Write about how Stevenson presents ideas of duality.

 

Throughout ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, Robert Louis Stevenson aims to show that duality is not a foreign concept, but that within every person there is the capability for duality, and eventually their unsavoury side will present itself if it is continuously repressed by Victorian society. Through his extreme portrayal of duality, Stevenson aims to show that it is dangerous to keep the two parts of someone’s personality so separate and that they should instead be accepted as one.

 

For example, in Chapter 1, Stevenson immediately shows the duality of human nature through his description of the London streets and the setting. Stevenson first describes the pretty street with “well-polished brasses” and a “gaiety of note” which mirrors how, at first, all people see in people is the good as that is what respectable members of Victorian society generally aim to present. However, the author then goes on to explain the “blistered and disdained” door which is enclosed within the street, showing that within every good facade there is the capability for evil, and that people can be simultaneously good and evil. This clear presentation of evil which “thrusts its gable forward onto the street” would be jarring and shocking to a Victorian reader as they would be used to evil being concealed, and only ever seeing the mask that someone presents to the world. This door which shows “prolonged marks of sordid negligence” is used by Stevenson to mirror the evil that lives within the door in the form of Hyde embodying the Victorian pseudoscience of physiognomy which suggests that someone or something’s character can be seen from their appearance. However Stevenson also aims to dispel this pseudoscience, suggesting through the later revelation that Jekyll, a respectable gentleman, also resides behind the door that someone’s character cannot be seen through their appearance and that those doors with the “gaiety of note” could house as much evil as the “disdained” ones.

 

Another way that Stevenson shows the duality of man is through the juxtaposition of the descriptions of Hyde and Jekyll. For example, when Utterson finally finds Hyde in Chapter 2, The Search for Mr Hyde, he describes him as having some “unknown deformity”, which is strange as every character can notice there is something wrong with the character, and something inherently evil about him, without actually knowing what it is which shows Elizabethan society’s dislike for ever indulging their inner passions. The fact that Hyde embodies something new that has never been seen before and is immediately disliked, also shows the prevalence of xenophobia in Victorian society at the time. Hyde is also described as “short” which could suggest that he has not been allowed to do his will so therefore has not developed in the same way as Jekyll but is still in his infantile stage of development, before Victorian society forced Jekyll to suppress all of the desires which are embodied in Hyde. Alternatively, his diminished height could have been used by Stevenson to show what a small part of Jekyll’s personality Hyde takes up, and that it would not be at all dangerous to allow people to indulge their passions occasionally or to destigmatise pursuit of fun activities. The descriptions of Hyde also seem to be incredibly extreme and over exaggerated “the devil’s signature written legibly upon his face” which show how strongly Victorian society has pressured people into suppressing their desires, but also that Hyde, unlike every other member of society, is allowed to be fully himself which is something law-abiding Victorian gentlemen such as Utterson would never have seen before. On the other hand, God seems to have a large role in Jekyll’s development, with the description of him being “well-made” showing that he has been purposefully created to be a good and moral person, which Stevenson uses to show the restrictive control that religion has over people's’ lives. Hyde and Jekyll seem to be completely oxymoronic, with one seeming “troglodytic” which suggests that Hyde is somehow unevolved (a popular concept in Victorian England due to the recent publishing of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of the Species) whereas Jekyll is “handsome” and undoubtedly civilised. This is what makes it even more shocking to the audience that two such opposite characters could inhabit one body simultaneously but Stevenson shows that it is normal to have different types of personality within one mind, and that repressing it will only lead to an extreme explosion of evil, as is seen through Hyde.

 

In Chapter 10, Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case, Jekyll fully explores the concept of duality and is the only character to accept that men can be simultaneously good and evil, through which Stevenson is able to express his own thoughts and ideas. For example, the “leap of welcome” which Jekyll felt when he first transformed into Hyde shows unquestionably that Hyde’s personality is a part of Jekyll’s, no matter how strongly he has been forced to repress it by society. However, Jekyll’s personality is not lost completely, with him remaining the “chief of sufferers” whilst being the “chief of sinners”, showing that people who indulge in unsavoury desires are not automatically bad and condemned people, but can still feel remorse for their actions. It is only when Jekyll’s good psyche begins “slipping away” that he is forced to commit suicide (which is seen in Chapter 8, The Last Night), and the only reason that this occurs is because Jekyll has been forced to repress Hyde for so long, that the youthful energy he possesses when he is finally released allows him to seize control. Stevenson is suggesting that if Jekyll had been able to exercise the Hyde-side of his personality more frequently by Victorian society in a controlled manner then Jekyll would have still been able to remain a good person at the same time. It is through Jekyll’s final revelation that Stevenson summises the novella, “man is not truly one but truly two”, a simplified statement to show that people's’ personalities have many different facets and they should be able to explore them all in order to find out who they truly are.

 

Overall, Stevenson presents duality as an essential part of the human psyche throughout the novella, and concludes in the final chapter that it is overwhelmingly unhealthy to suppress inner desires, as they will only lead to some sort of manifestation of evil, which is seen in its extreme form through Hyde.

BACK