‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is a gothic novella Dr Jekyll, who suffers from a split personality disorder. The idea was taken from Robert Stevenson dreams, where it shed light on the author’s hidden fears and desires. Written in the nineteenth century, it focuses on the psychology of society during the Victorian era. Charles Darwin was a scientist whose theory ‘Evolution of man’ had provoked the idea that the creation of man had derived from animals. Stevenson had reinforced Darwin’s ideologies with his animalistic descriptions of Mr Hyde and he had used this technique to manipulate the Victorian audience fears and anxieties. Stevenson uses the gothic element ‘doubling’ where he reveals the horrifying transformation of Dr Jekyll into the primitive murderer Edward Hyde.
Stephen Arata observes that “Jekyll and Hyde articulate in Gothic fiction’s exaggerated tones late-Victorian anxieties concerning degermation, devaluation, and criminal man” (Arata,1995:233) This is demonstrated when Dr Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde, (QUOTE OF TRANSFORMATION) he is degenerating into a lower form, this transformation generates fear in the regression of man, as both men are revealed to be the same person. Stevenson uses Jekyll and Hyde to represent this idea, where Dr Jekyll, whom is an educated and respected individual, is capable of the terrible behaviour shown by his other side, Mr Hyde. This exhibits how there is no good and bad individual and how even though Dr Jekyll is a wealthy and educated individual, it does not make him a good man.
Jekyll’s creation of Hyde gave him the ability to act out on his evil impulses. Though this Stevenson had shattered the class conditioned capability that had covered and controlled the lives of many respectable members of society in the late Victorian era and he had left his audience wondering, how many of aristocracy had been good people, Jekyll had used Hyde’s terrible behaviour as a manipulation of Victorian anxieties and social fears that are can be criminals in every class of society and how the working class does not only commit crimes. (quote on crime) Although crime was excessive in London during the Victorian era, it was generally associated with the working class. Stevenson brings this to light with his vivid descriptions of Mr Hyde’s house (QUOTE OF HYDES HOUSE), his descriptions paints the image of Soho as a dangerous and gloomy area, one that you would associate with crime. Stevenson reinforces this imagery with his use of ‘doubling’ when he divides London into two, where one side is where Dr Jekyll and Mr Utterson live and work, is represented as a smart and wealthy area. This is identified as such in Utterson’s referral to Cavendish square, the home of Dr Lanyon- as ‘that citadel of medicine’. In contrast, the other side of London is represented by the district of Soho, a slum area of the city that symbolises an atavistic playground, where immoral behaviour is expected and therefore much less noticeable. Mr Hyde has a house in this district, assumedly so his detestable appearance and violent behaviour go unquestioned and unnoticed.
Stevenson illustrates how fear is embedded into society through his descriptions of both areas, the wealthy area is portrayed as good and the poorer area is depicted to be bad. Through this, Stevenson brings to light the stigma that is attached to be being from the working-class and he uses Jekyll’s house as a motif to symbolise how criminals were found in educated, wealthy and seemingly respectable echelons of society and not only poor and working-class areas. Stevenson shows ‘doubling’ throughout his novella, where Jekyll’s house is split into contrasting space, used both for Dr Jekyll’s domestic purposes and his scientific experiments.
The laboratory at the end of the garden provides a convenient way of concealing his dubious experiments and the side door onto the back-alley enables an appropriate and the side door onto the back-alley enables an appropriate means by which Hyde can come and go, without disturbing the household or being associated with Dr Jekyll. Stevenson’s skilful manipulation of Victorian anxieties are evident in the book’s success. With Charles Darwin’s theory ‘The Origin of Species’ there had been a fear of Darwin’s concept that mankind had derived from animals and not from Adam and Eve, as the Biblical story entails and the idea that science could replace Christianity. Stevenson had portrayed this fear in his writing when Jekyll had used science to create a Hyde and as a result Dr Lanyon stops seeing Dr Jekyll as he becomes “too experimental”, this portrays science in a bad light and ultimately the ending of the story is the “scientific backlash” that Dr Lanyon had mentioned with the death of Jekyll and Hyde. Also, Stevenson’s descriptions of Hyde as “ape-like” builds an animalistic imagery reinforcing Darwin’s theory that men had derived from ape 16, this also highlights Charles Darwin theory that the evolution of mankind had begun to undermine society’s faith in religion. In Darwin’s theory on “Origin of species (1859)” he showed how the decent man contradicted the belief that God created man. His research shows that man evolved from a lower species.
He states in the “decent of man” that one can no longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation Darwin also notes that even though man has evolved from lowly beginnings it is possible that man is capable of devaluing because man still bears in his bodily frames inedible stamp of his lovely origin. To Victorian readers this would have been a fear, that a scientist had suddenly diminished the existence of God, and brought in a new concept based on science. During the time the novella was written, Britain had been protestant Christian society and society’s principles would have revolved on Christian moralities, therefore Stevenson illustrates how frightful the concept of science must have been to the Victorian populace. However, it could be argued that Stevenson is in fact bringing the Darwin’s concept into light as there had been speculations that human kind had derived from lower species before Darwin, including Darwin’s father, and it was often ignored or belittled. It could be said that Stevenson was a firm believer in the concept of the evolution of mankind, as there were speculations that he was an Atheist, he is trying to portray this in his writings.
Also, Stevenson’s novella is gothic literature therefore he is trying to purposely bring fear to his readers with concepts they do not understand. There was an innate fear of reverting back to the ‘original man’ that Darwin describes, where there is a fear of the degeneration of human kind and the reversion back into animals. Stevenson shows this perspective through the transformation of Jekyll to Hyde (QUOTE OF TRANSFORMATION) According to Dryden 2003, during the late nineteenth century there was an emerging crisis that “the fear of the beast within the fear of itself”, and that “degeneracy could lead to atavism, which must be purged in order that race evolves beyond its animal instincts”. This idea of atavism derives from Cesare Lombroso’s theory ‘Criminal man’ where the “disturbing” appearance of Mr Hyde and the violent behaviour he portrays are atavistic traits. Through this Stevenson manipulates gothic tropes to build fear into the audience that the revive back into animals can happen to them.
This idea is reinforced in Stevenson’s short story ‘Olalla’ where he also uses the same elements of atavism, where heredity curses are woven into the story to create terror; the central protagonist becomes the victim of the bestial attack committed by the atavistic mother of the family with whom he is lodging. Through this technique, Stevenson can install fear into the readers. However, some took pleasure out of it, – enjoyed learning about these things(quote that Stevenson was atheist) Although there were speculations that Stevenson was an Atheist, he illustrated Calvinist principles in his writings, this point is reinforced by idea that “good no longer exists and that good in accordance with the doctrine of original sin, no longer subsists within the heart of human kind because humans are fallen creatures” (Wendel 185). Stevenson illustrates how Jekyll and Hyde are not mean to be good vs evil, but rather men with complicated mixed impulses, especially Jekyll, where he uses Hyde as an excuse to commit crimes without taking the blame, Jenkyns agrees with this statement and highlights that Jekyll is a man “who had a hidden life before he had even begun his chemical experiments” (Jenkyns 37) QUOTE, Stevenson demonstrates this, before Jekyll had taken the potion and before he created and transformed into Mr Hyde, Jekyll had naively believed that there are beings(one purely evil and the other purely good) struggling for supremacy within himself.
Jekyll wanted to be separated from his evil self with his creation of Mr Hyde. In contrast, it could be interpreted that the creation of Mr Hyde was a way that Jekyll could express his murderous desires that he could not commit as Dr Jekyll. Consequently, this reinforces the idea that evil may lay dormant in every human being, Jekyll had wanted to be evil, but did not want to risk his reputation therefore the creation of Hyde had given Jekyll the freedom for his evil desires.
In chapter 2, Mr Utterson mentions how Dr Jekyll must have committed a sin and his punishment is Mr Hyde, he mentions the phrase “pede claudo” 13 which is a Latin phrase translating into “punishment comes limping”, this phrase can be attributed by the Latin satirist and poet, Horace (Horace Odes 2.2.32). Mr Utterson comments that in the “law of God there is no statute of limitations” 13 QUOTE therefore he could be hinting that Dr Jekyll has committed sin in the past which has resulted in his punishment, which are coming back to haunt him in the form of Hyde. There was a fear of sinning, this could be brought back to Christian principles, during the Victorian period, The Church of England had followed non-Anglican protestant denominations. According to protestant Christian principles, to commit sins in life will result in the punishment of your afterlife.
Through this Stevenson signifies how Christianity had an influence to invoke fear into the readers and implement how both Jekyll and Hyde’s actions are wrong and that their actions are punishable. This was a Gothic trope used in many Gothic literatures in the nineteenth centuries, where they used religion, particularly Christianity to implement the fear of God, and provoke their audiences’ understanding of sin and punishment. Also, to use their writings to portray what they believe what was right and wrong in their society.The strange events of Jekyll and Hyde was written in 1886 and as testament to the novella’s popularity, there appeared in 1887 a stage version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, adapted by T.R Sullivan and Richard Mansfield.
Where, Mansfield was cast as the double-lead role playing both Jekyll and Hyde. The adaptation was staged in London during the spate of unsolved murders committed by the infamous Jack the Riper in the Whitechapel district. There were multiple theories circulating as to the identity of the murderer, with many suggesting that it was someone from a wealthy and highly educated background, this idea might have come from Stevenson’s novella. This fear parallels the shattered social issues Stevenson represents with his writing, through his use of the novella to illustrate the revelation that the respectable Dr Jekyll is also the immoral murderer Mr Hyde.In Freud’s study “Uncanny” he argued that Gothic novels are full of uncanny effects, that something should be frightening and familiar, for example a past that should be finished should suddenly erupts within the present and deranges it. In “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” Stevenson illustrates how science at the time was developing with their being new theories, for examples Charles Darwin’s theory on mankind, with this Stevenson is bringing a gothic trope that Freud states that it “disrupts our sense of what is present and what is ancient and what is modern” other gothic literatures at the time illustrated the same idea of bringing modern troubles into their texts to disrupt their audiences understanding of what is reality and what isn’t.Stevenson could be trying to implement fear into Victorian female readers and he has cleverly woven his message into his writings, when in the beginning of the novella, Mr Enfield is telling Mr Utterson his story of Hyde, he describes Hyde as in “trampling” over the young girl, however this could have another connotation where the act of ‘trampling’ could be the rape or sexual assault of the young girl.
Stevenson is not too explicit as other Gothic literature writers like Matthew Lewis, where he vividly describes the sexual assault of a women. Despite this, Stevenson could be trying to advocate how it is dangerous for a woman to be alone at night and that this should be taken as warning. However, it could be argued that this fear of being in danger at night as a woman To conclude, Stevenson had implemented fear into his novella by using real-life troubles during the Victorian era and used them in the story, to shed light on his own hidden fears and desires.
He brought to light the troubles of crime in society and how it is not always the working class that only commit crimes. He included Calvinist principles where there is a duality of mankind and bad and good in everyone, and how it is only the man that can repress this feeling or choose to act upon it. He portrayed Dr Jekyll, a highly intelligent eligible man with class-conditionate class, had chosen to act upon his bad thoughts and that is what made him a bad character. He had implanted theories into his novella, with Charles Darwin and Freud scientific theories, he also brought to attention the fears and shock that the Victorian audience would have responded when hearing that it was science that created Hyde.