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'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' was written in the late 19th century by an
English author named R.L.Stevenson. Victorians were interested in
Darwin's theory of evolution and Stevenson took advantage of this. Not
all classes were educated, so Stevenson had to aim for higher-class
people. Jekyll would be the same class as the readers, whereas Hyde
would be unknown to such people because he was associated with the
Stevenson was influenced by Darwinism in the novella to involve
Victorian Society. When "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" was released, Charles
Darwin had just revealed his theory of man evolving from apes. When
the Victorians read this book, Hyde was referred to as evidence of
Darwin's theory by the use of phrases such as: "With ape-like fury"
and "Like a monkey, jumped", which gives you an image of primate
Another thing that Stevenson referred to is the Faust legend from the
fifteenth century. Dr Jekyll gives Dr Lanyon a choice, very much
similar to Faust's. Faust drove himself so hard that the Devil
appeared and gave him the choice, to stay normal and behold the
restrictions of humanity, or he could have all the power and knowledge
that he ever wanted, but at a price. At the end of twenty-four years
Faust would lose his soul to the Devil. In Jekyll and Hyde, Lanyon is
given the choice of wealth and wisdom, or to be none the wiser. They
both made the same choice. Faust went to Hell, unable to go back on
his promise, and Lanyon died a few weeks later through shock from what
Most of the themes in 'Jekyll and Hyde' can also be found in many
traditional narratives ie: Good versus Evil, Good and Bad guys and
monsters. Further themes are the Fear of science and the
transformation of the main character from good to evil.
At the time that 'Jekyll and Hyde' was released, science was not that
advanced. People were afraid of the unknown.
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had an education or could afford to read this book, found Jekyll as
their kind of person. But when transformed, they would be disgusted
and not know what to expect of him. Hyde was an obsolete species as
far as the higher class Victorians were concerned because many never
This novella contains characteristics of both Gothic horror and
Detective genres. Of Gothic horror, it contains monsters and the
corruption of the human body and mind. Of the Detective genre, it
contains a search for truth and evidence with hidden clues. In this
story Hyde would be described as the monster and Utterson as the
detective working out those clues.
Most of the Victorian society would not have been to the poorer areas
of London. Stevenson describes such places with phrases such as:
'chocolate-coloured pall', 'hues of twilight' and 'swirling wreaths'.
This creates a feeling of darkness associated with crime.
Most gothic horror stories have mad scientists and monsters, and no
detective story would be the same without a detective. The mad
scientist being Dr Henry Jekyll, monster being Mr Edward Hyde and the
detective being Mr Utterson. This story describes Jekyll as having a
'sincere and warm affection', and as a 'smooth-faced man of fifty'.
Whereas Hyde was described as having a 'black sneering coolness' ,or
hard, and being 'not easy to describe'. Utterson the 'lawyer' was
described as 'austere', and as 'the last influence to down going men'.
This gives the feeling of him being a highly respected friend.
The settings and characteristics would appeal to the Victorian
society, and the themes could still hold meaning today. The settings
and most of the characteristics were common to most Victorians.
Settings, such as Dr Jekyll's surroundings and Mr Hyde's place of
origin. The characteristics of Jekyll and Hyde could be associated
with the different classes of the Victorian age, Jekyll with the upper
class and Hyde with the lower class. Themes such as splitting the
human mind into two distinct halves can be used as influence to
scientists today, whether with in the field of surgery or chemistry.