Duality of Good and Evil Essay
Robert Louis Stevenson, a famous Scottish writer, once said, “All human beings are commingled out of good and evil. ” Not one person is completely good or evil; everyone possesses both characteristics. In the literary pieces of John Gardner’s, “Grendel,” unknown author of, “Beowulf,” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the characters are portrayed as having both qualities of good and evil, proving there to be a duality of decency/immorality, righteousness/depravity, and virtue/evil.
The character, Grendel, in Gardner’s, “Grendel,” is a prime example of this inseparable bond between right and wrong. Grendel is originally wrongfully viewed as solely a complete and utter monster. He had spent twelve years killing many innocent men, but he was just incredibly misunderstood. Grendel explains in detail one of the many people that he killed, “Here I killed the old woman with the irongray hair. She tasted of urine and spleen, which made me spit” (Gardner). Grendel had such an extreme hatred for humans and would become excited when about to murder a man.
The narrator shows Grendel to be of monstrous quality, “So mankind’s enemy, continued his crimes, killing as often as he could, coming alone, bloodthirsty and horrible (Beowulf, line 79-81). Grendel has no mercy and kills any man that comes his way. He seems to have no virtue in him whatsoever. But as the character develops, the reader understands that this is not the only trait Grendel possesses. Although Grendel shows monstrosity through his vile actions, he also can show goodness through behavior rarely shown.
Because Grendel was much different than the Thanes, he was outcast as a monster. But the men were just as monstrous as him. Grendel watches as he sees the men fighting, “I remembered the ragged men fighting each other till the snow was red slush, whining in the winter, the shriek of people and animals burning, the whip slashed oxen in the mire, the scattered battle leavings wolf torn corpses, falcon fat with blood” (Gardner). Grendel seems to show some sympathy for the tortured animals, and he saw how the men were monsters just like him.
The narrator shows that being set apart could be very difficult, “The Almighty drove those demons out and their exile was bitter, shut away from all men” (Beowulf, line 23-24). Grendel was forced into his evil nature by being exiled and treated much differently. Although the men only saw Grendel as a deformity, he actually had some good in him as well. The bond between good and evil is a very prominent theme in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. ” The two characters are united into one human being, but contrast each other enormously. Although Dr.
Jekyll represents the good, and Mr. Hyde represents the evil, both characters prove to have the other characteristics as well. Dr. Jekyll wants more than anything to separate the bond between good and evil, and performs experiments to obtain this goal. This results in the character Mr. Hyde who is filled with evil intentions. The narrator shows the evil of Dr. Hyde, “All human beings, as we meet them, commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil” (Stevenson, pg. 77). But this is a false statement; it actually proves Dr.
Jekyll to be the evil one. Because it was through his experiment that Mr. Hyde and the evil in him came forward in Dr. Jekyll. Dr. Jekyll could have controlled Mr. Hyde’s actions and turned them into good, but he was too consumed with the scientific experiment. The narrator now shows that Mr. Hyde is not the only one to blame, “It was Hyde after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde” (Stevenson, pg. 80). Jekyll knew exactly what Mr.
Hyde was doing to people including murder, and abuse, but he continued on. Dr. Jekyll is the real one to blame. He separated the evil from himself, creating Mr. Hyde, but still some evil remains in him. These two characters prove to capture both good and evil qualities, proving the statement, “Within mankind exisits a duality where decency/immorality, righteousness/depravity, and virtue/evil are inseparable,” to be true. Every man has two sides to them and is not purely good or bad. One cannot exist were the other does not. They must coexist, creating a duality among good and evil.