Show how Stevenson, through the themes, language and setting, has created a world of double standards and hypocrisy in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
In this essay I will show how Stevenson, through the themes, language and setting has created a world of double standards and hypocrisy in The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I will discuss the parable the struggle between good and evil, the divided nature of man and appearance in relation to reality.
At the beginning of the book, Utterson and Enfield take one of their frequent rambles through a charming yet quiet street in a busy quarter of London. “The street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in a forest; and with its freshly painted shutters, well polished brasses, and gaiety of note, instantly caught and pleased the eye of the passengers.” However at the end of the street stands a “certain sinister” looking building. So begins the world of double standards that Stevenson has created in this book. At one end we have a respectable, clean and charming street, which even lives up to the standards of two very respected middle-class gentlemen, but at the other end there is a sinister building thrust forward its gable on the street.
This theme of outward appearances is continued in the book but is mostly apparent in the characters, for example, Utterson, a respected Lawyer, trusted by many and popular among friends is also described as a man of “rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile.” He drinks gin when he is alone to mortify the taste of vintages, and although he is fond of the theatre, has not crossed the doors of one for twenty years. This does not sound like the character of someone who has nothing to fear or hide. This theory of another side to Utterson is also backed up in Chapter three, where he reveals that he has dark secrets.
In chapter four “The Carew Murder case” Sir Danvers Carew is brutally murdered by what appears to be one Mr. Edward Hyde. Carew is a respected gentleman and his death is treated with a great deal of investigation by the police and other parties such as Mr Utterson. This is another example of double standards, when Mr Enfield told the story of Hyde knocking over the small girl that is of poor background he told Utterson that all Hyde had to do was to give the girls family a sum of one hundred pounds as a means of compensation and that was the matter dealt with, because the girl was from a working class family it didn’t get any attention from the police, which meant Hyde getting away with the crime, but because Sir Danvers was a middle-class gentleman his murder was treated properly and investigated by the police.
Utterson also shows another side, meaning he is what is described as two-faced. Utterson, while at the murder scene discovers the heavy end of a cane that was purchased by non other than him and given to Henry Jekyll as a gift. This cane is murder weapon but Utterson still hides from the police the knowledge of its owner. This loyalty to protect Dr. Jekyll however is not continued later in the story, when Enfield and Utterson witness Jekyll having a seizure through the window they retreat from the scene and vow never to speak of what they had seen again.
When Lanyon dies a letter falls into the possession of Utterson and it states that it should not be opened until the death or disappearance or Dr. Henry Jekyll, Utterson obediently does not open the letter, but this is not the actions of a concerned friend. Utterson has just learnt of the death of his supposedly very close friend Dr. Lanyon and is also supposedly worried about the seclusion and mysterious actions of another. Utterson does not open the letter, not out of respect of the writer’s wishes but out of fear of the content. He knows that what ever has troubled his close friend Jekyll and has caused his other great friend Lanyon to fall so ill that he has now passed away will be revealed to him in the letter and he is maybe afraid of the same fate of insanity and even death that his friends have both encountered or maybe he is afraid of what the point of association may have on his reputation.
Jekyll is the main character in this novel and is also the main person, which displays two different sides to his personality. Jekyll is obsessed with good and evil and his potion or drug that he has invented separates the two. Hyde has been described in this book as small and somewhat deformed. This description that Stevenson used to build the character of Hyde may have been because of the time in which Stevenson lived. The scientist Charles Darwin had a theory that there was a “certain look” to criminals and that you could determine criminality or the likeliness to commit a crime by the outward appearance of a person.
The appearance that Darwin associated with a criminal nature was that of many working class people therefore concluding that the working class were genetically pre-disposed to criminality. Therefore Stevenson when creating the appearance of Mr Hyde the small stature and deformity that so many other characters in the book have noticed and stated on several occasions may be down to the fact that working class people apart from being seen as the most likely criminals were proven to be several inches smaller than middle-class people and were also on the whole mal nourished and more likely to have deformities.
Although middle class people were seen to be respectable and law-abiding, many of them still ventured into the “old town” of London to sample the sins of the world, such as visiting brothels and such places like that. This point is apparent in the book as the dark side, the evil side of Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde is thought to have divulged in these, as they were known then, sinful leisure’s. This however was perfectly acceptable in these times, well known and respected gentlemen often betrayed their wives and ventured into brothels for sexual pleasures, Stevenson as a young man while studying engineering, then giving that up to study law where he qualified for the bar in 1875 often indulged in the sinful pleasures of the “old town” in Edinburgh the Scottish town where Stevenson grew up.
The idea of working class people being beast/criminal like is also emphasized where Utterson has ventured into the poor parts of London to find Hyde. He describes the surroundings as “the low growl of London,” which is a personification of animals, comparing the working class people of London to un-tamed animals. Hyde is like an animal in many ways, in the even where he murdered Sir Danvers Carew it was like Hyde was like a beast locked in a cage eager and thriving to get out and when he is finally freed he takes out his pent up anger out on whoever may cross his path. Hyde acted like this because Jekyll had managed to control himself and had not transformed into Hyde for a long period of time, therefore when he could not hold himself back any longer Hyde came out and took out all his time not being free on Sir Danvers.
Jekyll also turns into Hyde spontaneously once in the book while sitting on a park bench and thinking dark thoughts about Utterson and Lanyon. Jekyll is a maverick (new-school scientist) where as Lanyon very much believes in the old and traditional ways of science, therefore the two friends had many disagreements based on different scientific points of view, Jekyll resented Utterson and Lanyon, because although they hae an evil side as well they still scowl upon Jekyll because he is being honest.
Hypocrisy is also a big part of this story and is directly mentioned in chapter four, (page 32) when the elderly lady at the residence of Mr Hyde greets Mr Utterson. ” An ivory -faced and silvery-haired old woman open the door. She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy.”
The concluding part to this essay is that the only person who is truly loyal to Dr Jekyll is his working class butler Poole who remains loyal to jekyll throughout the story. So if working class people are supposed to be criminals and middle class people are to be respected then why when it comes down to it the middle class have a dark side yet the working class seem to shine above the rest?!