Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde consists of reputation, good vs. evil and damage control. In other words, Utterson tirelessly works to prevent his good friend Dr. Jekyll from being dragged into the horrid affairs of Mr. Hyde, and Dr. Jekyll goes to the greatest of lengths to prevent his Hyde identity from being discovered, in order to avoid anyone knowing of his somewhat questionable scientific work and morally despicable behavior. Much of the novel is based on the characters reputations and how they have to maintain a good public image, as they are upper class people.
The novel takes place in Victorian England and the main characters are all male members of upper class London. Enfield, Utterson, Lanyon and Jekyll are all aware of social expectations and the importance of appearance, Jekyll and Hyde shows a contrast of public vs private. Even in the first chapter, Enfield is wary of sharing his story of the mysterious door because he loves gossip, as it destroys reputations. In kind, Utterson refrains from informing the police that Jekyll is a close friend of Hyde's following the murder of Sir Danvers Carew.
Rather, to maintain his friend's reputation and protect his public image, Utterson goes to Jekyll directly to discuss the matter. This issue also arises in the matter of physical appearances, particularly architecture. In the first chapter, we learn that Hyde's mysterious dwelling is run down, neglected, and shabby. In contrast, Jekyll's home is extremely well kept, majestic, rich, and beautiful. Ironically, we eventually learn that the mysterious door is in fact connected to Jekyll's home, it is a back entrance rarely used. Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
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Hyde is an examination of the duality of human nature, this is shown through the fact that Mr. Hyde is in fact Dr. Jekyll; the difference is that Hyde is formed through all the evil characteristics of Jekyll. Utterson's discovery of Jekyll's astounding work occurs in the final chapter of the novel. We have already witnessed Hyde's powerfully vicious violence and have seen the contrasting kind, gentle, and honorable Dr. Jekyll. In approaching the novel's mystery, Utterson never imagines that Hyde and Jekyll are the same man, as he finds it impossible to believe their extremely different behavior.
In pursuing his scientific experiments and validating his work, Jekyll claims, "man is not truly one, but truly two. " So, in Jekyll's view, every soul contains elements of both good and evil, but one is always dominant. In Jekyll's case, his good side is dominant, but he knows there is evil inside of him, but at the end of the book his evil side becomes stronger and unstoppable. However, as a respectable member of society and an honorable Victorian gentleman, Jekyll cannot fulfill his evil desires. Thus, he works to develop a way to separate the two parts of his soul and free his evil characteristics.
Unfortunately, rather than separating these forces of good and evil, Jekyll's potion only allows his purely evil side to gain strength. Jekyll is in fact a combination of good and evil, but Hyde is only pure evil, so there is never a way to strengthen or separate Jekyll's pure goodness. Without counterbalancing his evil identity, Jekyll allows Hyde to grow increasingly strong, and eventually take over entirely, perhaps entirely destroying all the pure goodness Jekyll ever had. The book portrays Hyde in like an animal; short, hairy, and like a troll with gnarled hands and a horrific face.
In contrast, Jekyll is described in the most gentlemanly terms; tall, refined, polite and honorable, with long elegant fingers and a handsome appearance. So, perhaps Jekyll's experiment reduces his being to its most basic form, in which evil runs freely without his reputation as Jekyll being at risk. Jekyll and Hyde are not the only examples of duality in the novel. The city of London is also portrayed in contrasting terms, as both a foggy, dreary, nightmarish place, and a well kept, bustling center of commerce.
Indeed, just as men have both positive and negative qualities, so does society. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde contains extremely violent scenes. In each instance, the culprit is Mr. Hyde, and the victim is an innocent. For example, in the first chapter we learn how Mr. Hyde literally trampled a young girl in the street and later on we learn that Hyde, unprovoked, mercilessly beat Sir Danvers Carew to death. Even worse, we find at the conclusion of the novel that Hyde thoroughly enjoyed committing this violence, and afterwards felt a rush of excitement and satisfaction.
This shows the pure evil Hyde has that was mentioned before. Interestingly, Hyde's final victims, when he commits suicide just before Utterson and Poole break into his cabinet, are both himself and Jekyll. In this final act, neither victim is innocent. Clearly, Hyde is guilty of a great many crimes, and Jekyll is guilty as he created Hyde, let him run free, and inhabits the same body as the man. Perhaps in this conclusion, Stevenson is suggesting that to those who promote and commit senseless violence, punishment will come.
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