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Repressed Personality And Sexual Subtleties In Robert Louis Stevenson Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

1450 words - 6 pages

Repressed Personality and Sexual Subtleties in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Tragedies of repression

In the reference book Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia Stevenson is noted for saying that "fiction should render the truths that make life significant" (760). We see this most closely in his Jekyll/Hyde experiment when Jekyll explains why he invented his infamous potion. Jekyll says: "I concealed my pleasures; and when I reached years of reflection...I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life" (Stevenson, 42). Because of this feeling of being one thing in the public's eye, well respected and controlled, and another on his own, Hyde invents an outlet. This outlet becomes, at least symbolically, a representation of male hysteria, a psychological disorder stereotypically associated with women. Jekyll says "my two natures had memory in common" (48). Thus, Hyde is free to express his base and immoral self without conscience while Jekyll is voyeuristically allowed to watch without regret since the actions are not his own, but a different entities altogether. Jekyll is described crying like a woman behind closed doors because Hyde has become the dominant personality (Showalter, 114).

Stevenson's narrative reflects some of the effects of socialization and their influence on the repression of certain forms of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, which we will explore a little later. Jekyll begins waking as Hyde, suggesting that when his social controls are weakest, Hyde is free to come out. The story dramatizes social norms, the search to deviate from them, and rid oneself of responsibility for one's actions that go against these norms. As Jekyll gets used to becoming Hyde, the socialized and repressed Jekyll becomes weak and sick while Hyde becomes stronger. Jekyll originally describes Hyde as small and dwarflike. If we stopped here we might think that Stevenson was making a comment about our baser selves being devolved. However, Jekyll goes on to explain that Jekyll himself must be constructed physically the way he is because most of his life had gone toward constructing a social facade, while Hyde was more childlike and thus smaller in stature--freer.

The Sexual Subtleties

Not one female character has a name within Stevenson's story. Because of this we are able to see Jekyll's lack of relationship with women, but also his abounding friendships with men. Through 20th Century eyes, which have seen the introduction of sexuality more clearly expressed as an identity thanks to Freud, one can begin to glimpse the homosexual undertones throughout the story. These undertones would not have been noticed right after its publication because homosexuality was not something openly discussed (though often blackmailed which I explore later).

Because of his repressive personality, which also has no sexual response to women. Dr. Jekyll creates a drug-induced other half. In effect, he separates mind from body. Hyde,...

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