How does Robert Louis Stevenson depict the relationship between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and what in your view, does Mr Hyde represent and how effectively does Robert Louis Stevenson account for the existence of Mr Hyde?
Robert Louis Stevenson loved horror stories. When he wrote The Unusual Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde he saw a way to examine and express ideas about human nature through a work of fiction. He had had an interest in human behaviour for some time and in some ways this was an experiment in the society of the time to see how the Victorians would react to the ideas he was sending out.
But he didn’t want to have to tell the reader these ideas outright. Instead, he provided enough information to the reader so that the ideas would dawn in the reader’s own mind gradually. Hence he uses different narrative viewpoints and mystery to unfold the strange effects that occur in his novella.
The relationship between Jekyll and Hyde is unknown at the beginning of the story. All that is known is that for some strange reason Dr Jekyll, who is a very respectable man, has chosen Mr Hyde to be the sole heir to his estate. This is very strange as even from the first time we meet Mr Hyde he appears to be a mean character and to quote a character from the book “I had taken a loathing to the gentleman at first sight.” He seems to have no concern for any one or thing. Why would Jekyll leave all that he owns to a person such as Hyde and why does he refer to the man as “his friend and benefactor,”?
In reality Jekyll and Hyde’s relationship is that of mutual dependence. Hyde is a part of Jekyll and Hyde needs him for shelter and protection especially after the murder of Danvers Carew. Jekyll needs Hyde so he can express the not so nice side of himself “safely”. But in having this relationship Jekyll is no longer a good man. He maintains that it was Hyde who did all the deeds but it really was himself and Hyde is just a part of him, the form of expression. The clause in the will, in reality, is so that Jekyll would not lose any of his own possessions and that a part of him, be it Hyde or himself, would have them.
One main theme that runs behind the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde is secrecy. Dr Jekyll is a respectable man, yet he at several times is secretive to help Hyde. When Danvers Carew is murdered Jekyll assures Utterson that Hyde will never be seen again and all he has heard from him was a letter. But when Utterson checks with Jekyll’s man servant about the letter he finds that none was ever delivered and that Jekyll must have forged it “indeed it had been written in the cabinet…”. Hyde himself is secretive. He goes about his work by night, a time that is traditionally associated with secrecy.
This book relates to the society of the time. Jekyll during the day is respectable, proper and acts as a model citizen. But by night when he becomes Hyde he gets to do all the unspeakable things that you could never do as that respectable citizen. In the time that the novella was written, society was very geared towards being morally clean and proper. The Victorians thought that only humans had a soul and therefore had to behave as if they were above all animals and in being above them could have no similarities to them even in the way of behaviour and instinct. Hyde is a representation of all that was suppressed by that society. All the parts that we have (and if accepted) help make us a balanced person but if pushed away this primeval part of us builds and then appears with terrible effects (in the book the murder of Danvers Carew is an example of this).
This then links with Darwinian evolutionary theories, which were frowned upon at the time. People of the time thought that animals did not have souls. But when Darwin said we came from animals questions like “Do animals have souls?” and “If animals do not have souls when did we get them?” arose. The people who had thought themselves so above animals were suddenly shocked by this idea that they were once animals and once behaved like them. In this way Hyde is the animal that is still present within us all.
There is also the theme of a duality of good and evil throughout the entire book. Jekyll is a respectable man, his house and especially his front door is described as welcoming. He goes about by day and is considered to be a decent fellow by most people. But Hyde is the complete opposite. His door is “blistered and distained” and is hidden away in a dark back alley. He does terrible things (the trampling of a child) and every one who meets Hyde always feels some indescribable loathing for him. Every aspect of him is in some way a representation of an evil presence. But Hyde exists as a part of Jekyll which is good. He is the balance and this book also tells people that you cannot separate the two. Both are needed.
Overall, there are many themes in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and most of them link with what Hyde represents and his relationship with Jekyll. It is a parable about the deeper levels of human nature. The central theme revolves around the dual nature of man. Dr. Jekyll apparently lives the moral life and has a mask that people want to show to others, and Mr Hyde lives out a side of ourselves we like to deny and don’t want others to see.
The novel places much emphasis on the use of a drug — and perhaps alcohol. It’s not clear what Dr Jekyll’s sins are and Mr Hyde may act very badly because he becomes drunk. Dr Jekyll concocts a drug that transforms him into Mr Hyde. The drug causes him to look and to act completely differently than the world supposes he is capable of. Jekyll starts off slowly with this drug, but gradually he loses control of it — or himself. He becomes addicted to being Hyde, and the addiction is so strong that the transformation into Hyde begins to take place even without using the drug and he begins to find the experience of Hyde and being able to get away with the things he does, almost pleasurable.
Robert Louis Stevenson during the time that the story was written accounted for the existence of Mr Hyde very well. During the Victorian era science was still being explored and little was understood compared to what we know today; there was also a lot of drug abuse in all levels of society. The people of the time did not know that it was not possible to concoct some drug to change you into a different person and with Darwinian theories some people thought that if they could be true, then couldn’t this also happen in some way. But the idea was suggested in the work in a believe
able way with Jekyll being a man of science and as there were discoveries being made often at the time it is written as though he has made his own discovery. The therefore accounts for the existence of Hyde very well for the time.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s story accounts for the existence of Hyde also in a symbolic way in our time. You cannot physically change but mentally you can and some drugs do have this affect on people. So in some ways his work was prophetic of man being able to change himself into different personalities and we also see this naturally occurring in some mental illnesses.
Also, during the story, how Hyde is accounted for develops before we come to the end of the story and discover the truth. At first Hyde is thought to be just some strange acquaintance to Dr Henry Jekyll ” some protï¿½gï¿½ of his…”. Then as the complexity of their relationship grows so does how Robert Louis Stevenson accounts for Hyde. It is written is such a way so that it develops along with the story instead of getting to the end to just be told the truth. It all falls into the right place at the right time and therefore creates a brilliant, suspenseful story.
In all there are many ways that the existence of Hyde is accounted for. Some ways that were apparent when the story was written may have changed but other ideas have now replaced them in modern society and these ideas I am sure will continue to develop as times and society change.