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Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde: A View Into Societal Changes In The 19th Century

1453 words - 6 pages

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. Throughout his childhood he was told morbid tales from the Bible, as well as Victorian penny-serial novels that he would carry with him throughout his years and what would place the greatest impact on his writing.[1] In 1886, he published a novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, based on a man with pure intentions, who ends up turning himself into a viscous murderer. Dr. Henry Jekyll is a well-known doctor and respected man, known for doing numerous acts of kindness and work for charities. However, since he was a young boy, he secretly engaged in wrongful behavior, and from then on, was determined to experiment and find a way to separate his good side from his bad. What would then be known as, Mr. Hyde. Mr. Edward Hyde is described as a hideous, demeaning, almost creature-like being that is known for his murders in the town. Hyde is Jekyll’s dark side, and released into the world through his conscience and a potion that would soon turn Jekyll into Hyde for good.
The Victorian era was a time of unprecedented advancements in technology and an age in which European nations changed the world with their growing empires.[2] Through the use of these characters and newly founded theoretical ideas of this time; Stevenson reflects the modern “societal” challenges that were occurring in this century.
In Britain during the mid eighteen hundreds, the Conservative Party leader Benjamin Disreali, argued that that traditional aristocratic policy of the privileged caring for those below them, made the Conservatives the natural party of social reform.[3] And subsequently, the Europeans begin to take a more conservative approach to society. This characteristic is represented in that of Mr. Utterson, who is described in the novel as a lean, long, but somehow lovable man.[4]
Mr. Utterson is what would be considered as the perfect European gentleman. A prominent lawyer who was well respected in his community and is now trying to protect his long-term friend, Jekylls’ reputation from the mysterious Mr. Hyde. There are few instances in the novel when Mr. Utterson is taking walks with Mr. Enfield, but they do not gossip, or otherwise speak ill of those closest to either of them, especially Utterson, as if they were of blood relation.[5] Although he investigates what seems to be an unrealistic series of events, he chooses to not believe it and to continue looking for an explanation. And just as Utterson avoids the reality of what he may have discovered, as inconceivable as it may be, so too does European society prefer to deny the existence of an uncivilized acts of inhumanity, no matter how essential these acts may be.[6]
Conservatism is also evident through the behavior of Dr. Jekyll, who for the sake of his reputation keeps Mr. Hyde hidden in his laboratory. Upholding one’s reputation shows as a major theme throughout the novel, just as it plays a roll in...

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