Stevenson’s strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde an immensely popular book for it’s time. Stevenson explores good and evil in the way that man has a conscience of both good and evil. I think he is trying to say that man’s conscience is his most important part of man; this is because it tells us what is right and wrong. It separates us from animals so in this essay I will be trying to explore how Stevenson explores good and evil in the novella.
Stevenson has two main characters in this book: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde who one could argue is the evil mirror of the other. Hyde is the evil character in Stevenson’s book; he represents the dark desires of Jekyll full evil side. Hyde at the start of the novella first shows evil side when he tramples over a young girl, “for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground.” This shows that Hyde is totally evil and has no guilt or regret for what he had done.
Stevenson shows us this, to show the dark side of humanity and how dangerous we can be. Stevenson also adds a crucial bit to suggest evil is within everyone showing Hyde’s terror and the evil he gives off while around other people. “I saw that sawbones turned sick and white with the desire to kill him.” This shows us that Hyde is giving off an evil feeling to everyone around him firstly suggesting that capability for evil actions is within us all, but also showing that Stevenson explores evil a lot through Hyde.
Having no conscience to lead Hyde in the write direction causes him to do the wrong thing, never knowing what is right. It shows that he has no conscience and that he is lower down the evolutionary chain (an animal) when Stevenson describes him as a “beast.” This shows us that Hyde doesn’t know what he is doing and that he can’t help himself from being an animal. Also the word “deformity” shows that Hyde is not human. In the whole novella Mr. Utterson is probably the only character we can say is good in the novella.
Hyde first appearance and description also shows that he is evil, by saying “he was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running.” This symbolizes the evil within him.
Stevenson chooses to show the extent of evil when he is making the reader think about how Hyde is getting more and more powerful. Hyde kills an MP Sir Danvers Carew to show that the result of Jekyll using Hyde more often results in an increase of evil in his soul suggesting that once we give in to evil temptation it could take over you.
This case also helped to discover more about what was happening, because of Hyde attacked him just for the fun of it, with a walking stick that Mr. Utterson happened to give Dr. Jekyll. This structure reveals how Jekyll is getting consumed and Hyde is getting more powerful. This event is crucial to what the story is plotting up to. This is because it is the first time Mr. Utterson first suspects that Jekyll has something to do with Hyde and the things that he has done like the murder of Sir Danvers Carew.
Hyde symbolizes dark side of human nature. He exposes the fact that all of the narrators are to some extent “hiding” behind their reputations. This is no different to Jekyll. This shows us, that people that are well respected have something to hide like Dr. Jekyll. In many ways Jekyll is worse then Hyde. There are many reasons to suspect this, here are some of them:
He created Hyde for his own selfish purposes.
It is Hyde’s nature to be evil he can’t help himself.
Jekyll kept on taking the drug and turning in to Hyde.
Stevenson shows how evil is more powerful then good. Hyde is a typical example. Jekyll in the process of turning in to Hyde, Jekyll the creator is loosing the battle to stay in control, the contrast of good and evil is expressed more when showing us that evil is powerful and is taking over good, Hyde’s power combined with Jekyll’s “lust for evil” is tipping the balance in Jekyll conscience revealing evil to be more powerful should you give yourself to it. The consequence of Jekyll ignoring his words is shown when Jekyll is turning in to Hyde with out the poison and Jekyll is using more doses to turn him back so this suggests that Jekyll is getting consumed by evil.
By exploring good evil Stevenson uses temptation to make the reader realize what he is doing and what we are doing by giving into temptation. Jekyll is warning people about what happens when you are evil and you give in to temptation, the consequences that you will have to face by doing this like death. He is also warning us that people are not always what they live up to be for example Jekyll.
Stevenson also reveals his view to the reader by pathetic fallacy of the clouds covering everyone. This means that everyone is blocked off from heaven if they don’t behave so Stevenson encourages the reader to reject evil. Evil temptations will always come across in life trying to trip you up. The clouds covering the city are to do with the society Hyde is bringing out the evil in everyone so that is the pathetic fallacy the mood matching the society.
Jekyll science is very crucial to the development of this novella because with out science at this time non-of this would have been imagined. At his young age, he discovers that all man have two sides to there conscience, good and evil. He wonders if he could separate the two, so one cold be pure evil and one could be normal with a good reputation.
The science at Victorian time had just been discovered and the thought of it made people leave there religion and turn to science. By having science this novella was influenced a lot by the thought that anything is possible and without it we would not have a Jekyll. At this time Jack the Ripper and Darwin’s theory of evolution had a big impact on this novella. Jack the Ripper is about killings, a Victorian serial killer and Darwin’s was about beast evolving like apes in to human beings. Hyde in the novella is described as a “beast.” Exploring this at this time adds a good effect for two reasons:
1) It shows that people at this time had something to hide if they were rich. This is shown through Dr. Jekyll when in the novella it says “hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures.”
2) Also at this time science was seen to be better then God and science had all the answers to life.
Jekyll has two main friends from childhood, Utterson and Lanyon. Utterson in this book is the main narrator. He investigates the whole way until, Hyde as we see dies by taking a drug overdose (Jekyll had also died we find this out by going on to the next chapter Dr. Lanyon’s narrative.) Lanyon has his own narrative and while reading it, it shows when Hyde turns into Jekyll in front of Lanyon’s eyes giving him an immense shock. Lanyon also had a letter that Dr. Jekyll his colleague and friend sent him saying do not open unless I am dead or have disappeared. Lanyon opened it showing his temptation and curiosity to know what was going on. Utterson got the same letter yes he was curios, but had the strength not to give in to temptation.
When Jekyll was getting consumed by evil he was trying to win a battle between good and evil, trying to go back to normal and trying to forget about Hyde completely. He first finds this out by realizes Hyde has ‘grown in stature’ and his own nature might be ‘permanently overthrown’. When Utterson see’s Hyde dead on the floor not realizing it is infect Jekyll, he see’s that Hyde had taken a drug overdose. This shows us that evil is not giving up, but looses in the end. Therefore, by getting rid of evil you will have to give a big sacrifice maybe your life.
A point about Stevenson setting here in Cavendish square and Soho are a symbol symbolizing good and evil like Jekyll’s house that Cavendish square/Soho it’s in between good and evil. Cavendish square is where all the respected people like doctors and high respected people live. Well Soho is a different story it is a place that is totally opposite to Cavendish square. Soho has prostitutes, fights, deaths and is the most un-respected place in London at that time.
In my opinion the conclusion of this novella is that R. L. Stevenson’s theme for this novella is about the human conscience. The conscience helps us to make the right decision in the hardest of situations like when in modern day times a group of friends are pushing you to do bad things, but your conscience helps you not to. Because Hyde has no conscience he can’t help himself in doing things that he was created to do by Dr. Jekyll like murder, but Jekyll’s ignorance of his conscience leads him to eventually death. This is because by ignoring his conscience he made all the wrong decisions and in the end the consequence was death.
Therefore, this book encourages the reader to think about doing the right thing even if you are pushed in the other direction and to not give in to temptation or another form of it curiosity.