Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Book vs Movie

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

Luka Stojanovic Mr. Horner 9/13/2010 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Film vs. Book The book and the movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weren’t too different. The 1920 silent film, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” wasn’t too different from the book. Even though this film version of the book was silent, I could still tell what was happening in the movie due to the fact that I watched the movie as I read the book to be able to compare and interpret what was going on. The film and the book were actually very similar indeed. This is probably because the movie was silent and the director had to portray it more accurately to the book. However there were some differences between the book and the movie. One of the major differences is how each medium portrays the characters differently. In the book, Dr. Jekyll is portrayed as more of a scholarly character or a “doctor” but in the movie he is portrayed as a “crazy scientist. ” I like that the author did this though because it made the movie more exciting as opposed to the book. Mr. Utterson is also portrayed differently. In the book he is portrayed as a more honest character than in the movie. Mr. Utterson advises Dr. Jekyll against some of his actions in the book much more than he does in the movie, but again, the director does this for dramatic effect. The way Mr. Hyde is portrayed in the movie is very accurate though. The movie shows Mr. Hyde as truly being a monster just as in the book. The only difference is that in the movie, the transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde is much more dramatic. The movie shows the transformation as being extremely gruesome and dramatic whereas in the book the transformation was more gradual and less extreme. Overall, I liked the book more than the movie, even though both were kind of boring and I couldn’t quite understand the book either. The author could have written the book in a more exciting fashion because quite often I would daze off as I was reading and would miss vital parts of the book. However, I thought the movie was worse because it was silent and the only sound playing was the eerie background music. I also didn’t like the fact that it was a very old, black and white movie.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Evil Aspect

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

Throughout the novel and the movie battle the concept of good versus evil and society expectation as a common theme. Both of the movie and novel have a great quality elements that make them a like, but like everything, people put their own twist in order to catch the viewer’s attention. For example, comparing and contrasting the novel and movie back to back from “Strange Case Of Dr.

Jekyll And Mr. Hyde”, we see different approaches on the “evil” aspect of the Hyde. In detail, the movie made Hyde look like a villain as the novel made him an outcast living his life without society measure.

In both format of this stories their characteristics stays with the similar description but in a different form, but stay with the same concept that Jekyll has two personas, a private persona and a public persona. In public eye, around fifty years of age; he’s a big man and clean shaven, he is known as a doctor, loyal friend, a man of intelligence, and a benefactor for those in need. Privately in closed doors, he yearns for the freedom to do all of the things that would tarnish his public reputation. Hyde is self-serving, selfish, brutal, and destructive. He is angry, uncaring and detached. Without conscience, he feels no remorse for his violent acts. He’s like a child in his fear of being found out….. driven to tears over thoughts of the retribution he might one day have to pay.

In the novel, Mr. Utterson description Hyde as a unhuman like creature stating that, Hyde’s hands as “gnarled, and although he’s a small man, he’s wound up with energy” and “Hyde was pale and dwarfish giving an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation,he had a displeasing smile…”(Stevenson pg 52). As in the movie, the character Mr. Utterson in this case is Dr. John Lanyon doesn’t give the viewer a description on Hyde’s appearance, but we see that his formation into a different persona with human figures in the film (Fleming). With these both description we as viewers or readers can help us paint a picture and influence us to see who the author wants to be viewer as “the evil” character from the movie and novel. I think both the author and director wanted to influence its audience be creating that “bad” image of Hyde and the “good” image of Jekyll.

Both platform have different views on how they protary Hyde as evil. In the movie, Hyde likes to drink, club, and to beat people up to feels pleasure when he engages in violence or acting against the social expectation: “He had in his hand a heavy cane, with which he was trifling; but he answered never a word, and seemed to listen with an ill-contained impatience. And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman. The old gentleman took a step back, with the air of one very much surprised and a trifle hurt; and at that Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway” (Stevenson pg 60). As in the movie, Hyde goes to clubs get drunk and starts fight, stealings from stores, focuses Ivy Peterson to love him and be isolated from everyone just to please him but then kills her when she found out he was Dr. Jekyll, kills Sir Charles Emery the father of his finance Beatrix Emery, and runs away from the police (Fleming).

With these both detailed examples of Hyde’s actions, we as viewers or readers can view and prove that “the evil” character from the movie and novel is Hyde with the help of the author and director to include those to manipulate what we think. I think both the author and director, wanted to influence its audience by creating that an absent idea of Mr. Hyde is Jekyll’s way of escaping his sophisticated lifestyle and entering a totally separate way of life. Stevenson and Flemings uses this marked contrast to make his point: every human being contains opposite forces within him or her, an alter ego that hides behind one’s polite facade. Jekyll largely appears as moral and decent, engaging in charity work and enjoying a reputation as a courteous and genial man, something Hyde couldn’t be and instead embodies evil or in other word “society outcast”. We may recall that Hyde is described as resembling a “troglodyte,” perhaps Hyde is actually the original, authentic nature of man, which has been repressed but not destroyed by the accumulated weight of civilization, conscience, and societal norms. But the novel suggests that once those bonds are broken, it becomes impossible to reestablish them.

In conclusion, there was to diferent forms this story was protrayed but with anzalyize both there will always a different twist based on that the author ot diecrtor wants to put out for the attenetion to understand. Twisting the story can make newer aduience get an insterent on the hidden meaning of this story without reread the older vigure. It always help younger aduience to be able to picture what the stoeyline is telling you.

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Repression Regarding "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

Sigmund Freud was said to believe that people repress their shameful or immoral thoughts and that they become unconscious. He stated that under the influence of some outside event, it could one day cause a psychical consequence that could be seen as the product of lost memory and as the result of it will remain incomprehensible. (Delusion and Dream, An Interpretation in the Light of Psychoanalysis of Gradiva, Author: Wilhelm Jensen & Sigmund Freud, February 15, 2014).

This relates to the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in that Dr. Jekyll is forced by the righteous morality of society to constantly cover up his wild and dark desires. However, his repression does not become unconscious. The outside pressures of society to remain good could be the cause for him to create his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde would then be the psychical consequence.

Repression is a recurring theme in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He follows the rigid rules of society and is essentially good all the time. He gives to charity and he is considered to be a respected neighbor and Doctor by his friends and peers. However, he is also a man who believes that people have two sides. A good and evil one. This causes a deeper need to separate the two sides. His experiments with different potions at last lead to a potion that turns him into Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll is forced by the rules of a civilized society to hide a part of himself, yet the more he hides this dark side, the more he desires to become Mr. Hyde. In the Victorian age of England people were expected to be modest or stoic in their behaviors. You were to keep your emotions and sexual desires to yourself, one was not to ever be violent or drunk in public. These things were all taboo, during these times. This further complicates the issues with Dr. Jekyll as he craves many things that are not socially acceptable.

Dr. Jekyll struggles to walk between his life as an upstanding doctor and his life as the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He is not alone in this struggle between what is moral and immoral. Living a life of repression is not easy for anyone. Mr. Utterson lives a normal mundane life but is jealous of those who live on the edge. “He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theater, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.” (1.1)

There are others within the story that also repress their desires, such as Mr. Enfield. He is curious and nosy at times but repress this because he thinks that showing that side of himself is unsafe. “”Here is another lesson to say nothing,”” said he. “”I am ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer to this again. “”With all my heart,”” said the lawyer. I shake hands on that, Richard.”” (1.27) Yet because of the time period everyone must repress their desires, especially in public.

Dr. Jekyll is forced by the rules of society to hide the dark part of himself, to hide his desires and because of this forced repression by society he takes matters into his own hands to find a way to unleash those repressed desires by becoming Mr. Hyde. This would conclude that Freud was in part correct about how repressing one’s desires can cause physical consequences.

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Character Analysis of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

In the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, details the story of 2 men, who appear to be polar opposites living in the Victorian era. During Victorian times, lower-class citizens, who lived in crime ridden, impoverished areas, were regarded as a degenerate form of life. On the other hand, affluent members of the upper-class were considered fully evolved, functioning members of society. Stevenson analyzes these Victorian concepts by following the story of a quintessential man of riches, as well as a criminal, who repulsed almost everyone around him.

The former, Dr. Henry Jekyll is an admired doctor, from a nice part of London, and is known for his civility. The latter, is Mr. Edward Hyde. Hyde is suspected to have committed two murders, and appears to be pre-human. Stevenson accentuates these men’s differences throughout the story, by juxtaposing the settings they are commonly found in. However, at the end, we learn that Hyde is a part of Jekyll. As a young scientist, Jekyll attempted to split the good and evil in him, into two independent people. He was only partially successful, but he managed to separate his evil into a new persona, Hyde. Stevenson complicates Victorian concepts of degeneration and crime by painting the criminal Hyde’s setting as opposite to Jekyll’s, but at the end suggests that they both exist within each other.

Stevenson represents conventional English ideals, by highlighting Dr. Jekyll as a reputable, charitable doctor. He is a well respected, wealthy person, who lives in a fancy house, in the new town of London. Mr. Utterson calls one of the rooms in Jekyll’s home the “Pleasantest room in London” (Stevenson 44). While most of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes place at night, the scenes involving Dr. Jekyll almost all portray a form of warmth and friendliness. This alludes to Victorian conceptions regarding the upper-class, who were viewed as completely separate and above those in the lower-class. Many claimed that rich “white British males such as [Jekyll were] at the pinnacle of an evolutionary hierarchy” (Danahay 18). Stevenson emphasizes the good sides of Dr. Jekyll, to confirm Victorian concepts of the bourgeoisie class. The upscale location and lifestyle Dr. Jekyll is associated with in the book represents how Jekyll strives to appear to others.

Stevenson depicts Victorian crime stereotypes, by illustrating Hyde as an animal like creature, who dwells in impoverished, rundown areas of London. Hyde, who is all of Dr. Jekyll’s evil, personified into a single entity, has done many horrible things. He trampled a young girl, and murdered a man, without feeling any remorse. Edward Hyde’s character parallels the setting he was placed in. In the novel, Hyde is frequently associated with the dilapidated door, on the back of Jekyll’s house. The door juts out into an alley, and all the windows are boarded up.

Hyde also often resides in the slums of London, which Utterson refers to as “ a district of some city in a nightmare” (Stevenson 49). Not only does Hyde himself appear to others as a repulsive, horrible character, but he spends his time in neglected, corruption prone areas, highlighting his reputation as a primitive being. Placing Hyde in decrepit settings allows Stevenson to evoke Victorian “theories of both evolution and degeneration in his descriptions of Mr. Hyde as a kind of monkey” (Danahay 20). Edward Hyde represents the lower-class, living in 20th century England, and how they were considered primitive compared to the upper-class. Stevenson purposely places Hyde in battered settings, to accentuate qualities that people in Victorian times were ashamed of, and tried to suppress.

Despite Stevenson spending most of the book differentiating Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, at the end he demonstrates that Jekyll isn’t entirely above Hyde’s actions. Dr. Jekyll is unhappy with man’s dual nature, and attempts to separate his good and evil in search of inner peace. He has high expectations, set by himself and others, that he feels he needs to live up to. Consumed by his rich lifestyle he craves to let out the immoral part of him. Jekyll states that if his personalities could be “housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable” (Stevenson 77). The doctor feels repressed by the standards society has created for him, and is constantly trying to be perfect to live up to his reputation. In the form of Hyde, he has no conscience to repress his negative thoughts, and can act on his urges, without trepidation of repercussions from those around him. While Dr. Jekyll is in the form of Hyde, he looks and acts like a degenerate.

However, there are certain attributes of Hyde that oppose Victorian evolutionary concepts. For example, he has a very eloquent vocabulary, and a luxuriously furnished home, which one would not expect from a murderer like Hyde. There are also certain attributes of Jekyll, that he has to keep hidden, to sustain his esteemed reputation. Although on the surface Dr. Jekyll models Victorian expectations of the upper-class, his “veneer of gentility . . . concealed so much of what was really going on in Victorian bourgeois society” (Danahay 24). As shown through Hyde, Jekyll, along with the rest of the upper-class, is not as perfect as he appears to be. This is because the evil Mr. Edward Hyde is merely a suppressed part of the affluent Dr. Henry Jekyll, and is carrying out actions that Jekyll’s conscience would have otherwise quelled. To be successful in Victorian London, Dr. Jekyll needs to maintain his morals, his friendships, his job, and his wealth. Living in a constant state of repression, he let out Hyde, who commits the sins Jekyll suppresses, because they would put his reputation on the line.

Throughout the story, Stevenson separates the lifestyle of Jekyll and Hyde, but in the end, he shows that they are not independent of each other. When Dr. Jekyll originally attempts to separate the evil inside of him, he succeeds in one way, because the bad side of him exists as a person. However, externalizing Hyde does not make Jekyll himself wholly good, as he is often perceived to be. Victorian London appeared impeccable to outsiders, due to its seemingly wealthy, successful population. What many people didn’t acknowledge were the extremely poor, run down, crime infested slums of London, hidden by the cities façade of perfection.

Similarly, Dr. Jekyll is constantly concealing negative parts of his personality, hiding behind a mask of prosperity and achievements. When Jekyll’s evil side is let out to the world, he can release his true thoughts as Hyde, without fear of backlash from society. Despite a clear juxtaposition in setting between the two characters, they aren’t as separate as they are portrayed, because Hyde will always exist within Jekyll, and Jekyll will always exist within Hyde.

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Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde's Trauma

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

Dissociative identity disorder is usually a reaction to trauma as a way to help a person avoid bad memories. When people face traumatic experiences, they have a choice to cope in a healthy or unhealthy way. Sometimes in extreme cases, they believe that having another identity could help them cope by escaping their current reality. For example, Dr. Jekyll has created a different personality, Hyde, that he uses to escape his reality and create a new one. Through Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll displays a Dissociative identity disorder due to a traumatic experience that happened in his past.

Dr. Jekyll displays signs of an abused childhood by having a second personality, Mr. Hyde. Jekyll uses Hyde to forget and run away from the pain. It is shown that, “Among childhood trauma types, only physical abuse and physical neglect predicted dissociation [identity].” (Sar et al. 1). He is saying that the reason to dissociative identity is not only childhood trauma, but abuse as well. Childhood trauma can cause dissociative identity by allowing the kid to escape to a different reality, due to the creation of another personality. In about 90% of dissociative identity cases there is a history of child abuse.

Dissociative identity is another way for people and kids get away from the world and create a new and better one. Some signs of dissociative identity is having nightmares, zoning out, and memory problems. Jekyll shows these signs throughout the book by waking up without realizing what he did. For example when he killed Carew in the alleyway. Dr. Jekyll stated, while talking to Mr. Utterson, “I know you have seen him…and I fear he was rude.”(Stevenson, 13). Under the context, it seems that he does not remember meeting him. That’s shows that he does not remember what happens whenever he is Mr. Hyde, which is a prime example of dissociative identity disorder.

Another traumatic experience that could happen is a close family member dying, or a mentor dying. They use their second personality to escape the pain of losing someone they loved. It is most common that because of a loss of a loved one, people generally create a different personality to disband the pain in their original world. Some signs are a loss of identity as related to individual distinct personality states, and loss of time, sense of self and consciousness. In the book, it shows lots of times where Dr. Jekyll wakes up, not remembering what happened when he was Hyde. For instance, in the book Jekyll turns into Hyde by accident at a park, “ I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs…I was once more Edward Hyde” (Stevenson 51). This shows that he realizes that he changes, but not what he does, and example of this, “Dr. Jekyll was a double personality because he remembered the process of transformation (what today we would call dissociation), but not what he did while he was Mr. Hyde.” (Waiess Vol. 93, Iss. 3,).

Also now Jekyll can switch to Hyde with just thoughts instead of potions, which shows how someone with Distinctive Personality disorder can escape to there other reality with just a thought and idea instead of a trigger of some sort. It becomes easier to escape if they lost a loved one, by remembering who the deceased was to them. Just the thought of that person can send someone into a deep depression, which they will heal by switching personalities and becoming a different person. When a person switches to another personality, they usually feel completely different and not normal. In the book, Jekyll describes this as, “ … something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body…” (Stevenson 44). This shows that whenever he transformed into Hyde he felt, “ happier in body” (Stevenson 44) which proves that when he was Jekyll, he felt pain and depression, most likely because of a traumatic childhood past.

Jekyll was suffering with a weight of a traumatic childhood either from a close family member dying or something else that changed his life, and he used Hyde to escape all those feelings. When he was Hyde he felt free and happy, but he realized that Hyde always had hatred in his mind. He realized that it was a mistake to use Hyde to run away from his past, so he began to stay as Jekyll and not change. This caused a deep depression and he could not last long, he needed to change to Hyde to have the feeling of being happy and free again. Most people need to switch to their different personality to stay away from suicidal thoughts and actions.

A different way Jekyll can be diagnosed with Distinctive personality disorder is by being alone and not having much social interactions with other people when they were a child. When someone is alone their whole childhood life, it creates an image and gets them thinking why. They start asking if something is wrong with them and will live the rest of their life thinking that they are awkward and weird to others. In the book, Jekyll was sitting inside alone stating that he was, “ Very low. It will not last long, thank God.” (Stevenson 25). This was right after he stopped becoming Hyde. It was a cause and effect of the childhood trauma. Because Jekyll stopped becoming Hyde, he became very depressed and didn’t want to see anyone or go outside. In the book, Jekyll does not live with anyone except waiters, servant, and maids. He does not have a lover or any family that live with him.

Jekyll even wanted to be left alone for a long time, “‘The doctor is confined to the house’ Poole said, ‘and saw no one’” (Stevenson 22). His want to be alone shows that he never had that much social interactions when he was a child. If he did then he would not be able to stay alone in his room without seeing his friends. He would be so used to having people and friends to talk to that he would be uncomfortable by being alone in a room. As a child he would learn that it is weird not having friends to interact with, so that would cause him to always want to be around friends his whole life. But, it is the opposite with Jekyll. He had a traumatic childhood due to a decrease in social interactions with other kids. The effect of his childhood, caused him to create a different personality, Mr. Hyde, which would take out all the anger he had on the inside and bring it to the outside world.

Throughout the whole book, the idea of dissociative identity disorder is the constant theme. Jekyll is always showing signs of dissociative identity disorder in the book. Stevenson was very successful on giving the message of the book. The readers could really understand what he has trying to say under the words and pages. Dissociative identity disorder has been a very interesting and questionable topic to get information on. Lots of people suffer from this disease. They usually do not have people to love on them and care for them, only because the people think they are crazy. People with Disabilities are usually left alone and outcastes by the whole world, that is why we should embrace them instead of allowing them to feel left out. Every human, whether they have something psychologically wrong or are physically deformed, should be treated no different than those that appear normal. Everyone is different and weird in their own way.

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Protagonist and Antagonist in "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer


  • 1 Protagonist
  • 2 Antagonist
  • 3 Plot summary


The protagonist of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is Dr.

Jekyll. I believe Dr. Jekyll is the protagonist because he is the main person that has been causing all the violence and misery in the story by creating the serum that creates his counterpart Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is more of a kind hearted and polite person. Jekyll will attend dinners and parties with high professionals. Jekyll is a doctor who is friends with many other fellow doctors; Jekyll is more specifically a physician and one of his many friends just so happens to be a physician too Mr. Gabriel John Utterson.


I believe the antagonist of the story is Mr.Hyde. Although Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are technically the same person Hyde represents everything that Jekyll is not as a person. Mr. Hyde is mean and very violent person that doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Hyde was created by Jekyll to be able to become someone different other than his normal polite self. Mr. Hyde is a more evil and dark side to Dr. Jekyll.

Plot summary

On a walk the lawyer Mr. Utterson listens to his great friend Enfield tell a very violent story. The story is about a man named Mr. Hyde who brutally beat and killed a very young girl, Hyde disappeared in a door on the street near him and returns as a young gentleman with a check to paynthengirls parents off. Utterson don’t believe the story he just heard; Enfield doesn’t even believe,the story he had just told. Therefor the gentlemen agree to not speak of the story ever again. Utterson later notices that one of his clients and close friend has just wrote a new will stating that all of his property and belongings will go to this Mr. Hyde he had just heard of. Very soon Utterson starts having these recurring nightmares about a man haunting the streets of what it seems like to be London.

Confused and very intrigued Utterson decides to give Dr. Jekyll a visit along with his acquaintance Dr. Lanyon. Layon admits that he doesn’t really see Jekyll anymore because they got into a argument over Jekyll’s work. Utterson decides to take things into his own hands and he goes to the place where Enfield said Hyde entered. Utterson is surprised when he finds out that the door that Hyde had entered just so happened to be a lab hooked up to the back of Jekyll’s house. Then Suddenly Utterson runs into Hyde and is very shocked by how ugly and unattractive Hyde is. Hyde soon with no argument gives up the address where Jekyll is. Dr. Jekyll very soon tells Dr. Utterson that he has no business messing with Hyde and he should stay away from him.

Roughly one year passes and a girl watches Mr. Hyde very brutally beat down and kill a elderly man named Sir Danvers Carew. The polices very soon contact Utterson about the murder because Danvers was one of his clients. Utterson tells the police that be suspects that Hyde was the murderer. Utterson soon lead the police to the laboratory where he encountered Hyde. The weather that morning had been covered in a immense amount of dark fog. When the police and Utterson arrive and notice that Hyde is nowhere around. Utterson soon personally visits Jekyll after the police has gone and Jekyll states that he has is no longer associating with Hyde. Jekyll shows Utterson a note written by Hyde stating that he is is sorry for everything he has caused and is leaving; Utterson takes the note and leaves. Later that day one of Utterson’s clerks points out that Hyde and Jekyll’s handwriting is very similar.

A few months go by and Jekyll’s acts like himself again; he is being nice, kind, and finally accepting visitors again. But then very soon Jekyll goes back to his old ways by not accepting visitors. Very soon Lanyon passes away but before he passes he gives Utterson a lettercand says not to open it until Jekyll has passed away too. Later on, Utterson and Enfield are going on a normal walk they do, and they approach Jekyll at his window, and they all being to converse until Jekyll gets this ghostly like look on his face and slams the windows shut.

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Exploring the Grotesque: The Fiction of Stevenson and McCullers

June 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Over the course of several centuries, grotesque imagery has played a vital role in the arts, literature, and cultures all over the world. Attempting to attribute a clear-cut definition to the word grotesque has proven to be a challenge for historians and literary scholars since its definition has changed over time, but the role it plays in each of these subjects is essentially the same. The Grotesque serves as a means by which to stray away from conventional beauty standards, to distort and exaggerate, and combine the familiar with the unfamiliar- much like the Uncanny. Because of this, Gothic literature often incorporates grotesque imagery to further emphasize themes of chaos, madness, and other dark aspects of the human condition. This essay will examine the concept of grotesque imagery and the role it plays in challenging conventional body notions in Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and McCullers’ Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

When first introduced to the word grotesque, most people would think of its adjectival form: “very strange or ugly in a way that is not normal or natural.” (The Master’s Review). Although these are indeed common grotesque elements, they do not necessarily constitute the whole meaning of the word. Since actual word itself has evolved and changed meanings over the years, earlier iterations were used in a way that blurred the line between the real and unreal (The Masters Review). More recently, the Grotesque is used in literature to focus on the physical aspect of the human body. However, the Grotesque is both an artistic and literary term that involves a combination of the real and unreal, human and nonhuman, and horror and comedy.

An example of Grotesque literature that merges horror with comedy is in Nikolai Gogol’s short story “The Nose”, which is about a man named Ivan who wakes up one day and discovers that his nose has ran away, and is now walking around Russia dressed up as a police officer. The nose harasses him when he accuses it of running away from him, and then nearly arrests him (LetterPile). Clearly this plot is disturbing, but it is also so far-fetched that it’s comical. The Grotesque tends to defy clear definitions and borders that occupies the middle ground between life and death, and is inherently ambiguous. In literature as well as art, the grotesque is defined by what it does to boundaries- transgressing, merging, or destabilizing them (Connelly 4).

The presumed universals of classical beauty often involve symmetry, aesthetically pleasing subjects, and perfect body proportions. Grotesque imagery, however, is quite opposite of this. To quote Victor Hugo, “ideal beauty has only one standard whereas the variations and combinations possible for the grotesque are limitless.” (Connelly 4). Visual imagery often depicts the grotesque as being monstruos, deformed, and ugly. In her academic essay titled “The Grotesque Body: Fleshing Out the Subject”, Sara Cohen Shabot defines grotesque art as, “art whose form and subject matter appear to be a part of, while contradictory to, the natural, social, or personal worlds of which we are a part. Its images most often embody distortions in such as fashion that it confronts us as strange and disordered” (Shabot 58). An example of this can be seen in the painting The Skat Players (pictured below), by Otto Dix. In the painting, Dix chooses to depict his subjects as horrifying hybrids of machine and man in order to make a statement about the technological revolution that was taking place during the time at which he painted it- the 1920’s.

Like Dix, Robert Louis Stevenson also utilized grotesque imagery to develop the character, Hyde, in his novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to make a political statement. He wrote this novel in London during the late 19th century, where it was commonplace for people to present themselves in a highly respectable manner, and things like expression of sexuality (especially homosexuality) were considered a taboo. In the novel, Stevenson describes Hyde as “pale and dwarfish, he gave a impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile… but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him.” (Stevenson 16). By characterizing him as this deformed, primitive creature, Stevenson uses Hyde as an allegory for the repressed desires and evil tendencies that are an inevitable part of human nature. The fear and hate generated towards Hyde by other characters in the novel symbolizes the attitudes of London’s elite members of society and their tendency to heavily veil transgressions and dark aspects of their personalities during this time.

In Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Cousin Lymon is also described as being extremely deformed and dwarf like. McCullers writes, “… the man was a hunchback. He was scarcely more than four feet tall and he wore a ragged, dusty coat that reached only to his knees. His crooked little legs seemed too thin to carry the weight of his great warped chest and the hump that sat on his shoulders.” (McCullers). This description of Cousin Lymon is different than that of Hyde in the sense that Lymon is not nearly as menacing, but he is described in a way that is so outlandish that it is slightly comical.

Despite his seemingly unthreatening manner, the reader later finds out that Cousin Lymon is actually highly manipulative and untrustworthy. The initial grotesque description of Lymon serves to create a sense of unease and mystery about him, which can be seen as a foreshadowing of his flawed character which is revealed later in the story when he betrays Miss Amelia during her fight with Marvin Macy. Given these two examples of grotesque body image, one can see how effective it is to catch the attention of the reader when such bold and unconventional body imagery is put forth.

Some other motives behind the use of grotesque imagery stem from cultural developments such as introduction of photography, mass media, science fiction, and weapons of mass destruction (Connelly 1). In his scholarly journal article titled “The Grotesque: First Principles”, Geoffrey Harpham describes ever-changing grotesque ideals by saying, “As our perceptions of the physical world change- as the world itself is changed by technology, pollution, wars, and urbanization- some things which has appeared as distortions are now seen as commonplace… Each age redefines the grotesque in terms of what threatens its sense of essential humanity.” (Harpham 463). For instance, Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde was composed at a time during which society was starting to develop social sciences such as psychology, where multiple personality disorder and other dissociative disorders were starting to be diagnosed for the first time in history. In today’s society, writers might draw inspiration for the grotesque from things such as space exploration, climate catastrophe, or rapid development of artificial intelligence.

In addition to using grotesque imagery that reflects the current fears or scientific advancements of a society, authors often use it as a tool to speak out against certain cultural ideals. Being a woman living in the 1950s, Carson McCullers did not adhere to the strict gender roles of her time. Known to dress in trousers and write against the grain of heterosexual convention, McCullers used grotesque imagery to characterize Miss Amelia, the main character in her story Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Miss Amelia is described as “a dark, tall woman with bones and muscles like a man. Her hair was cut short and brushed back from the forehead, and there about her sunburned face was a tense, haggard quality.” (McCullers). This imagery is complete opposite of what one would expect a woman to look like in this time. By portraying Miss Amelia in this way, McCullers is challenging the conventional roles of women during this time, who were expected to dress and behave in a feminine, housewife-like way. Miss Amelia was also described in the story as having a total lack of interest in her husband, Marvin Macy. This further contributes to McCullers challenging of gender roles and sexuality.

The coupling of the grotesque and Gothic literature is one that has proven to be a favorite among critics. The two compliment each other because they are both associated with vice and disorder. In his scholarly essay titled “Gothic Fiction and the Grotesque”, Maximillian Novak writes, “The secret passageways, caves and grottoes introduced into Gothic fiction by Walpole do not function merely as setting. They evoke the world of psychological terror as surely as, for the romances, a bank of jasmines in an arbor evoked the world of love.” (Novak 59) This statement provides insight about how grotesque imagery can enhance and exaggerate the morbid tone that is often associated with Gothic fiction. As mentioned earlier, by describing characters like Hyde, Cousin Lymon, and Miss Amelia in such absurd and freakish terms, the author is able to evoke a strong reaction from the reader by drawing attention to the character and the purpose he/she/it is intended to serve in the story.

Although Gothic literature and the Grotesque share similar components, there are a few distinctions between them. Gothic is defined by Merriam-Webster as: adj., “of or relating to a style of writing that describes strange or frightening events that take place in mysterious places.” The genre of Gothic literature was started by Horace Walpole in 1765, and has since evolved to include sub genres such as the Southern Gothic. The Grotesque is not considered a type of literature, but rather a literary device used to exaggerate certain Gothic themes. Grotesque imagery serves to draw attention to a particular character or idea rather than the whole setting and tone of the work, as in Gothic fiction.

As demonstrated through the works of Stevenson and McCullers, utilizing the Grotesque in Gothic literature is a highly effective way to deliver a message to the reader in a way that is bound to cause shock and speculation about the writer’s true intent. Challenging conventional body norms and drawing on political issues through use of grotesque imagery and allegory have been common patterns in Gothic fiction for centuries, and will continue to tie into concerns central to humanistic debate today, including representations of race and gender, government, and globalization.

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Mr Utterson’s Perspective

May 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson employs Utterson as the narrator and voice of the novella, as well as the investigator or detective figure that allows the story to be ‘discovered’ dramatically by the reader. Utterson also provides a contrast as a the voice of reason compared to the supernatural and fantastical elements provided by Jekyll and his experiments. In another turn of meaning, Utterson is used as a representation of the secretive and masquerading Victorian gentleman, who hides his flaws beneath an impeccable and impenetrable facade.

At the beginning of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson uses Utterson to demonstrate a logical response to the horrific story of a man trampling a young girl, as recollected by Enfield, Utterson’s companion. Upon hearing the story, Utterson remarks simply ‘tut tut’, demonstrating his disapproval of Hyde’s behaviour, but with very little emotion. This is typical of the Victorian gentleman and demonstrates to the reader that despite his supposed practice of not interfering with others, Utterson is unwillingly curious about the sordid affairs of others. In this way, he is beginning to contradict himself, as in the opening of the novella Utterson states, ‘I incline to Cain’s heresy […] I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.’ Here, Utterson is declaring that he will not interfere in the affairs of his ‘brother’ and will not stand in the way of any wrongdoings. However, we know this is not true, as by a few pages later Utterson is involving himself in the story of Hyde and the trampled girl. Furthermore, throughout the rest of the book, Utterson is curious and near obsessed with discovering the truth of Jekyll, who in this instance represents Cain, Utterson’s ‘brother’ who condemns himself to hell through his wrongdoings. Utterson’s immediate contradiction links to the theme of reputation in the book, where Victorian society was obsessed with their public image and would hide the dark aspects of their lives. Utterson’s contradiction between the passive character he chooses to present and the obsessive, investigative character he really possesses is an example of the hypocritical nature of victorian society, and also links to the idea that everyone is dual in nature. Utterson has two opposing characters of passive and assertive, just has Dr. Jekyll has his own character and that of Mr. Hyde.

Utterson is also used to demonstrate the effects of the horrific story on ordinary people. Utterson is haunted by Hyde and even dreams of him, reinforcing to the reader the image of Hyde as a repulsive and truly frightening character. Utterson is described as having ‘tossed to and fro’ as he dreamt, showing the lawyer’s fear of Hyde. This encourages the reader to also feel fear, and as we trust Utterson as a logical character and we view his fear of Hyde, and therefore of man’s duality, as inescapable and rational. As Utterson is described as a ‘lover of the sane’, demonstrating how he is a sensible character, his opinions can be trusted and therefore replicated by the reader. Furthermore, Utterson’s love of order contrasts the chaos caused by Jekyll, who disrupts the order of nature. Here, Stevenson is teaching the reader that you cannot separate good and evil, as it is Utterson, the blend of good and evil, who restores balance by the end of the novel, and it is Jekyll who disrupts it. Indeed, the disruption is first caused by Jekyll’s alter ego, and can only be resolved once Utterson has discovered the truth and Jekyll, and therefore Hyde, have died. Utterson is also used as a narrator so that the reader discovers the plot in a dramatic and mysterious way, as we discover the truth through Utterson’s research and discoveries. Utterson is used to collect the information told through various mediums and characters, and thus compacts the story and makes him Stevenson’s envoy to the reader.

Finally, Utterson is used to hint at the duality of all men and society, particularly Victorian society. Despite being presented as on the whole reputable, trustworthy and slightly dull, Stevenson makes several hints to Utterson having a darker side. For instance, the very first page of the novella describes Utterson as ‘long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable.’ This contradiction immediately demonstrates the duality of Utterson’s character and sets up the idea that everyone has two sides to their being. By showing that even the most respectable of men to have a dual nature, Stevenson is teaching the reader that no one is exempt from duality and we are all bound to that other half. He is teaching the reader that it must remain a part of you, and if you try to separate yourself from it, just as Jekyll does, it will end grievously. Moreover, Stevenson hinting at Utterson’s dubious side is also a comment on society as a whole. Stevenson is remarking that the whole of society has a corrupt and evil nature within it, but everyone is hiding from it. He is showing how hypocritical society is, for despite having darker sides to their personality, Utterson and the other characters are still horrified at Jekyll’s transformation to Hyde. This can also be read as Stevenson’s own horror at what man is capable of, and a demonstration of what are reactions are when we are confronted with the bleak reality of our nature. Utterson is also shown as the archetype of the Victorian gentleman through his fear of scandal. He prioritises his reputation above all else, and is plagued by the ‘terror of the law’, which again hints at a corrupt and secretive side to Utterson. The lawyer cannot discuss what he learns for fear of keeping up appearances, fearing a scandal.

Indeed, it is interesting that his name is possibly a pun for ‘Utters-none’, reinforcing the idea that he will not share what he discovers of Jekyll to the police or anyone else. It is left unclear why he does this, as it could be because of his obsession over reputation, but more sinisterly, his silence could be from his realisation that he or anyone else could have been in exactly the same position of Jekyll, with the exception that their evil side is within them, and does not have corporeal form like Hyde does. Despite these connotations of silence, Utterson is used for structural effect, and to allow the reader to view Jekyll’s story from an external and ambiguous view. Yet Utterson is also used as a representation of the typical Victorian gentleman, who reminds the reader that Jekyll’s duality is present within all of society and within every person.

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Duality and Complexity in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

May 21, 2019 by Essay Writer

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is a novel which is arguably entirely about duality. The most obvious example is of course that of the contrast between Jekyll and Hyde themselves, but underneath that is a multitude of smaller oppositions, such as dark and light; private and public; and animal and man, which collectively underline and strengthen the feeling of duality which permeates the novella. This essay will examine several of these dualities, how they interact and how they enhance the themes and messages of the story itself.

The relationship between dark and light is one which is repeatedly addressed throughout the story. While it is common in many types of novel, it has particular significance in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, as there are characters onto which the reader can directly imprint dark and light. Hyde is repeatedly characterized in dark ways; during his first appearance in the story, in Enfield’s recounting of the night the girl was trampled, he is described as possessing a “black, sneering coolness” (p.10) and, for contrast, the doctor is described on the previous page as being of “no particular… colour” (p.9). In addition, when the doctor looks at Hyde, he is described as turning “sick and white” (p.9). Jekyll’s change in demeanor after the murder of Carew is also described in these terms; his face is described as seeming to “open and brighten” (p.29). Following the meeting between Dr. Lanyon and Mr. Hyde, as is revealed in Lanyon’s letter later in the story, Jekyll sends Utterson a message and this section is replete with images of dark and light. The content of the message is described as “darkly mysterious” (p.30), and the portion which is shared with the reader shows that Jekyll is also thinking in these terms; he demands of Utterson that he be allowed to go his “own dark way” (p.30) and suggests that by acquiescing to his wish for isolation, Utterson would “lighten [his] destiny” (p.30). There are many other examples throughout the text, and Hyde is almost always associated with darkness (only once is Hyde described in ‘light’ terms; just after Utterson meets him for the first time, he is said to be “pale and dwarfish” (p.17)). Even characters’ appraisals of Hyde’s temperament include this dichotomy; Utterson describes him as possessing “black secrets” (p.19), and again directly compares him to Jekyll, whose worst secrets, according to Utterson, are “like sunshine” (p.19). This comparison extends even to the description of setting and place. Stevenson describes a “haggard shaft of daylight [which] would glance in between the swirling wreaths” (p.23), and streetlamps illuminating a scene in “a regular pattern of light and shadow” (p.15). The close relationship between dark and light is a recurring technique throughout the story; rarely is the concept of ‘dark’ mentioned without a corresponding mention of ‘light’ somewhere in the text nearby. Furthermore, the juxtaposition between light and dark is also addressed several times in the novella; people who are looking at Hyde, or thinking about him, are often said to be white or pale. The doctor in Enfield’s tale is one example, as is Jekyll’s reaction to Utterson’s mention of Hyde’s name during their conversation about his will – “the large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips” (p.20). Lanyon, too, is described as having “grown pale” (p.29) after seeing Hyde transform into Jekyll. If dark and light are accepted as metaphors for good and bad, the effect here is that characters’ goodness is intensified upon seeing Hyde, in much the same way that a light patch appears lighter when next to something dark. The interweaving of these two concepts serves to make an overall point about the overarching duality of Jekyll and Hyde themselves; as is made clear throughout Jekyll’s full statement of the case, the dark (evil) side of man and the light (virtuous) side, while being opposed by definition, are nevertheless lashed together by necessity. This is also the case for dark and light themselves; where there is no light, there is dark, so despite their opposition they are two sides of the same coin.

Another pairing to which that analogy is applicable is that of public and private. Especially in Victorian society, known for its puritanical bent and clear-cut distinction between lower and upper classes, public and private faces often had to be very different. The first example in the text of someone curtailing their wants due to concerns about propriety is Utterson, who is said to drink gin to “mortify a taste for vintages” (p.7). He is said, on the same page, to enjoy the theatre but not to have attended a show in twenty years. While Utterson does not precisely ‘let loose’ whilst at home, these details imply that his private desires are such that they need to be contained; this is again addressed when he is reading “some dry divinity” (p.12) on his desk, seemingly for a similar purpose as drinking the gin. Utterson’s feelings on the matter are actually baldly stated at one point, where he is identified as a man “to whom the fanciful was the immodest” (p.13). The conflict between Jekyll’s private and public lives plays out rather more bombastically than Utterson’s, but the inclusion of these small details show that these aspects are present even in the unlikeliest candidates and provides a through-line, linking the men together. Naturally, the gulf between Jekyll’s public and private selves is the main thrust of the novella, and much of the material illustrating this point surrounds him. One of the ways in which Stevenson highlights this is through the mention of windows; a window can be considered a gateway through which one can view the private from a public place and vice versa. Hyde’s house is described at the beginning of the novella as “show[ing] no window” (p.8), emphasizing the inability of the characters and reader to view what goes on in there; additionally, the block at the end of Jekyll’s garden is said to be a “dingy windowless structure” (p.25). Utterson and Enfield finding Jekyll at the window also reinforces this effect; their ability to see him nearly leads them to witness his transformation into Hyde, or his private self, as is suggested by the haste with which he slams the window shut. This is the only time when Jekyll is seen near or through a window, and it is the last time he appears in the story’s chronology, so it is arguably a foreshadowing of Jekyll’s forthcoming exposure and the illumination of his private life. Connected to this symbolism is the repeated mention of eyes in the story; often, characters in the story make judgements about others based on their eyes, as if they betray something deeper than the person’s general manner. In this sense, eyes function a lot like windows, allowing access to private areas of information. This begins in the very first paragraph of the novella; Utterson has “something eminently human beacon[ing] from his eye” (p.7), prompting the reader to trust him and identify with him. Also, after Utterson’s first mention of Hyde to Jekyll, “there came a blackness about [Jekyll’s] eyes” (p.20) – this ties in with the idea of Hyde being represented by darkness. When Lanyon becomes ill, Utterson judges the state of his character and health not by his general appearance, but specifically by “a look in the eye” (p.29). This relationship between eyes and private thoughts is made more overt during Jekyll’s full statement of the case; when he writes about how close Hyde is to him, he describes it as “closer than a wife, closer than an eye” (p.61).

The difference between animal and man is also an important dichotomy in the story. Hyde is very often described in animalistic terms; although not looking like an animal, necessarily, his movements and speech are often described as such. The first parallels are in Hyde’s encounter with Utterson; when Utterson says his name, he shrinks back “with a hissing intake of the breath” (p.16). Additionally, on the next page, he “snarl[s] aloud into a savage laugh” (p.17). On this same page, Utterson finds Hyde “hardly human” (p.17). Later in the story the comparisons are drawn more noticeably; for example, Hyde attacks Carew “with ape-like fury” (p.22), when Poole sees him wearing his mask, he moves “like a monkey” (p. 37) and when Utterson is breaking down the door of the cabinet, Hyde screeches “as of mere animal terror” (p.38). Several other animalistic words are used throughout the story to describe Hyde’s actions, including “roaring” (p.56), “mauled” (p.56) and “growl” (p.58). These points are especially relevant for two reasons; firstly, the then-recent publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species setting forth a scientific theory in which humans and animals were, in essence, indistinguishable; and secondly, Victorian society being as image-conscious and puritanical as it was, ‘animal’ behaviur would be considered a disgrace, and the idea that humans might be descended from animals was practically heretical. It is arguable that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is, at least in part, conveying that humankind has both an animal side and a refined, cultured side, which the Victorians would have been considered to be polar opposites. However, this interpretation does not tell the full story, as Patricia Ferrer-Medina states in Wild Humans: “given his brutal nature, Hyde’s behavior is surprisingly civil: he refers to himself as a gentleman” (Ferrer-Medina, 2007, p.11). Mr. Hyde is shown several times throughout the story to be capable of refinement; when he first meets Utterson, he agrees to doing a favor for him with the words “with pleasure” (p.16), and he also furnishes Utterson with his address once he has seen his face – a social nicety which is far from animalistic.

During his meeting with Lanyon, too, he is shown as capable of maintaining a certain level of decorum, saying “I beg your pardon, Dr. Lanyon” (p.45) and being described as speaking “civilly” (p.45). The idea of Hyde as an animal (reinforced by his name being a homophone for “hide”, as in the hide of an animal) is not completely congruous, then, with his characterization throughout the novel; while he elicits extremely negative reactions from others, it is not often due to his behavior. This is arguably a comment on how animals do not necessarily have to act like animals all the time in order to be counted as such, and indeed that perhaps even humans themselves could be animals, as was suggested in Darwin’s paper. Jekyll’s statement that “man is not truly one, but truly two” (p.48) is perhaps the most revealing comment on this issue; it can easily be taken to mean that humans are not only cultured, but also have an animalistic dark side which is a remnant of our evolutionary history. This is further strengthened by Jekyll mentioning “the thorough and primitive duality of man” (p.49), the word ‘primitive’ potentially referring to humankind’s animal past as well as somewhat mirroring the word ‘primate’, since they have the same root word. Jekyll’s insistence when describing himself looking in the mirror as Hyde that “this, too, was myself” (p.51) is the final piece of evidence which supports this interpretation. In Wild Humans, Patricia Ferrer-Medina states: “The concept of evolution is also mentioned to explain why Hyde is smaller in stature than Jekyll. The doctor explains that because he had exercised his evil side less than his good side, when the evil side was given free rein it was “less robust and less developed.”” (Ferrer-Medina, 2007, p.10). This speaks of the evolutionary influence on Stevenson’s work, an influence which, crucially, placed the concepts of animal and man on the same spectrum, rather than being opposites.

There are also some interesting connections between these established dualities. For example, while a window is representative of private and public, it is also representative of light and dark; a window lets in light just as easily as it may let secrets out. There is also a correlation between the dualities themselves, as the dark is often an effective shield for private affairs, keeping them hidden from the public. One of the ironies of the text is that when Hyde’s door is broken by Utterson, he is found dead, but in a brightly-lit, cozy room. One would expect Hyde, as a figure of malice, brutishness and animality, to reside primarily in the dark, as would be in keeping with his characterization throughout the novella. However, the room being bright and warm is actually representative of these dualities, in that Jekyll’s private life (i.e. Mr. Hyde himself) is suddenly being illuminated.

The concepts of public and private are also important within the text itself, as Jekyll uses them to disassociate himself from the consequences of his actions, and to avoid moral responsibility for them. Jekyll says, in his final letter, that he allowed himself to become distanced from the actions of Hyde since “it was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired” (p.53). This puts forward Jekyll’s seeming idea that one’s private self should not be reflected, at all, in one’s public self. In In The Company of Strangers, Ronald Thomas writes:

“Jekyll’s consistent absenting of himself from his own texts accords with his purpose in creating Hyde in the first place: to deny himself moral agency, to cease being an “I.” This intention is fulfilled at the end of Jekyll’s statement in the hopeless confusion with which the first- and third-person pronouns are used; the writer finally begins referring to both Jekyll and Hyde as “them,” as autonomous in other words (95).” (Thomas, 1986, p.8/9))

By separating the two parts of himself, the public and private, at the end of the text Jekyll himself cannot identify with either one.

Ultimately, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is replete with dualities; these are only three examples, but in many ways they are interwoven and self-reinforcing in such a way that they lend an extreme depth to the text, both in intrinsic and extrinsic readings. The presence of so many oppositions gives the novella a great sense of ambiguity, since they are so often mixed and matched, and it also (perhaps crucially) underlines the overarching theme: as put by Jekyll, that “man is not truly one, but truly two” (p.48).


Thomas, R. R. (1986) ‘In the Company of Strangers: Absent Voices in Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Beckett’s Company’. Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 32 no. 2, pp. 157 – 173

Ferrer-Medina, P. (2007) ‘The Culture/Nature Duality in Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Comparatist, vol. 31, pp. 67 – 87

Stevenson, R. L. (2003) ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. New York: WW Norton.

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Liberation of Language in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

April 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

All language exists with two definitions. The primary, literal meaning is defined as what the object physically is, and the secondary, symbolic meaning is what the object represents. An object’s literal meaning remains a stationary constant, as it exists in a physical reality, and can only change if the object also physically changes. The symbolic meaning, however, is subjective to an individual’s perspective. Therefore, if a form becomes ‘rigid’, the symbolic meaning is also stationary and all language is restricted to producing a single interpretation. Language becomes ‘ready-made’ in both literal and symbolic meaning. To ‘revolt’ from this, R. L. Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray both offer alternative symbolic meanings for the same, set language. Through this, language is only ‘ready-made’ syntactically, and is liberated from the ‘bondage of traditional form’ though development of the symbolic meaning.

A ‘ready-made’ language was originally created to describe a normative, human reality. As each novel encounters the ‘other’, a ‘double’ that does not fully belong in this reality, ‘ready-made’ language becomes inadequate in description. Freud’s theory on the Uncanny argues for an uneasiness in the heimlich developing to represent the unheimlich. Jekyll’s double is both familiar in his human resemblance, and disturbingly unfamiliar in his deformity. [1] To describe the unfamiliar accurately, a new language must be created. To transition from a set, traditional language to a new, unfamiliar vocabulary presents difficulty. Mr Enfield, as a model of the reasonable, middle-class gentlemen, embodies this struggle in his attempt to articulate Mr Hyde’s features in an inadequate, pre-formed language: ‘He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.’ [2] Initially, Mr Enfield describes Hyde as ‘deformed’. However, he seemingly decides this singular adjective incompetent in offering an accurate portrayal of Hyde. The description transitions instead to a ‘strong feeling’, that features deformity, but now contains further unidentified horrors, made increasingly grotesque through the inability to determine a literal description. The only certainty present is in emotion that is ‘strong’ and asserts Hyde ‘must’ be deformed, implying a Tennyson-esque concept. Language limits emotion, as abstract feelings have to be expressed through a ‘ready-made’ vocabulary. Through this inability to describe Hyde in a ‘ready-made’ language, Enfield can neither classify him in a ‘ready-made’ category. Consequently, he addresses Hyde as ‘he’ as opposed to ‘it’, identifying the ‘other’ as physically closer to himself, Utterson and Lanyon than with any class of creature. Almost subconsciously, Enfield aligns Mr Hyde with Dr Jekyll, forcing the ‘unheimlich’ closer to the ‘heimlich’ form. Initially, Hyde is assumed to wholly inhabit the unheimlich ‘other’. This sense of uneasiness therefore emerges from the inability to classify Hyde in ‘ready-made’ categories of ‘human’ or ‘animal’. The new language that must be created only slightly differs from traditional form, and exists as both familiar and unfamiliar.

Stevenson struggles to mold a ‘ready-made’ language to a stationary image of Hyde’s unfamiliar form. The Picture of Dorian Gray instead encounters the limitations of a pre-formed language through the ‘other’ existing not as human, but as an inanimate object capable of human activity. This variety of personification requires a new set of verbs. The portrait is seemingly supernatural, yet it’s non-human actions are restricted to a human vocabulary. Wilde creates a conscious imbalance between vocabulary and meaning by using ‘heimlich’, pre-existing words to describe a supernatural scene that requires new symbolism: What was that loathsome red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening, on one of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated blood? [1] Dorian does not attempt, as Enfield does, to immediately identify either the substance, or the emotion it creates within him. Instead, Dorian reverts to a question to suggest he must gain the knowledge he lacks from an outside source. The same struggle of identification that Enfield encounters is present. Dorian can see the ‘red dew’, but cannot decide upon a noun to accurately describe the vision, presenting an uneasiness in being unable to identify the ‘unheimlich’. The consideration of, firstly, ‘dew’ presents an Eden-like image that traditionally would dictate a new beginning. Wilde inverts this through irony, to suggest the painting as taking, rather than giving, life. In progressing to ‘sweat’, the substance still remains temporarily less threatening than blood, however loses the innocence associated with ‘dew’. Syntactically, and mentally, Dorian only identifies the substance as bearing the closest resemblance to ‘blood’ at the end. Thus far, a ‘ready-made’ language is adequate in description, as all these substances exist in a human world. The previously stationary symbolic meaning is then taken from a traditional context to the unfamiliar Gothic through the moisture’s origin. The blood has ‘sweated’, not from flesh, but from the canvas. This action forces the picture to ‘revolt’ from it’s identity as an inanimate object, to a supernatural context where it becomes partially human. A ‘revolt’ from ‘ready-made’ language –that is used to describe a mortal, earthly world –is therefore necessary. Neither Dorian nor Hyde belong to this world, and cannot be described by it’s language.

Symons urges a revolt in both ‘ready-made language’ and ‘form’. In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Stevenson revolts from this traditional form through narrative style. Instead of adhering to a singular narrative voice, the different narrative perspectives allow the novella to exist simultaneously as a crime report and memoir. However, even these distinct categories are not definite. Dr Lanyon’s narrative is a separate chapter yet is interrupted by Jekyll’s epistolary, suggesting that a claim to an account does not deem it exclusively one perspective. ‘Dr Lanyon’s Narrative’ focuses on physical interpretation: ‘as I looked, there came, I thought, a change –he seemed to swell –his face became suddenly black’ (Stevenson, p.41). If this novella is categorised as a crime report, the third person narration is the ‘traditional form’, as the perspective traditionally approaches the crime from the outside. Lanyon is detached in the action of seeing –‘I looked’ –and reporting what physically appears –‘his face became suddenly black’ –in front of him. However, this sense of detachment is also limiting. He restricts identity to the basic and external, and can only describe Jekyll in a child-like context of colour, with ‘black’, one-dimensionally representing death. Despite initially categorizing Stevenson’s novella as a crime report, Lanyon’s perspective is still subjective. He reports what he ‘thought’ ‘seemed’ to be real, suggesting that an attempt to remain within a traditional narrative form is, in itself, difficult. Stevenson perhaps deems Lanyon’s narrative as necessary to identify the bondage of a traditional, wholly aesthetic, third person narrative. As this form is restricted to exterior identity, Lanyon’s analysis cannot extend to the possibility of psychological motive behind action. ‘Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case’ is therefore necessary to this fiction also, as the title suggests a forensically accurate, physical description is not a ‘full statement’. In moving from this detective genre –that identifies who has committed the crime– to a first-person, psychological account, –why the crime was committed– Stevenson completes the narrative through adding the possibility of emotion. Only through revolting from the rigidity of one narrative is the reader allowed to examine and consequently sympathize with Jekyll’s actions, that are revealed as compulsive.

As previously established, Stevenson ‘revolts’ from traditional form through the act of writing. Wilde also revolts from the ‘bondage’ of traditional form through concept. Instead of language, The Picture of Dorian Gray interacts with art. Traditionally, Victorian art carried a political or social message, such as Ford Maddox Brown’s ‘Work’, that depicts reality to provoke emotional reaction and subsequently action. Wilde breaks this ‘bondage’ through the aestheticism movement of the 1890’s. His novel both exists as and contains ‘art for art’s sake’, revoking any responsibility previously associated with the action of viewing art. Dorian’s picture is created to provoke pleasure, not to induce social action: ‘Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act’ (Wilde, p.198). Wilde perhaps condemns this extreme lack of traditional form, and the responsibility that accompanies it. Aestheticism refuses not only ‘action’, but the ‘desire to act’, a drive that future action is dependent upon. However, identifying future action, if the activity is not specified, as either good or evil is almost impossible. Removing this desire does not deem Dorian as either antithesis, but creates an indifference to responsibility and consequence. Whilst his hand does not personally murder Sibyl Vane, his indifference inadvertently causes her death. A ‘revolt’ to aestheticism can therefore be condemned as dangerously liberal. In refusing the social responsibility traditionally associated with art, Dorian refuses a moral responsibility also, suggesting that a lack of ‘bondage’ allows for too much freedom. This unsustainability, exhibited by Dorian’s inability to uphold a visual perfection, suggests aestheticism can only ever exist as a ‘revolt’ and will not develop as the new ‘traditional form’ of art. This ‘revolt’ in art is initially harmless, as Wilde claims the painting has ‘no influence’ on Dorian’s actions. He temporarily achieves this by splitting his conscience and physical body between painting and the human form. Yet, this separation does not consider mental influence. The painting haunts Dorian’s mind until it, ironically, does affect his actions. In attempting to engage with aestheticism to ‘revolt’ from the ‘traditional form’ of art, Wilde almost returns to again to a traditional form. The picture becomes art with a meaning and an inescapable responsibility. Bondage of form, even when attempted, cannot be easily broken.

Thus far, the form, both the ‘traditional’ and the ‘revolt’, has been examined as stationary concepts. The traditional form is implied as stationary through it’s ‘bondage’, and the ‘revolt’ exists as a new form, yet is still stationary. Walter Pater argues for a development, that ‘every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face.’ [1] Pater focuses on the transition between forms, highlighting this experience as more important than the form you either begin, or finalize with. Dr Jekyll views bondage as, specifically, the human body that remains in a ‘traditional’, singular form. The transition to Mr Hyde is, in Dr Jekyll’s perspective, growing ‘perfect’, as his experiment is essentially a success in his liberation from a singular form. However, in choosing to break free of this bondage, Jekyll can never again return to a singular physical form: ‘if I slept, or even dozed for a moment in my chair, it was always as Hyde that I awakened’ (Stevenson, p.53). Without this bondage to a single body, the boundaries between Jekyll’s two forms also cease to exist. The narrative ‘I’ claims Jekyll’s voice, yet is simultaneously conscious that he has ‘awakened’ as Hyde. The human form, ironically, still remains as a bondage for Dr Jekyll. He is successful in breaking free from a physical bondage, yet his mind remains imprisoned within a different form. Despite Pater’s focus on experience, the transition occurs during ‘moments’ where Jekyll is in a ‘doze’, and barely conscious. The experience therefore belongs to the ‘perfect’ form he becomes, and the reader is refused access to Hyde’s narration. The transformation itself is not witnessed, as if the reader too is in a state of semi-consciousness. Even in Pater’s idea of development, Stevenson introduces new ‘rigid’ forms. ‘Always’ suggests a definite result to the process, and simply a transition to a different, certain form. To escape wholly from the ‘bondage’ of form, whether traditional or not, Jekyll must eternally remain within this ‘moment’, an action unsustainable in itself.

The concept of ‘bondage’ has been explored as both negative in its restricting influence, and positive in it’s implication of necessary social boundaries. Pater’s statement defines growth as moving towards perfection, suggesting that any ‘bondage’ that refuses movement is a negative concept. The Picture of Dorian Gray instead considers Pater’s idea of growth as a negative aspect. Wilde extends this concept beyond a ‘moment’ to an entire lifespan, defining growth as a submission to the bondage of a physically decaying human form. The moment where Dorian anticipates this exists as his realization that youthful beauty is invaluable, displacing the vocal proclamation ‘I would give my soul for that!’: Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen […] the grace of his figure broken and deformed (Wilde, p.26-27). The image of Dorian’s future self is aligned with Hyde’s present condition in their claim to deformity. When Enfield describes Hyde, deformity equates to a degenerative, physical form. Instead, Dorian’s ‘deformity’ relates to his ‘grace’, suggesting his worth is based entirely on a socially accepted aesthetic beauty. An attempt to alter ‘traditional form’ is therefore attempted. Dorian temporarily inhabits a transcendent, immortal form and attempts to assert it as the traditional human form by living his entire life through it. The human body is not capable of liberation, as it is for Jekyll, but acts as a cage that will stunt Dorian’s social aspirations by becoming inadequate in decay. Through looking to the future, Wilde pre-empts a process that will occur after Pater’s ‘moment’ of perfection. It remains impossible to move beyond the highest level of perfection. After Pater’s ‘moment’ has passed, the human form cannot develop any further, and will begin to degenerate. For Dorian, the ‘bondage’ to a particular form becomes an ambition. However, to remain as a ‘traditional’ form is still defined as a mortal, physical bondage. Instead he attempts to ‘revolt’ from form, not to Pater’s development, but to a form that will not decay, but still resemble a human. Therefore, that action of looking forward to an impending moment acts as the defining moment where Dorian decides to escape the ‘bondage’ of decay that a traditional human is subject to.

To ‘revolt’ from ‘traditional form’ has consequences. Society punishes both Dr Jekyll and Dorian Gray for revolting from tradition as individuals. Dorian is forced to unite his conscience with the ‘bondage’ of his physical frame, returning once again to a conventional human form. In parallel, Dr Jekyll is refused existence in a reality where he can inhabit a form that accepts no social responsibility. For social change to occur in an established culture, it must occur as a gradual, collective change to a new tradition. The attempts of both protagonists can therefore only ever exist as an individual ‘revolt’, and will never develop to a reformed tradition. Society punishes both Dorian and Jekyll for revolting from tradition, deeming the death of the rebels as the only method to maintain this ‘bondage’.

Bibliography Pater, W., The Renaissance (Oxford: OUP, 1986)

Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (London: Penguin, 2003)

Stevenson, R. L., The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004)

Wilde, O., The Picture of Dorian Gray (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1998)

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