Darwin in Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde

Topics: Evolution, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Natural selection Pages: 6 (1848 words) Published: November 10, 2010
In Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species of Natural Selection, man's dual nature is illustrated in terms of evolution and morality. In this essay I will argue that Stevenson's description of both the interior and exterior struggles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde echo Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection. Through close readings, comparisons, and the juxtaposition of the novel and theoretical genre, I will explain how Stevenson's physical description of Edward Hyde can be divided into three streams (the primitive being, the animalistic, and the childlike) and mirrors Darwin's argument that "man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."(Darwin, 1368) Second, I will compare the developed consciousness of humans described by Darwin as the ability to reflect and correct (Darwin, 1364), to Stevenson's closing passages narrated by Henry Jekyll.

In Darwin's Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection, man is argued to have evolved from a lesser being: "The main conclusion arrived at in this work, and now held by many naturalists who are well competent to form a sound judgment, is that man descended from some less highly organized form"(Darwin, 1362). In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson describes the character Edward Hyde as being physically less developed and inferior:

Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of a deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice. (Stevenson, 1946)

Hyde's smaller stature and lack of social confidence set him up as a character that is without popularly practiced social norms and tact. His dwarfishness acknowledges that while he may have the body of a human, it is in fact smaller, stouter, and stunted. This theme of the undeveloped man in Hyde is reiterated by the narrator Utterson after he first hears about Mr. Hyde from his cousin Enfield: "There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say?"(Stevenson, 1946) Here the word "hardly" acknowledges the descriptive theme of Hyde as a less developed human. Later Utterson describes Hyde as demonic and devilish, however initially he sees Hyde's less than human nature, which has been tainted by his lack of development, as a deformity. Furthermore, the word "troglodytic" is explained in the footnotes as meaning: "Primitive and brutish, like a cave dweller" (Stevenson, 1946) Thus Hyde's character is set up as something hermit like: disconnected, unpracticed, and unaware of social customs. This earlier edition man is also painted by Darwin in his discussion of man's progressive evolutionary process: "These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful."(Darwin, 1368) In essence, Stevenson's primitive physical description of Hyde is in tandem with Darwin's theory that man evolved from a being less advanced.

Stevenson's description of Hyde also extends into a more animalistic discourse. Beginning with the maid's account of Hyde's first murder, Hyde's description demonstrates an instinctive violent nature:

He had in his hand a heavy cane, with which he was trifling; but he answered never a word, and seemed to listen with an ill-contained impatience. And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his food and brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman… Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And the next moment with an apelike fury, he was trampling his victim under food, and hailing down a storm...
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