyll.

Finally, the novel’s mysteries are solved. Firstly we learn the details of Henry Jekyll’s research, the reasoning behind his experimentation, and the details of how Hyde began to take over his life. The shift from third person to first person perspective is quite powerful, and leaves few questions remaining. The reader is able to piece together Utterson’s perspective with Jekyll’s behavior, and everything becomes clear. In his letter, Jekyll highlights one of the main themes of the novel, the dual nature of man. It is this concept that caused him to pursue his disastrous experiments that led to his downfall.

Hyde, the personification of Jekyll’s purely evil characteristics, revels in the freedom of an anonymous existence. Although he successfully distills his evil side, Jekyll still remains a combination of good and evil. Thus, when transforming back and forth, his evil side grows stronger and more powerful after years of repression, and is able to take over completely. In this way, Jekyll’s experiments are the opposite of what he hoped. Interestingly, as is repeatedly mentioned throughout the novel, Hyde is a small man often called dwarfish, while Jekyll is a man of large stature.

Thus, the reader is left to assume that Jekyll’s evil side is much weaker and less developed than his good side. However, appearances can be deceiving. In fact, Hyde’s strength far out powers Jekyll’s. In his letter, Jekyll clearly states that he felt no guilt about Hyde’s actions, as “Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde, but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience. It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. ” To the reader, this explanation seems ridiculous, because Hyde is in fact part of Jekyll, and a being that Jekyll created.

Therefore, clearly Jekyll is responsible for the man’s actions. In the struggle between Jekyll and Hyde, Stevenson explores the struggle of the human conscience, between good and evil, noble and despicable. Jekyll, who gives in to his evil impulses becomes a prisoner and victim of his own creation. Thus, Stevenson seems to suggest that a noble, pure life is far better than one of discreet immorality. However, Stevenson also portrays the seemingly purely noble men in the novel, Utterson and Lanyon, as weak. Lanyon dies after the shock of Jekyll’s transformation, and

Utterson repeatedly refuses to accept the truth or pursue the novel’s central mystery. Although apparently critical of both worldviews, Stevenson seems to ultimately claim that the noble life is more admirable, as Utterson lives while Jekyll/Hyde dies. Although this final chapter reveals the details of Jekyll’s work, there are questions left unanswered. Stevenson never specifically explains Jekyll’s sordid behavior or immoral vices. Rather, he refers to this side of Jekyll’s life quite vaguely. This lack of information is the final silence within the book, following a pattern established from the very beginning.

Has Jekyll/Hyde been involved in immoral sexual acts? It is unclear. The young girl running through the street at three in the morning makes a slight allusion to child prostitution, which ran rampant at the time. Moreover, the lack of female characters in the novel or female influence in any of the men’s lives leaves the possibility of homosexual behavior open as well. However, despite all the clues and insinuations the novel might make, the reader never knows the details of Jekyll/Hyde’s immoral depravity. Some critics suggest that this final lack of explanation once again depicts the oppressive nature of Victorian society.

Others claim it demonstrates the conflict between the rational logic of the written word and indescribable pure evil. Or, perhaps leaving these details unexplained gives their sense of evil greater power, as the unknown is more disturbing than the known. Stevenson’s main message appears to be that the lure of darkness and evil exists in the mind of every man, and all that differentiates good people from evil people is one’s ability to control indulgence. Although we all have evil within us, Stevenson suggests it is best to keep our “Hyde’s” under lock and key, rather than let them roam freely. ——————————————–


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