In common parlance, Jekyll and Hyde mean good and evil. To what extent, having read the novel, is this true? Write about:
* Is Hyde pure evil?
* To what extent is Jekyll a good man?
* Show how a late Victorian society is reflected in Jekyll and Hyde’s duality.
Part One – Is Hyde Pure Evil?
Throughout the novel, a series of vicious crimes committed by Hyde point to his nature as a purely evil and malicious person, with no evidence to the contrary. The Hyde displayed in the book shows no signs of morality, carrying out malevolent crimes ruthlessly, completely unhindered by any form of ethics. Even his very creator claims that “Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”
The first incident which points to Hyde’s evil is his trampling of the little girl, as told by Mr. Enfield, the cousin of Mr. Utterson, lawyer and narrator in the novel. Hyde collides with a little girl at a corner of a street, and, instead of stepping aside and apologizing, he “trampled calmly over the child’s body,” enjoying it thoroughly, like a “Juggernaut.” Hyde was brought back by force and threatened by the witnesses of his ghastly deed, carrying a “kind of black sneering coolness,” in spite of the “circle of hateful faces” by which he was surrounded.
Hyde’s next crime is the monstrous murder of a high-ranking police officer, Sir Danvers Carew. After being restricted so long in the body of Jekyll, once Hyde did emerge, his deed was particularly vile, as Jekyll puts it, “my devil had been long caged, he came out roaring.” With a cane of hard wood, Hyde “clubbed [Sir Carew] to the earth,” and with “ape like fury… [Hyde] hailed down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered.” The nature of the murder testifies to Hyde’s character, truly nefarious and completely without remorse, truly indifferent to anyone or their suffering, seeking only to satisfy his own bloodthirst.
The third evil of Hyde takes the place of temptation. Hyde, knowing that Lanyon is a man of science with a thirst for knowledge and wouldn’t be able to say no, tempts him with knowledge beyond the imaginable, saying that ” a new province of knowledge and avenues to fame and power shall be laid open to [him].” Hyde asks Lanyon if he should simply walking away, leaving him “neither richer nor wiser,” or if the “greed of curiosity has too much command of [him].” Lanyon, being a man of science, obviously accepted. The shock he obtained from what Hyde revealed to him led to his death, and one more murder from the notorious Hyde. Temptation is a technique of Satan, who used it on Eve, and even Christ himself. This is one of many times that comparisons between Hyde and Satan are made.
The descriptions of Hyde offered by various characters along the course of the book also contribute to his image of evil. The very sight of Hyde, without any provocation from him at all was enough to make people feel a profound sense of dislike towards him. Hyde is many times described as giving a “strong feeling of deformity,” even though there was none. When Enfield caught hyde and brought him back after he trampled the girl on the street corner, even while surrounded by a “crowd of… hateful faces,” all with a deep “desire to kill him,” Hyde remained “perfectly cooled, and make no resistance,” a cold, ugly look from him being enough to “bring out the sweat on [Enfield] like running.” Enfield stated that there was “something wrong with Hyde’s appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable,” but no actual reason is given for this strong feeling of bï¿½te noir towards Hyde which is seen throughout the novel. Enfield claims that “[he] never saw a man [he] so disliked, and yet [he] scarcely knows why.” Enfield is the first character in the novel to refer to Hyde as Satan, in saying that Hyde’s unscrupulous trampling of the girl was “really like Satan.”
Utterson himself has some conclusions to draw about Hyde after speaking with him. Utterson noticed that Hyde was “pale and dwarfish,” and also felt the impression of deformity “without any namable malformation,” that Hyde radiated. Many analogies are made between Hyde and other inglorious animals, for example, Hyde is said to resemble a “troglodyte,” and is claimed to emit “hissing” and “snarling” noises. Utterson also makes the connection of Hyde resembling Satan, this time speaking about his physical appearance, saying that if “[he] ever read Satan’s signature upon a face, it is that of… [Hyde].”
After Hyde’s opprobrious murder of Sir Danvers Carew, a maid who witnessed the ordeal was interviewed. She described him as “particularly small and particularly wicked-looking.” He is also said to have acted like a “madman” in the process of the murder.
Even Jekyll, Hyde’s creator, has objections to the deeply immoral acts of Hyde, claiming that “that child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred.” Jekyll provides comments on Hyde’s “vicarious depravity” in his confession, saying that Hyde’s crimes were “monstrous”, and that Hyde himself was “tenfold more wicked [than]… [his] original evil.” Although Jekyll was addicted to the pleasures that Hyde brought him, Hyde “had more than a son’s indifference” towards his creator, and used him only as a way to escape after having committed a crime, remembering him only “as the bandit remembers the cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit.” Hyde as, in other terms, completely indifferent to anyone else than him, and was completely unobstructed by morality when carrying out his relentless crimes.
Hyde’s estate also betrays a lot about him as a person. His area was a dingy and defiled neighborhood, with “muddy ways and slatternly passages,” and gave an overall feeling of a deprived district, a “city in a nightmare.” Hyde’s house had “no doorbell or knocker,” and bore the marks of “prolonged negligance.” The surroundings were “blackguardly,” and gave the general impression of a house uncared for, used only as a place of refuge and temporary stay between various outings.
Part Two – To What Extent is Jekyll a Good Man?
Jekyll is an ambiguous character with two sharply contrasting sides – the wealthy, friendly and highly thought of man that he shows off to the world, and the secret part which he keeps to himself, the part that wants to break free of the limitations set upon him by the demands of society and fulfill his innermost pleasures.
Whilst Jekyll certainly seems like a decent person living an innocent life of friendship, religion and profession, in truth, he has a lascivious side aching to emerge so that he can “spring headlong into the sea of liberty” and fulfill his secret pleasures. In spite of Jekyll’s near flawless outside appearance, his closest friends who know him the best know different sides to him. Utterson says that “he was wild when he was younger,” and far from pure good, as Utterson at first believed that the appearance of Hyde in his friend’s life was the “ghost of some old sin.” Dr. Lanyon as well has developed a dislike for Jekyll, and claims that “he began to go wrong, wrong in mind.”
Jekyll’s desire for being able to “throw [himself] headlong into the sea of liberty,” and do whatever he wanted to is what led to the invention of Hyde. He was Jekyll’s way of escaping from his life of restrictions; it was unacceptable that a man of Jekyll’s status should delve into the underworld of sinful pleasures, and allowed him to experience the underworld of iniquitous pleasures. Through this craving can it be assured that Jekyll is not pure good.
Jekyll has a dubious belief in the “duality” of man; that a man is “not truly one, but truly two,” one side being evil, and the other being good. Jekyll justifies the ruthless deeds committed by Hyde by this, claiming that it was not the doctor, but the purely evil Hyde who did the terrible deeds. It is true that Jekyll at times “stood aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde,” and did try to “undo the evil done by [him].” He resolved to not transform anymore, but only managed to resist for two months.
However, he did not even destroy Hyde’s clothes or rid himself of Hyde’s house in Soho, since he knew that eventually, the temptation to transform would be too overwhelming. Jekyll, whose past was “far from pure,” repeatedly makes the decision to transform into Hyde, finding pleasures in his malicious deeds, which makes him just as much responsible for the crimes as Hyde himself. If Jekyll had elected not to become Hyde, or indeed create Hyde in the first place, none of the crimes would ever have occurred. In such way, Jekyll is guilty of all evil committed in the name of Hyde.
Dr. Jekyll resides in a glorious and exceedingly luxurious house radiating an aura of “wealth and comfort,” which contained what Utterson claimed to be the “pleasantest room in London.” The area used to be a fine one, but is now dropping in class, the houses being “rented in flats…to “shady lawyers, and the agents of obscure enterprises,” Jekyll’s house along with it, but still trying to resist and cling on to its former high class. This is indeed a good reflection of Jekyll’s personality, as he himself is falling into the disreputable underworld of sin.
Part Three – Show how a late Victorian society is reflected in Jekyll and Hyde’s duality.
London at the time of Jekyll and Hyde was a place of contradictions. The heart of the greatest Empire and biggest power on the globe, it was a place of respectability and paternalism, yet there was an underworld of vice and crime concealed just under the well-mannered surface. Even the most respectable, wealthy men had secret, private indulgences.
The times in which Stevenson writes his novel is one where the woman was sacred and the “sanctity of marriage proclaimed from every pulpit,” as John Fowles puts it, yet also a place where “one in sixty houses was a brothel,” and where the output of pornography had never been exceeded. This deeply hypocritical society is reflected in the characters of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll, a middle-aged wealthy doctor, is the symbol for the respectable part of London, the part which it shows off and wants to be perceived as the real London, whereas Hyde symbolizes the concealed side of London: the underworld of hidden vice and pleasures.
Hyde is the very epitome of the occurrences in the underground world, although Stevenson is careful not to mention exactly what crimes Hyde is involved in, for fear of censorship. Being a man of pure malice and evil, one can only imagine the barbaric deeds of Hyde. Hyde’s estate in a “dismal part of Soho” also reflects him as a person.
Jekyll on the surface is a highly regarded doctor, a devout believer and religious man with an intricate social network, overall, a decent man deserving respect. In reality, however, he has a burning desire to . In such was, he is the symbol for what was supposed to be the respectable and proper upper class, who in reality were frequenters of the hidden sides of London, and although it is Hyde who physically commits the deeds, Jekyll still enjoys it and continues to transform.