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. 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...
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