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In the novella on the whole,. Stevenson successfully highlights Hyde’s position as being a violent, repressed force of Dr. Jekyll’s with primitive tendencies, and a disfigured, loathsome appearance. The 1800’s was a century dedicated to scientific discoveries, but emerging scientists were only beginning to figure out the causes of various mental and physical diseases, this suggests why most characters were fearful of Hyde, as the large Christian population believed these complications to be the cause of evil forces. Victorian beliefs and descriptions of those like Hyde are referenced by Stevenson, who, most likely unaware of scientific discovery, bases Hyde’s character construct on evil forces, presenting him as a “child of hell”, with primitive tendencies, only highlighted by his gruesome appearance. This essay explores how and why Hyde has been presented in this way, and what has influenced the author’s description of the man.
Hyde’s evil, unrepressed qualities are very much apparent, when he is referred to metaphorically as a “child of hell”. The ambiguous phrase, “child”, in particular shows connotations of innocence, however, it may also describe Hyde’s meagre, child-like form, that possesses much more evil than one would assume for someone of his size. Juxtaposed with “hell”, we see that Hyde is a character construct meant to inflict unease on the contemporary reader. “Hell” may also be relating to the state of Hyde’s appearance or altogether personality, reminding us of how he has either come from “hell”, to cause havoc; or has either secured a place in hell, with the past heresies that he has committed unlawfully. Again, the idea of Hyde being an evil force is referenced when it is said that, “ evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other”. This quote referring to Hyde, shows how it was easy to find a distinction between reputable Mr. Jekyll and evil Mr. Hyde. In particular, the phrase “evil” is suggestive of Hyde as a person, and again reinforces the idea that he possesses the capabilities to do harm, but we also see how it was “written broadly and plainly” on his “face”. Both “plainly” and “broadly” suggest that whatever is concerned, would be easy to spot, in this case it’s Hyde’s “face”. Stevenson is suggesting that “evil” is easy to spot in the “face” of Mr. Hyde. Therefore, he must be referencing the appearance of Hyde, and how it possesses pure evil, whether it is contained in his eyes, or deformity. It’s likely that Stevenson aims to suggest we can spot “evil” in the “face” of others, and that we can easily assume that the appearances are due to the creation by evil forces. Contextually, many like Stevenson would have lived in fear of those like Hyde (Stevenson’s description of Hyde does in fact originate from a man). Therefore, these strange looking people’s conditions would have been associated with a more supernatural cause than today’s. A range of sources that could have influenced Stevenson’s character construct of Hyde. Firstly, physiognomy, by Lombroso proved that people were born criminals, therefore, people were right to live in the fear that they could be harmed by those like Hyde. Secondly, Christianity was very popular in Victorian society, this caused superstition to evolve, and for some Christians to direct their thoughts on these conditions to evil forces as the main cause, as science was not yet proved, or trusted as a source. Stevenson therefore uses these theories to create fear amongst the readership, and create a link between Hyde’s physical and mental state, with evil forces.
Hyde’s violence is also a topic discussed in the novella. It was said that during the Carew murder case, Hyde “broke out of all bounds”. The phrase “broke out”, suggests that Hyde literally overcame, or went against forces restricting him to such an extent that he managed to bypass them. We are left to ruminate on what these “bounds” are, but in the context of the murder or Carew, it is most likely that they are the moral “bounds”, and possibly the bounds even Hyde finds hard to bypass. However, the “bounds” could also refer to how Hyde was hesitant (and repressive) of murdering someone with high status - Carew. This suggests that Hyde may have hesitated to murder, due to future implications he may face with murdering someone of high status, an MP. Again, when Hyde “trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground”, suggests that Hyde possesses violence. In particular, the brutal verb “trampled”, shows the nature of how Hyde murdered the girl, but it is done “calmly”. “Trampled calmly” is an oxymoron intended to reference how these actions do not make Hyde fearful, or upset. It again shows how Hyde lacks morals, and with the murder of an elderly, reputable MP and child, it is almost as if Stevenson intends us to break out of our bounds to murder Hyde. Stevenson uses this idea to show that Hyde is not only violent, but morally sick and wounded in that sense, he is a binary opposite to the respectable Jekyll. Contextually, Stevenson perhaps aims to reinforce the idea of Physiognomy, Hyde possesses evil forces, therefore, he must be a criminal. As stated, science was only just emerging, and many resorted to already theorized beliefs. Another was Freud’s. Freud suggests that we have an ID (containing primitive instincts), Ego and Super Ego. The ID is most prominent in Hyde, and this ID can cause us to release violent outbursts and anger. Additionally, the idea of moral “bounds” were emphasized by the Christian community of Victorian Britain. These moral “bounds” were not to be crossed, and if they were, you were damned, or possessed an evil capacity. The fall of Satan also works like this, Satan, an angel, was distracted from God’s main commandments, and committed several sins, leading to him being damned to hell. This is similar to Hyde’s downfall - in the form of death, but also suggests that violence leads to the bypassing of these moral “bounds”, which leads to death or damnation.
To conclude, this essay examines how Stevenson related his character construct of Hyde very much to contextual factors and beliefs, but also uses this evidence to present Hyde’s character construct on the whole: repressed, violent and disfigured. The links between society’s beliefs, Stevenson’s intention and Hyde’s true - evil - construct were referenced, as well as his violent outbursts, and how they emphasized the true evil of his construct. The wider context of the novella also suggests his downfall, and Stevenson is one who likes to reference society’s beliefs in his literature, as a way of entertaining the readership, and creating realistic fear.