Word Count: 1730
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, analyses the notion of humanity being simultaneously good and evil, and also of there being a complexity of varying layers of instinctive behaviours. Stevenson explores these concepts in his narrative technique, amongst the midst of the aristocracy and middle class Victorian values of respectability, morality and intolerant sexual restraint.
Jekyll and Hyde is a short text which is tangled with various narrative techniques, which advance the story into a ten-chapter novella. “marking a new level of achievement in its, power to provide spellbinding entertainment while intimating a valuable moral.” (Linehan xi). As an innocent Victorian tale, Jekyll and Hyde illustrates a classic benchmark of the period’s sensibilities, however “as a narrative, it is the most intricately structured of Stevenson’s stories.” (Saposnik 716). The actual charade at the core of Victorian society was the important elements written about in the novella. And that is the falseness of humanity, which Stevenson speaks of inextricability. Robbie BH Goh (160) comments that the core typifying codes are of shame and guilt. These were frequent elements in a period when the aristocracy (ruling class), faced questions to religious creation and class division. There was also a large dispersion of displeasure with working conditions, which were bought about through the Industrial Revolution. This had the result of an era that was fighting to hold onto its beliefs.
Walter Houghton (147) narrates how Victorians behaved in a time, where there were higher standards of behaviour. Sometimes these principles were too high for civilization. This state of society is the dilemma of the main character in the novella. That is the split personality of Henry Jekyll into Edward Hyde. The character is portrayed as two separate entities, throughout the first eight chapters; nevertheless the character is substantially one being. However as the story finishes, the reader is to retain that, “there was still one man born and only one man buried.” (Chesterton 184). The story of Jekyll and Hyde has been oversimplified since its initial release in 1886; it is also common for the character to be seen as “Jekyll or Hyde where one should see Jekyll-Hyde.” (Saposnik 715). The idea of the two characters being polar opposites, are continual in stage and screen adaptations. This is where Jekyll is angelic, and Hyde is unkempt, animalistic and the epitome of evil. This oversimplification I believe, takes away the key fundamentals of the two personalities which are those of Dr. Henry Jekyll and also Edward Hyde, and are therefore more complex than we are to consider.
As the narrative starts, the outside element of Henry Jekyll has an, “imperious desire to carry (his) head high, and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public.” (Stevenson 48). As it is the justification of, the behaviour of respectability, properness and virtue.
We see Jekyll is not as he portrays himself, and is a multifarious person. Jekyll dislikes his, “morbid sense of shame,” (48) and sees his attraction as, “undignified.” (53). Edward Hyde is a part of Jekyll, and his essence; the part which Jekyll has worked hard to hide. Hyde is simply, “Jekyll’s unrepressed spontaneous existence.” (Miyoshi 473). The two people’s share few similarities, however they do have the same handwriting, and also share the same memories. Jekyll’s alter-ego however advances as the narrative increases, becoming forceful and more tyrannical with each transformation. As Hyde continues in being angry, disturbed and violent, we see Jekyll becoming weaker. Jekyll’s guidance in Hyde’s escalating importance, allows the reader to visualise Hyde digesting Jekyll’s strength.
Jekyll takes immense gratification from Hyde’s repulsive character, as...