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An Exploration Of The Theme Of Duality Of Man In Stevenson's Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. Focusing On The Conflict Between Public And Private Appearances

1758 words - 7 pages

‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of Stevenson’s most disturbing and controversial works. Written in 1885 it is a novel ahead of its time, a tale of the division of man’s consciousness and how a respectful doctor can become a loathed murderer, regarded by many as barely human. Stevenson addresses directly the issue of man’s duality; the relationship between good and evil. Although primarily addressing this issue through the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde, Stevenson also pulls many other literary techniques into play; using obvious setting contrasts as well as more subtle symbolism throughout the novel. From the distinct contrast of Jekyll’s house and laboratory, to the breaking of a cane and the hiding of only one of the pieces, Stevenson emphasises the abomination of the relationship of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and thus the duality of man is revealed. This intensely dramatic and action-filled novel depicts very well the Late-Victorian fascination with the duality of man and it can be seen that Stevenson learnt, as Jekyll has, “to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man,” and introduces this contemporary, controversial idea to the reader; the idea that, at heart, man is truly evil.
Of course Stevenson’s initial introduction to the theme of duality is through the characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the relationship they share. Oddly, the author decides to present the reader with the “deformed,” character of Mr Hyde first, as a character in his own right, with no implications of any links to Dr Jekyll. This appears to be an unusual presentation, as the reader may expect to be introduced to Dr Jekyll; the true, human, honest character, before being presented with “the brute” that is Hyde. However, this creates an exceptionally dramatic introduction to what is a famously distinct, controversial and intense novel. Introducing both Jekyll and Hyde as characters in their own right presents a chance to perceive them individually and, when it is later revealed that they are in fact the same person, it is all the more exciting and disturbing. Stevenson initially conveys the contrasts of Jekyll and Hyde simply by their differing appearances, drawing a picture of Hyde as “some damned Juggernaut,” the type of man who would induce, “a loathing...at first sight.” Enfield goes so far even to use satanic imagery, referring to Hyde’s ability for a lack of compassion; “really like Satan.” Hyde is predestined to be a detested character from start to finish, however Jekyll is presented as a respectable, well-known doctor, however possibly a little paranoid, writing the statement that, “in the case of Dr Jekyll’s disappearance or unexplained absence for any period exceeding three calendar months,” Hyde would continue as if stepping directly into Jekyll’s shoes. Also Jekyll can be viewed as being fairly lonely as Lanyon comments; “you and I must be the two oldest friends that Henry Jekyll has?” This is a route by which Stevenson...

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