This essay will explore the ways in which R.L. Stevenson presented good and evil in his novel ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, using symbolic opposites as metaphors to describe the natures of certain people in the, for example Mr. Hyde, Dr. Lanyon etc. The gothic/ Victorian setting for this novel ties in with the ‘good and evil’ stance in which the appearances of certain people and objects can be a deceitful to the reader. Stevenson sets this novel in the Victorian period when there was a thin border between rich and poor, civilisation and barbarism, and occasionally good and evil; which suits the good vs. theme of the novel.Order now
Stevenson wrote this novel to express how evil can present itself in a variety of different people, even those considered rich, wealthy and ‘upper class’. The novel also expresses that no matter how many good deeds you do, you are still vulnerable to doing evil deeds.
In the case of the novel itself, Stevenson wrote about a doctor called Jekyll who seemed to be a respectable, good looking, hard working and socially accepted member of the community. Quote “Jekyll was a large, well made, smooth faced man of fifty, with something of a stylish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness.” However, Jekyll was tempted into the evil that one of his scientific experiments entailed, resulting in the production of his ‘alter ego’, Mr. Hyde. Quote: “â€¦think of it – I did not even existâ€¦ a man who could afford to laugh at suspicion.” This quote tells us that Jekyll is considering the advantages of his evil creation, one of which is ‘not existing’, which enables him to commit crimes as Hyde without ever being traced, as he would have turned back into Jekyll. This advantage tempts Jekyll to pursue in the experiment, slowly turning him from a person with good intentions, to a person with bad intentions, even though this remains unknown to those around him until towards the end of the novel.
Stevenson believed that “â€¦man is not truly one, but two”: which we assume is one good side to a person, and one bad or evil side to a person. He expresses this belief through Jekyll, who we see the good and evil personalities of in the novel.
Even though Jekyll became evil enough to create Hyde, we see that Hyde is a totally evil alter ego to Jekyll himself, who does nothing good throughout the novel. The point in which we first know that Hyde is a man with a huge lack of morals when he knocks a girl down in the street, then tramples over her and walks off. Quote: “And the next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot.” After a doctor examines the injured girl, he sees Hyde and immediately dislikes him. Quote: “â€¦I saw the sawbones turned sick and white with a desire to kill him .” This explains that Hyde is a very ruthless character who some people, like the doctor, dislike or even hate Hyde so much that they want to kill him. Unlike most people, who would feel bad about being disliked or hated by a large number of people, Hyde does not seem to care about being hated by the group of people who were present when he trampled over the girl earlier in the novel. Quote:
“I never saw a circle of such hateful faces; and there was a man in the middle , with a kind of black, sneering coolnessâ€¦ but carrying it offâ€¦ really like Satan.” This tells us that instead of Hyde feeling ashamed for what he had done, he stays evilly calm, almost sneeringly, which annoys the group of people standing around him even more. We then get the impression that Hyde is a very much disliked person in the community around him. He is even referred to as being much like Satan in the quote, very much unlike his creator, Dr. Jekyll. In the novel, Stevenson describes Hyde as being small, deformed and purely evil, and going back to Stevenson’s view that every human being is comprised of one good half and one evil half, we get the impression that Stevenson presents his views on the evil half of all human beings through Hyde, who is half the size of Jekyll because he is Jekyll’s evil half, evil being only one half of a person in Stevenson’s belief. Quote: “â€¦Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”
A character that was influenced greatly by Hyde is Dr. Lanyon, who was a friend of Dr. Jekyll’s. He too was a respectable man who showed no sign of evil. Quote: “This was a hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman with a shock of hair prematurely white.” This explains that Dr. Lanyon is a man of good health with white hair, which is a sign of wisdom in age. Despite this respectable faÃ§ade, Dr. Lanyon becomes a victim of the evil truth that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person, after Jekyll drinks a potion in front of Dr. Lanyon to change into Mr. Hyde. After this, Dr. Lanyon is very deeply shocked, which eventually leads to his death. Quote: “He had his death-warrant written legibly upon his face. The rosy man had grown pale, his flesh had fallen away; he was visible balder and older.” This shows us that as well as Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Lanyon a victim of Hyde’s evil, and also a victim of his own curiosity to know the explanation to Jekyll’s odd character later in the novel. This also tells us that Stevenson represent his idea of how easily it is to become a victim of evil through Dr. Lanyon, who we see as a person who is an even combination of good and evil.