In popular language, the terms Jekyll and Hyde represent goodness and wickedness. After reading the novel, how accurate is this perception? Discuss:
Is Hyde completely evil?
To what degree is Jekyll considered a good man?
Showcasing the duality of Jekyll and Hyde, the novel reflects the late Victorian society.
Part One – Is Mr. Hyde Completely Evil?
Within the novel, Hyde’s relentless and nefarious acts confirm his inherently wicked and malevolent character, leaving no room for doubt. The portrayal of Hyde in the story highlights a complete absence of moral values, as he fearlessly perpetrates vicious crimes, disregarding any sense of ethics. Even the individual who brought him into existence asserts, “Edward Hyde, alone, among all humans, embodied pure evil.”
The first indication of Hyde’s wickedness is demonstrated when he tramples a young girl, as narrated by Mr. Enfield, cousin of Mr. Utterson, the lawyer and narrator in the story. Hyde runs into the girl at a street corner and instead of stepping aside and apologizing, he coldly steps on her body, deriving pleasure from the act like a “Juggernaut.” Despite the group of angry onlookers threatening him, Hyde remains unfazed, exhibiting a “kind of black sneering coolness.”
Hyde commits another heinous act by brutally murdering a respected police officer, Sir Danvers Carew. After being confined within Jekyll’s body for so long, Hyde emerges with extreme malice. Jekyll describes it as if his inner devil, which was trapped for a long time, was unleashed and roaring. Using a sturdy cane, Hyde beats Sir Carew mercilessly and violently, reducing him to nothing on the ground. With a furious frenzy resembling that of an ape, Hyde delivers a relentless barrage of strikes, causing the audible shattering of bones. This brutal killing reveals Hyde’s true character – utterly wicked and completely lacking in remorse or empathy for others. His sole objective is to satiate his own thirst for blood.
The third evil of Hyde assumes the role of temptation. Hyde, aware that Lanyon is a scientifically inclined individual with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, entices him with unprecedented knowledge, claiming that it would provide him with fame and power. Hyde questions whether Lanyon should simply reject the offer, resulting in no gain in wealth or wisdom, or if his insatiable curiosity has too strong a hold on him. As a man of science, Lanyon inevitably succumbs to the temptation. The shocking revelation from Hyde ultimately leads to Lanyon’s demise and adds another murder to Hyde’s infamous record. Temptation is a tool commonly used by Satan, who employed it on both Eve and even Christ Himself. Hence, this is yet another instance where comparisons are drawn between Hyde and Satan.
Throughout the course of the book, various characters provide descriptions of Hyde that contribute to his portrayal as an embodiment of evil. Merely seeing Hyde without any interaction is enough to evoke a strong sense of dislike in people. Despite his lack of physical deformities, he is often described as giving off this impression. When Enfield apprehended Hyde for trampling a girl on the street corner, he was surrounded by a crowd with a deep desire to harm him. However, Hyde remained calm and resisted arrest without any struggle, his cold and unpleasant demeanor causing Enfield to break into a sweat. Enfield believes there is something wrong and detestable about Hyde’s appearance, even though he cannot pinpoint the exact reason for his intense aversion towards him. Enfield goes as far as calling Hyde Satan due to the ruthless act of trampling the girl, reminiscent of the devil himself.
After conversing with Hyde, Utterson draws his own conclusions about him. Utterson observes that Hyde appears to be pale and short in stature, with an indescribable deformity that emanates from him. Several comparisons are made between Hyde and disreputable creatures, such as referring to him as a “troglodyte” and mentioning his tendency to emit hissing and snarling sounds. Furthermore, Utterson finds similarities between Hyde and Satan, specifically in terms of physical appearance. He states that if he were to ever encounter Satan’s signature on someone’s face, it would be on Hyde’s.
According to a maid who witnessed Sir Danvers Carew’s opprobrious murder, she described Hyde as being “particularly small and particularly wicked-looking.” Additionally, she noted that he acted like a “madman” during the murder.
In his confession, Jekyll, the creator of Hyde, voices objections to Hyde’s immoral actions, stating that Hyde lacked any human qualities and was filled with fear and hatred. Jekyll acknowledges Hyde’s extreme wickedness and refers to his crimes as monstrous. Despite Jekyll’s enjoyment of the pleasures that Hyde brought, Hyde felt no attachment towards his creator and only used him as an escape after committing crimes, treating him as a hiding place. In essence, Hyde showed complete indifference towards others and had no moral constraints when carrying out his relentless crimes.
The text illustrates Hyde’s character by showcasing his estate. The neighborhood where he resides is depicted as dirty and desecrated, with muddied paths and disorderly passages. It bears a resemblance to a deprived area, akin to a “nightmarish city.” Hyde’s residence lacks both a doorbell and knocker, displaying signs of neglect for an extended period of time. The surroundings are described as unpleasant, giving the impression that the house is neglected and merely serves as a temporary shelter during outings.
Part Two – How much of a good man is Jekyll?
Jekyll is a multifaceted character who represents two different identities. One side portrays him as successful and friendly, with a prominent social status. However, there is an underlying aspect of his personality that yearns to break free from society’s restrictions and indulge in his innermost passions.
Although Jekyll presents himself as a decent individual, leading a wholesome existence filled with friendship, religion, and profession, he conceals a hidden desire to embrace his lascivious side and indulge in secret pleasures. Despite Jekyll’s outward appearance of near perfection, his closest friends are aware of the different facets of his personality. Utterson remarks that in his youth, Jekyll exhibited a wild nature, contradicting the belief that he is purely good. Initially, Utterson even suspects that Hyde’s emergence in Jekyll’s life is a manifestation of some past wrongdoing. Similarly, Dr. Lanyon grows disenchanted with Jekyll and claims that he has strayed mentally.
Jekyll’s desire for unrestricted freedom resulted in the creation of Hyde, who offered an outlet for him to engage in forbidden pleasures that were considered inappropriate for someone of his social standing. This longing unveiled Jekyll’s true nature, which is not solely benevolent.
Jekyll holds a controversial belief that there are two sides to a person. According to him, a man is not truly single, but two separate entities – one representing evil and the other representing good. Jekyll justifies the cruel actions committed by Hyde by attributing them to the purely evil nature of Hyde, claiming that it was not him, but Hyde who performed those terrible acts. It must be acknowledged that Jekyll himself was sometimes appalled by what Hyde did and attempted to rectify the wrongs caused by him. He made a firm resolution to stop transforming into Hyde but could only resist for a period of two months.
Although Jekyll knew that the temptation to transform into Hyde would be overpowering, he did not dispose of Hyde’s clothes or get rid of his house in Soho. Jekyll, who had a less than pure past, repeatedly chose to become Hyde and took pleasure in his evil actions, making himself equally accountable for the crimes. If Jekyll had decided against becoming Hyde or never created him at all, none of the crimes would have occurred. Therefore, Jekyll is responsible for all the evil committed in Hyde’s name.
Dr. Jekyll lives in an opulent house that exudes an atmosphere of wealth and comfort, boasting what Utterson believes to be the most pleasant room in all of London. While the neighborhood has seen better days and is now declining in status, with houses being rented to shady lawyers and individuals associated with dubious enterprises, Jekyll’s house is still attempting to maintain its former upper-class status. This serves as a fitting representation of Jekyll’s character, as he too is descending into the disreputable world of sin.
Part Three – Explore the representation of a late Victorian society in the duality of Jekyll and Hyde.
London during the era of Jekyll and Hyde presented an amalgamation of contradictions. Serving as the core of the mighty British Empire, it exuded an air of respectability and paternalistic governance. However, beneath its seemingly genteel facade lay a hidden underbelly steeped in vice and criminal activities. Even the most upstanding and affluent gentlemen clandestinely indulged in their own personal vices.
Stevenson’s novel is set in a contradictory society, with women highly revered and marriage emphasized, yet also plagued by brothels and pornography. This duality is reflected in the characters of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll represents the respectable facade of London while Hyde embodies its hidden underworld of vice.
Hyde represents the epitome of the activities in the underworld, with Stevenson carefully avoiding explicit mention of the specific crimes committed by Hyde, due to censorship concerns. As a embodiment of pure malevolence and wickedness, one can only speculate on the brutal actions Hyde engaged in. Additionally, Hyde’s residence in a “gloomy area of Soho” further mirrors his identity.
Jekyll appears as an esteemed doctor and devout religious man with a wide social circle, earning him respect and admiration. Nevertheless, deep down, he harbors an intense longing to engage in dark desires. Thus, he represents the supposed respectable and well-mannered upper class who secretly indulged in the hidden aspects of London. Even though Hyde is the one who physically carries out immoral actions, Jekyll takes pleasure in them and remains committed to his transformation.