During the late nineteenth century the flourishing of the Industrial Revolution caused a great deal of disorder and instability throughout all of Europe. New technological advancements in machine-based manufacturing were beginning to spread throughout the country; which ultimately caused for the lower classes sudden decrease in job opportunities and eventually unemployment. Due to the up rise in technology many workers from the countryside faced the challenge of moving to the inner cities in order to find job opportunities with the new machinery.
Although the technological advancements brought forth many positive contributions, the competition for employment created a surplus in the population of the cities. Since towns became overpopulated the living conditions became unbearable for society. With all the changes occurring throughout Europe, the Victorian society feared what was to come in the near future. These new advancements in technology brought forth many changes in sciences, politics, and allowed for different people to begin to express their thoughts. As the people began to shape this new social environment, everyone had to adapt to this modern way of life.
High ranked individuals were now seen as the most respectful and influential individuals among society, which allowed them to gain power and therefore stabilize society. The high expectations from the lower class ultimately paid a toll on the “higher ranked” class which eventually caused them to want to step away from the responsibilities society held them accountable for. Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, is able to portray these experiences with the books primary characters: Dr Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Utterson, and Lanyon.
The novel reveals how Jekyll’s curiosity of the duality of men leads him to find his real persona. Jekyll, like many of the individuals of the Victorian era faced a constant struggle to uphold the views of society and disregard their inner thoughts. During the Victorian time period the society revolved around a social class, which was male centered. For this purpose Stevenson makes the main characters of the novel the ideal Victorian men who are well-rounded, respectable individuals. Utterson is a respectable lawyer; in turn he becomes the narrator of the story.
The reason behind this is to create a bond with the reader to show how the typical Victorian man would react to a particular situation and the obstacles he would face. Utterson is seen as the common Victorian who always abides by the rules and does not defy the social ideals. His way of thinking revolves around reason, ideals, and common sense and he never allows himself to think about supernatural events. This novel is able to expose the fears which people faced in this era and how hiding the truth was enforced if it meant peacefulness for all of society.
This is evident throughout the short story because every time Utterson would come across someone or something that would suspect Jekyll of criminal behavior he would just turn the other way and make a reasonable excuse for it. His Victorian ideals allow him to protect the reputation of his friend Jekyll and therefore prevent his downfall. For example, this can be seen when he first hears about Hyde’s incident with the trampling of the girl. When this occurred Hyde hands out a check in order to make amends with the witnesses of the event, the check turns out to reveal Jekyll’s name on it.
Instead of accusing Jekyll with having some type of connection to the crime, he simply defends his reputation and accuses Hyde of blackmailing the respected Jekyll. This idea that Stevenson portrays was typical during that time period, the lower class would blackmail the upper class when they would find there was something that would jeopardize their reputation. This is a reoccurring theme in the novel and especially with Utterson’s character. Another prime example of this is when Utterson arrives at Jekyll’s house and is listening to Jekyll’s butler telling him all the weird things occurring around the house.
The butler explained about the unusual amount of time Jekyll would spend inside the lab and the strange voice coming from inside which sounded identical to Hyde’s. Utterson dismisses all the accusations towards Jekyll by saying he is probably very ill and his voice was affected by the sickness. After he has learned everything that Jekyll did he states “we may atleast save his credit” which mirrors the Victorian view. Lanyon is another perfect example of a Victorian gentleman who tries to just live his life on a low profile and keep secrets to maintain the perfect worldview that society demands.
He only believes in materialistic science and says that what Jekyll is trying to do is “unscientific balderdash”. Unlike Jekyll, Lanyon lacked the courage to pursue science the way he could have, his main focus was to follow societies views on the topic and ignore the supernatural and the unexplained. It is not until the moment in which he experiences Hydes transformation in which he becomes a believer, but in complete shock he feels his time in the world has come to an end. The recent events he had experienced pushed him to write a vivid letter to Utterson explaining the incidents that were occurring all along.
Although he could have chosen to give the letter right away to Utterson to unravel the mishap, instead he orders Utterson not to read his letters until both Lanyon and Jekyll are both dead. This perfectly proves Lanyon’s alliance to the Victorian views of protecting his reputation and those around him. “Victorian man was haunted constantly by an inescapable sense of division: rational vs sensual, civilized vs beast, public vs private. ” Although they would be haunted by these feelings Victorian ideals were that dualism was a theory that was not possible and unacceptable.
Henry Jekyll on the other hand was intrigued by the idea of dualism and he had always felt there was more to him than the person he was seen as in society. Jekyll is also seen as a respectable Victorian man. He is a wealthy doctor, who has a nice house in the respectable side of London. His passion for the duality of men causes him to make a potion that once he drinks it turns him into a very unpleasant man who displeases everyone who sees him. Hyde is always described as a detestable man, small, hairy and evil. This shows how he did not have to do much to scare someone. Hyde’s house” was Jekyll’s lab, which was attached to the rest of his house. The lab door faced the less respectable part of London. It was described as “a district in some city of a nightmare”. Stevenson depicts Hyde’s character to show how even the “ideal” London had a dark side just like Jekyll does. Even though Jekyll risks his life every time he drinks his potion and experiences tremendous pain, he feels he is the most free when he transforms into what society sees as a monster (Hyde). Jekyll explains his experience: “There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet.
I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill race in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. ” This experience shows how he actually prefers being Hyde and he sees it as his ‘solution of the bonds of obligation’. Despite the fact that Jekyll is seen as a Victorian gentleman it can easily be said that he is hypocritical due to all the malicious acts and thoughts he experiences when he turns into Hyde. Although he knows he is deceiving society by drinking he potion to turn from Jekyll to Hyde and vise versa he knows that Hyde ultimately will never get caught and he can get away with his evil deeds. Jekyll loved being Hyde because he had the ability to be a man free from the restrictions of society. He described it as “my devil had long been caged, and he came out roaring. ” This is perfect because he describes Hyde as his devil, as somewhat of an animal being locked up inside of something; in need of being detained from the outside, and he came out at full force “roaring”. Once Hyde begins to appear on his own (after the Carew murder) Jekyll no longer likes him nor wants to stay being him.
The fact that Hyde keeps coming back shows how evil will overpower good if society represses individuals. While Jekyll is a perfect man in society it is his trickery and his peers ideal view of him which allows him to succeed in this hoax. A great philosopher in the Victorian era that influenced on these topics was Sigmund Freud. His main studies were about the conscious and unconscious, the Id, the Ego and the Superego. In his findings and studies he came to the conclusion that we have three aspects of our personality: the Id, the ego and the superego.
To explain this theory he mad an “iceberg model” so that people could easily identify and understand better. The Id is the primitive mind, which is the first part to develop; it takes care of all the needs and is selfish. He believed that if the Id is too strong, the person would be very selfish and uncaring to others. The Id also lies in the unconscious level. His “iceberg model” shows how fears, violent motives, irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual desires, immoral urges, selfish needs and shameful experiences all lie within the unconscious.
Freud believed that the biggest factor in the unconscious part of man was to hide their inner self, to contain our deepest feelings, and to show repression. Stevenson’s use of Jekyll and Hyde’s dual persona was a direct connection to the Freud’s studies at the time. He was able to show how Jekyll’s repressed thoughts eventually took over him and caused him to create this potion to turn him into his real self, which was the detestable Hyde. In the end it can be said that we all have Jekyll’s inside of us, and we face many challenges to keep our “hyde” hidden even though we are all intrigued by its mere presence.
Bibliography AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc. ,, “Freud’s Structural and Topographical Models of Personality. ” September 23, 2002. http://allpsych. com/psychology101/ego. html (accessed August 3, 2009). Saposnik, Irving S. “The Anatomy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 11, no. 4 (1971): 715-731. Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London: Penguin Books, 2002. “Structure of Mind: Freud’s Id, Ego, & Superego. ” 28 Jul 2004. http://wilderdom. om/personality/L8- 4StructureMindIdEgoSuperego. html (accessed August 3, 2009) “Topography of Mind: Freud’s Iceberg Model for Unconscious, Pre-conscious, & Conscious. ” 22 Sep 2003. http://wilderdom. com/personality/L8- 3TopographyMindIceberg. html (accessed August 3, 2009). ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (London: Penguin Books, 2002), 57 [ 2 ]. Ibid; 60 [ 3 ]. “Topography of Mind: Freud’s Iceberg Model for Unconscious, Pre-conscious, & Conscious. ” 22 Sep 2003