Key Themes for Dr Jekyll


Reputation

 Dr Jekyll is actually very “fond of the respect” he tends to attract from the general public, which, when taken to the extreme, leads to an obsession with image and reputation. He puts on an excessively agreeable façade, in order to present himself as a respectable fellow, and along with the extreme high comes an equally extreme low. He feels an “almost morbid sense of shame” and/or guilt for his darker desires, because he’s simply obsessed with the public perception of himself as a good man. This leads him to a “profound duplicity of life”, and thereby creating the ever-so-attractive concept of splitting away from the most undesirable parts of himself. Stevenson may actually use this complex of Jekyll’s as a commentary on societal expectations of supposedly “respectable” men.

Duality

Jekyll gives his evil side a separate name, house, maid- essentially a whole new set of personal qualities and possessions, in order to actually distance himself from Edward Hyde and all that may be associated with him. He provides him with a house in a different part of town, and dresses him “very plainly”. This is a vital aspect of the relationship between Hyde and Jekyll due to the fact that Jekyll’s good side represents an honourable gentleman, whereas Stevenson uses Hyde’s slightly poorer, less attractive self in order to paint the social attitude towards lower-income people during the Victorian Era. Hyde is evil and deplorable, whilst being situated in a less-than-respectable part of town. Coincidence?

Jekyll often switches between third and first person narrative when referring to Hyde, as if he can’t quite accept that they in fact are the same person “I find it in my heart to pity him”

Science and Religion

Jekyll lives in a Victorian society, and is known to enjoy religious texts. His work leads to “the mystic and the transcendental”, however the sheer nature of the work he does completely opposes religious belief. During the 19th century, the constant butting of heads between science and religion caused a lot of social tension, as most people believed the Biblical version of creation, whereas scientists were beginning to insist on the theory of evolution, which disproved the events outlined by the Bible. Many Victorians thought this was a dangerous view to have, as it implies science had the power to create life, which in our case of Mr Hyde, it is almost applicable. “The temptation of a discovery so singular and profound” motivated Jekyll to create Hyde, which may people would describe as doing God’s work, and obviously disagree with.

Secrecy

Stevenson uses his own narrative throughout the novel and particularly utilises gaps within it, in order to make the audience suspicious of the sections that are being purposely being left out. Utterson has apparently committed “many ill things” yet the topic is kept relatively vague in order to make the memory of said “ill things” appear shameful and filled with guilt. Furthermore, it is never explained to the audience where Enfield was returning from at the incredibly late hour of 3am. Leaving out small pieces of information in this fashion creates the illusion that the information not being provided might be scandalous, if not incriminating.

The characters presented with gentleman-like character traits, more often than not, tend to avoid speaking about unpleasant things or events, ie: Enfield describing a young girl being trampled as “a bad story”, which seriously downplays the seriousness and remoteness of such a horrible event; he simply describes it as something of the fantasy world, as opposed to reality.