How Does Stevenson Portray the Duality of Man in the Opening Chapters of ‘the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’?

Topics: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Victorian era Pages: 5 (1853 words) Published: February 20, 2011
How does Stevenson portray the duality of man in the opening chapters of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’?

Stevenson writes ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ with the intention of showing the reader the duality of man and explores this through the juxtaposition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this novella, Stevenson also uses the environment and setting of the story to represent the contrast between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In the opening chapters of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, the Soho area of Victorian London is described negatively and disapprovingly, compared to other areas of Victorian London An example of this is in the chapter of ‘The Carew Murder Case’, where the Soho area is described as “... a district of some city in a nightmare.” This shows that Soho is not an ideal place to live and using the word ‘nightmare’, Stevenson makes it appear scary to the reader as would a nightmare that a person has whilst sleeping. This also creates juxtaposition between Soho and Victorian London, as Victorian London was a very industrial city where the breakthrough in machinery and technology had just begun, whilst here, a part of this Victorian London is being described as a nightmare. Stevenson shows the reader that duality exists everywhere (not just within man) and introduces contrast and duality as the theme using the setting of the novella. Additionally, another one of Stevenson’s intentions is to portray Mr. Hyde’s characteristics and features through his descriptions of the Soho area. In the chapter, ‘The Search for Mr. Hyde’, Mr. Utterson says, “... the man seems hardly human!” This suggests that he is perhaps a monster of some sort, just like those you hear of in the common ‘nightmare’ people experience. In ‘The Carew Murder Case’, Mr. Utterson says, “... and it’s lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful reinvasion of darkness.” (referring to the Soho area) Here, Stevenson suggests that area is neglected and no one has bothered to care for or look after it, perhaps pointing towards the reason why the Soho area is in this state. Alternatively, this quote could also portray Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego (Mr. Hyde) being neglected, perhaps the reason why Stevenson chose to write a novella about a respectable man occasionally turning into a monster. To show or prove that perhaps neglecting your deepest desires or needs all the time is not always good and can result in disaster and in this case, the appearance of Mr. Hyde. In particular, Stevenson could be referring to the Victorian times. During the Victorian era, many things that maybe in today’s modern times are seen as acceptable, in the Victorian times were seen as unacceptable. An example of this is homosexuality. It was extremely frowned upon in the Victorian era and therefore was something of a secret to hide so that one could be seen as socially acceptable, whereas nowadays, being a homosexual is accepted by a larger amount of society than it was before. Stevenson tries to tell his Victorian readers to become more tolerant of others and less judgemental. At the same time, he sends a message to his modern day audience, telling them that it can be damaging to keep these secrets locked inside one’s mind which may contribute to insanity as the end result (E.g. Mr. Hyde). On the other hand, Stevenson could’ve written this with the intention of comparing man and his deepest desires to Victorian London and the Soho area, with Victorian London representing mankind and the Soho area representing one’s deepest desires locked away within mankind as is Soho within Victorian London. Whilst the grand majority wish to hide away Soho (man’s dark secrets), they also wish to show off the rest of Victorian London (the social norm). This is also an example of Stevenson showcasing man’s deepest desires in a negative light, yet again, desires and secrets that might not have been socially...
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