The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Themes

Reputation and Victorian Society

  • to a Victorian gentleman, their reputation was very important. Immoral activities and uncontrolled emotions could damage it, and lose them many social advantages. The gentlemen in Jekyll and Hyde value their reputation above all else
  • Utterson doesn't like to gossip in case it reflects badly on another man. He agrees with Enfield never to talk about Hyde
  • they believe in not asking questions about something that isn't their business, in order to protect those involved, and also themselves from whatever it may be - 'the more it looks like Queer street, the less I ask'
  • Utterson is more worried about preserving Jekyll's reputation than bringing Hyde to justice, as after Carew is murdered, 'if it came to trial, your name might appear'
  • Stevenson implies that reputations cannot be trusted as they are based on appearances, as Jekyll is able to conceal his real personality behind a well known name. They are a version of a person that they want the world to see, they do not give a realistic idea of what that person is like
  • the author shows the problems of putting reputation before everything else, as even Utterson, a close friend of Jekyll, struggles to understand the situation, as he cannot see past his good persona. He holds onto the idea of blackmail for as long as possible as he cannot imagine that Jekyll would risk ruining his reputation.
  • Jekyll was more concerned about his reputation than the immorality of his sins, and so creates Hyde to make himself feel better.
  • Jekyll feels free as Hyde as it is the perfect way to conceal his sins, no one suspects they are the same person as their reputations are so vastly different
  • the characters prioritise their appearance above honesty, looking down on immoral activities when in public, but privately indulging in them anyways. Stevenson uses the novella to explore the terrible consequences
  • Victorian society had a very strict set of moral values, and to maintain a good reputation, men had to supress many of their true feelings and desires when in public

Duality of Man

  • Jekyll felt he led a double life even before the birth of Hyde, he was an 'established gentleman', also guilty of 'irregularities' and desires he kept hidden
  • he is convinced 'man is not truly one, but truly two', and he states this as fact. Stevenson suggests he is right as the suppression of sinful desires causes a man to separate himself entirely form them, creating two sides of a person
  • he tries to separate both his sides, but fails as he is 'radically both'
  • Jekyll's two sides are polar opposites, yet they are closely bound together
  • he underestimates his attraction to his bad side, showing that once an man indulges in something prohibitied, there is no coming back from it
  • religious language used for a dramatic contrast: Jekyll is 'distinguished for religion' whereas Hyde is the 'devil' 'Satan's signature upon a face'
  • he has a civilised side and an uncivilised…

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