Discuss Stevenson’s portrayal of the dual nature of man’s personality

Discuss Stevenson’s portrayal of the dual nature of man’s personality

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Discuss Stevenson’s portrayal of the dual nature of man’s personality
in the novel: Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde” was deeply influenced by a number of diverse factors. Stevenson
came from a family with a history of lawyers, doctors and other
similar professions. His nanny was a very devoted Christian and from a
young age used to teach him wrong from right. The novel was based on a
nightmare he had and he constructed it from there. Another factor is
Darwin’s theory of evolution; in “The origin of species” published in
1859 in it he states that men are descended from apes. Another factor
which very much influenced Stevenson’s portrayal of the duality of man
was Sigmund Freud’s psychological theory. laws. According to Freud, we
are all born with our own id, an important part of our personality
because it allows us to get our basic needs met. Freud believed that
the id is based on our pleasure principle. In other words, the id
wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the
reality of the situation. A good example of this is a baby; the id is
dominant in his personality, when he wants food, it cries. During the
Victorian era however people found it very hard to believe these
theories as they went against natural In the novel Dr. Jekyll is like
an ego the outer part of you which everyone sees and Mr. Hyde is like
the id the part of us we all try to suppress as it is unacceptable in
society. When the id wants something, nothing else is important.

The novel “The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was published
in 1886 during the Victorian times. It was originally intended as a
frightening Christmas tale. The protagonist in this novel is a man who
has a dual identity. The title "Jekyll and Hyde" sounds like seek and
hide which might indicate what the story is about and why those
characters have those names. Perhaps Stevenson advocates that
throughout the book a game of hide and seek is being played this
creates a feeling of mystery and suspense and the reader is
continually captivated. Dr Jekyll created Mr. Hyde in his somewhat
warped view that the soul is made up of two separate divisions: the
good and the bad his mission was to find a drug that separates the two
so that they two do not have to live in constant competition. We can
tell that Stevenson used Freud’s ideas in when he says; “The man is

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not truly one but two” this is the basis of Dr. Jekyll’s identity.

The two identities contrast with each other very much. Dr. Jekyll is a
highly respected member of the community; everyone looks up to him and
expects the best he is described as a “A large well made smooth faced
man of about fifty.” He is also said to be slightly sly however he is
exactly the opposite and very kind; “Something of a slyish cast
perhaps but every mark of capacity and kindness”. Overall he is
portrayed as a very philanthropic character.

During the whole course of the novel, as I mentioned before, there is
a constant link between the character of Hyde and animalistic images.
Hyde is also described to be big, clumsy and childlike: Whenever he is
described in the duration of the book the person always says his
eccentricity can not be identified. It wasn’t like a man it was like
some damned juggernaut”. There also something very disturbing about
Hyde’s appearance that was indescribable:

“He gave the impression of deformity without any nameable malformation”

“He’s an extra-ordinary looking man, yet I can’t name anything out of
the way”

In Victorian Edinburgh there were two cities. On one hand was New
Town, respectable, conservative, deeply religious, and polite. On the
other was a much more bohemian Edinburgh, this was often symbolized by
prostitutes, brothels and foreigners. In the novel each ‘character’
has a different house, which very much mirrors these different types
of society. Stevenson has emphasized his protagonist by giving them
contrasting houses to match their identities. Hyde’s house is in a
‘lower class’ community. He lives in quite an old house two storey
high, it has no windows and the door has neither bell nor knocker.
There are” Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the
panels” Hyde’s house is quite surprising because although it looks
like this on the outside on the inside it is “Furnished with luxury
and good taste”. Jekyll’s house however looks nice inside and out,

The iron bars on the window of Jekyll’s house are also significantly
symbolic. Jekyll has imprisoned himself both literally and
figuratively. Just as he has literally imprisoned himself, Jekyll
feels imprisoned by the constraints of society and this feeling
motivates his precarious experiments with Mr. Hyde.

In my opinion Hyde represents the id in society. It is obviously
unacceptable in society to fulfill these inner desires no matter how
tempted you are. Hyde however commits some very gruesome crimes at the
beginning of the novel he “Tramples calmly over a child’s body” later
on in the novel he also murders Sir Danvers Carew with a cane.

When Lanyon sees that Dr. Jekyll has left all his possessions to Hyde
he suspects that he is blackmailing him: “Poor Harry Jekyll….my mind
misgives me he is in deep waters”. No one however at any time suspects
such a ludicrous idea as two polarized personalities. In these times
it was thought very unorthodox and deeply discourteous to even have
such thoughts. It was very much an idea of religion in opposition to

In conclusion, we can see Stevenson has explained that the struggle
between the two natures of man cannot exist. He states that in order
for both to exist we must suppress the inner desires which are
unacceptable within society.
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