Homosexuality in Robert Louis Stevenson The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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References to Homosexuality in Stevenson's Jekl and Hyde Stevenson's choice of certain words in the novel is extremely pertinent to a homoerotic reading of the text. In some Victorian circles (and most certainly not in others), certain words had very explicit homosexual connotations. The word "homosexual" seems to have come into the English language around 1869, introduced by a Hungarian named Benkert but not generally used by the British until the 1880s. Yet, according to Theo Aronson, there were other words used at that time to identify the love between the same gender. "Homogenic love," "similisexualism," and "Uranism" were apparently among the more common references to homosexuality. Within the novel, however, the word "homosexual" is never used. If it were, perhaps, then such a homoerotic interpretation as this would be redundant. There are, however, certain, rather ambiguous, words that Stevenson uses that have Victorian homosexual connotations. During their walk together, Utterson and Enfield come across the home of Edward Hyde. After relating his story about Hyde, Enfield refers to the place as "Black Mail House" (8). When asked if he ever inquired about the man who lived therein, Enfield replies, "No sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask" (9). Both of these references to Hyde's home are more direct references to Hyde himself, made by a man who, at least publicly, must acknowledge the distinction between himself and the man who lives in Soho. Poole also makes a reference to Hyde's homosexuality: "Then you must know as well as the rest of us that there was something queer about that gentleman - something that gave a man a turn. . . " (57). During the 19th century, of course, homosexuality was acknowledged by heterosexuals (particularly of the upper classes) as an existing activity among the lower classes - an activity that thrived in London's own East End. Those who were thought to be homosexuals were often blackmailed. With the Labouchere Amendment in 1885, homosexuals faced a greater threat of exposure through blackmail. In fact, "the threat of exposure as a sodomite is the basis of more than half of the prosecutions throughout the eighteenth century" ("Jekyll & Hyde," par. 8). Other Victorian writers, like Oscar Wilde, faced this threat, which often damaged their reputations if the affair ever made it to a court. Enfield's reference to "Queer Street" also denotes a homosexual connotation.
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