The horror novella The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written in the Victorian era by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and was first published in 1886. The main plot of the book is about the dual nature of human kind, the inner conflict between good and evil. It is the story about a doctor feeling he is always fighting within himself between what is good and what is evil. He wants to separate these two sides to enjoy life better with ough worrying about what is good or bad or the victorian mores.
After drinking a potion of his own creation, Jekyll is transformed into the cruel, remorseless, evil Edward Hyde, representing the hidden and dark side of Dr. Jekyll’s nature. As time goes by, Jekyll becomes prisonner of this satanic and cynical Hyde, unable to impose his real personality and finished by ending his life for the good of humanity. He leaves a written confession where he narates his tragique story. In this essay, I will analyse Robert’s Louis Stevenson’s presentation of Edward Hyde in The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and what this character represents.
Is Hyde a Typical Gothic monster? We can not compare Hyde to a typical gothic monster because we can not omit the fact that Hyde is human. This creates an association between Hyde and the reader that we do not have with other stereotypical monster which we distance ourselves from. We can not distance our selves from Hyde and this makes him scarier; we can not say: “he is not like us, so he is a monster”. This makes Hyde seem dangerous because we automatically imagine that Hyde might be some where in the world, walking in the streets with ought anybody recognizing him because physically, he looks similar to any “normal” person:
“It seemed natural and human. This is different with stereotypical monster like Frankenstein, which we could easily identify. Hyde is a sophisticated character, he is educated and uses a formal register: “You will not find Dr Jekyll; he is from home” (page 15), which implies that he is a clever person. In contrary to Frankenstein, for whom we can say is not very intellectually gifted. In The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson succeeds in making a character that is truly scary by creating a similarity between the reader and Hyde, unlike the stereotypical monsters of “Hollywood” which only the appearance and gore make frightening. Hyde’s environment
Stevenson installs an atmosphere of evil that surrounds Hyde in the novella by describing scrupulously the environment he evolves in. His neighbourhood is dark, gloomy and frightening: “… he was conscious of some touch of that terror of the law and the law officers who may at times assail the most honest”. His house is in “… The dismal quarter of Soho”, which is known for its criminals and is the centre of the capital’s sex entertainment industry which implies his “fleshy” and immoral personality. He also installs this evil atmosphere by the use of different literary techniques like personification, sharp contrasts and pathetic fallacy.
For example the phrase: “… a haggard shaft of daylight” helps us imagine the obscure place where Hyde lives. This adjective is normally used to describe a person, which means to seem tired. “This mournful reinvasion of darkness” is a good example of pathetic fallacy, the adjective “mournful” normally used to describe a person who is feeling sorrow or grief. This pathetic fallacy is done to emphasise the “atmosphere of evil”. The ambience inside his house, on the contrary to its external surface, is more of a welcoming ambience which is unexpected by the reader “… these were furnished with luxury and good taste.
A closet filled with wine; the plate was of silver, the napery elegant. Stevenson also uses sharp contrast like “… an ivory faced and silver-haired old woman opened the door. She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy; but her manners were excellent” implying his unpredictable and contradicting character. Hyde’s environment is exactly the mirror of his appearance and personality; this is exactly the place where the reader would expect to find a person like Hyde. Hyde’s appearance Stevenson uses many different techniques to describe Hyde’s appearance. For instance, he uses imagery when he compares Hyde to a “troglodyte”.
This gives a very primitive, savage and dull facade of him. Hyde is often described as small, crooked and dressed with clothes to big for him; this may imply that, after having been hidden in the dark and prevented from growing and flourishing by Jekyll’s reasonable side, he has been physically deformed. He is often compared to animals, implying that he is not a fully evolved human being, he is often described as “hairy” and “ugly”. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory shocked Victorians with the idea that humans are basically animals. Hyde represents the animal side of human nature which scared the Victorian.
His name is also used to imply the “sexual” aspect of Hyde which the Victorians felt they needed to “hide”. Utterson once said: “Well, if he is Mr. Hyde, I will be Mr. Seek. ” The looks and appearance of Mr. Hyde leave people thinking negative things of him and a strong feeling of hatred and repulsion. As quoted in the first chapter Mr. Enfield states to Mr. Utterson, “He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with this appearance; something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.
Enfield is unable to describe clearly and precisely Hyde. He affirms that Hyde is deformed and ugly yet he does not know why. This implies that Hyde is beyond words just as he is beyond ethics and principles. Hyde’s behaviour analysis Hyde behaves himself very rudely and immorally through out the whole novel. At the beginning of the book, he commits violent acts against innocent people for no apparent reason He just does it out of pure evil. For example, when he tramples the girl in the street, he does not seem to be bothered by this act, as if it was normal. As the novel progresses, Hyde’s evil becomes more and more pronounced.
He hits Sir Danvers Carew to death for absolutely no reason other than the fact that Sir Danvers appeared to be a good and kind man. This implies that he is completely devoid of any moral and common sense. He becomes more civilized through out the book, for instance in chapter 9, he talk’s in a formal way: “he replied civilly enough” and succeeds in controlling his desires:” he was wrestling against the approaches of hysteria”. He does what ever pleases him, doesn’t control his desires as a normal human man would and betrays the Victorian mores that Victorian would follow so scrupulously.