English IIH, Section 7
15 October 2013
The Duality of Man
In the story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story of a man named Henry Jekyll who has a personality disorder and creates an evil version of himself, Mr. Hyde. Stevenson did not write this story just to tell a story of terror but instead to show that every man has two sides of him, both good and evil. This story also illustrates that society contributes to a man’s dualism. In the novel, the sophisticated, well-groomed and well educated upper class of West London influences Jekyll into having an evil side that is physically and emotionally ugly which is represented as the east side of London. Robert Louis Stevenson uses light and dark imagery as well as extended metaphors to portray how the environment of London has nurtured Jekyll’s duality and that there is duality in every man.
Robert Louis Stevenson uses an extended metaphor to describe the repressed society that Henry Jekyll lives in and to explain why Jekyll feels the need to become evil. In the beginning of the novel, the narrator, Mr. Utterson, an upper class lawyer is on his daily walk with his cousin, Mr. Enfield. Mr. Enfield tells Mr. Utterson that he saw a man named Mr. Hyde who trampled a girl in the street. When Mr. Utterson asks Mr. Enfield if he told anyone else about the incident or if he asked any questions about it, Mr. Enfield states, “I feel very strongly about putting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment. You start a question, and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of the hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name” (Stevenson 9). In the first sentence of this quote when Enfield says that he will not asks questions because “it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment” introduces the environment of the upper class. The men are too scared to ask questions about the strange happenings that they see. Upper class Victorian men were expected to be proper and discuss topics that only apply to their profession and status, so when a man like Mr. Enfield sees something irregular or strange he doesn’t share it with anyone else. Stevenson used this metaphor to show why Jekyll feels the need to hide his personality disorder from his family and peers. Jekyll is scared to ask a question about his need for becoming evil; he is afraid to “start the stone”. As part of the upper class, Jekyll is pressured by men like Mr. Enfield to keep things to himself because if he is scared that if he asks strange or improper questions, others would question his place in society. This is one of the reasons why Jekyll feels the need to become evil in the first place; he cannot always be the well-groomed and proper man of the upper class.
In order to show that inside every man there is both good and evil; Robert Louis Stevenson uses light and dark imagery to describe the dualism inside Hydes’ own body. In the end of the novel when Henry Jekyll narrates his tale of the duality, he describes the transition between the two men. He recalls that, “the most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside…There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet…..like a mill race in my fancy” (Stevenson 57). In the first sentence, Robert Louis Stevenson uses dark imagery and words like, “a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit” to physically describe the pain that Jekyll feels when he takes the potion. Stevenson also uses the descriptive imagery to illustrate the how horrid and dark the east side of London was and that this environment was something Hyde is a part of. Robert Louis Stevenson uses light imagery such as “incredibly sweet” to portray that when man first discovers and reveals his evil side, he experiences an unutterable pleasure instead of feeling guilty. Stevenson uses the detailed words like “indescribably new” because he wants the reader to realize that this pleasure is not happy and giddy, but when man finds this evil, he is reborn and experiences a dark pleasure that is secretly enjoyed. Stevenson’s two descriptions are at two complete ends of the spectrum with one feeling “a grinding of the bones” and one “incredibly sweet”; there is no middle ground between good and evil.
Imagery and metaphors are key elements in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson to show that there is duality in every man which is nurtured by the two very different sides of London. If Henry Jekyll did not feel pressure from the upper class Victorian society that he lived in, the dualism between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would not have been as pronounced and Mr. Hyde would not have overpowered Dr. Jekyll by the end of the novel. Jekyll’s belief that he had to hide his disorder deeply affects his character. Jekyll was scared of what the upper class would think of him if they knew he was Hyde. As a result, Jekyll’s secrecy caused the evil in him to become more powerful than the good. It is important to understand that every man has an evil side and a good side. When horrible crimes are committed in the modern day society like Hyde’s murder, we can understand that every human being possesses some good, even though it is often overshadowed by evil.