How Does Stevenson Use His Novella 'the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' to Exlore the Duality of Human Nature?

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How does Stevenson use his novella 'The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' to exlore the duality of human nature?

Throughout the novella ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ Robert Louis Stevenson explores the duality of human nature. Duality is shown not only through the various characters, but also in the setting to portray facets of the duality within the novella. The title and front cover of the book itself creates duality the word ‘case’ suggesting the genre to be that of a detective novella, whereas the gothic cover points towards the genre being horror.

The novella itself is constructed on binary oppositions, with a very clear theme of Good versus Evil, in which ‘good’ is initially portrayed by Dr. Jekyll. Where he is described as a “well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty” who was well respected as a person an eminent and respected member of his profession due to his many qualifications ‘M.D, D.C.L, LL.D,F.R.S’ etc. Jekyll himself has duality within his character, even when just looking at the Jekyll side of the personality, duality is still shown even in the part of the personality seen as ‘good’. As he is a well respected doctor of science and is well known for his great hospitality and compassion ‘every mark of capacity and kindness’ where he is obviously seen as the human form of all things good. However aspects of evil are quickly shown in his personality where examples of selfishness are shown ‘I cannot say I care what becomes of him’ and when he begins to look ‘deadly sick’ - Sickness here, denotes criminality as to the Victorian audience criminals were thought to be ill of mind or body. However, even as Hyde becomes a more significant character, Jekyll’s character still remains honourable until the final chapter.

Jekyll is aware of his dual personality, but he represents the many members of Victorian society leading two different lives without acknowledgment of it. This dual life relates directly to Stevenson himself as a well respected writer by day and ‘party goer’ by night. One could argue that Stevenson inserted his own personality into the dual character of Henry Jekyll. By inserting Hyde into Jekyll’s already apparent duality, he successfully creates a duel character from which he proceeds to explore duality in human nature in depth while addressing many issues relevant to the Victorian reader such as religion, hypocrisy and criminology. He created great controversy by contradicting religion and alluding to the newly found theory of evolution by Charles Darwin. Hyde, is described as ‘ape-like’ and ‘troglodytic’ and is likened to the devil ‘but carrying it off sir, really like satan’. He’s portrayed as being almost subhuman which connotes to the victorian attitudes to criminals at the time, criminals being viewed as those who had chosen not to rein in their more primitive desires as shown in Henry Maudsley’s “remarks on crime and criminals” “just as they were in the pre moral ages of animal and human life on earth”. Criminals were mainly lower class and were scruffy looking and in rags. Lombroso’s description of criminal features added that they looked like apes and in the victorian era de-evolution was though of as a possibility.

Further into the novel, Hyde’s character becomes strengthened and more dominant as Jekyll struggles to maintain sanity. Although he begins to struggle to keep control of his duality he renounces responsibility of his duality when he begins referring to Hyde in third person completely distancing himself from the uncontrollable part of his personality he created. In the ultimate chapter Jekyll claims when transforming into Hyde he had ‘lost in stature’ suggesting he became physically smaller which abides well with the theory of de-evolution in the dual character. The characters names alone create duality Jekyll when broken into ‘Je’ and ‘Kyll’ -Je meaning ‘I’ in french and ‘Kyll’ phonetically sounding like the verb ‘to kill’- even in the respectable...
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