In the days where fiction and fantasy were making a new home for themselves in the minds and imaginations of people across Western Europe, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a story that was history in the making before its creation even knew it. With countless influences on present and future pop culture and genre structure, this story was twisting and creating a new genre all its own. Playing on the personalities that warred between one man, this juxtaposition was a manifestation on the inner war and turmoil that we, individuals, are able to relate to all too well. A certain familiarity of sorts is expressed in Stevenson’s writing, revealing a way of thinking that to many can come across as distorted and repugnant yet undeniably ring true to the feelings and doubts that we all have about our own character when faced with a dual against our own conscious.
Discovering the difference between an apparent self an almost pretend self would be one of the most intriguing aspects that this novella has to offer. Realizing that there is a persona that one will put on when faced with either an audience of peers or an audience of an intimidating factor can and will put an indescribable pressure on oneself to play a certain part. The way that this inner war is magnified in Stevenson’s novella might be considered and exaggeration yet with its expelling of vocation and creativity that leans on the fantastical and fictitious side of the fence, the truth with which its foundation is lined with speaks a whole new volume of its own. There is something mighty to be said for the ability to tap into not only one’s inner thoughts but for the ability to tap into a struggle that can be felt on so many levels in so many different ways that the fabrication of it all can be seen, heard and discerned by thousands of minds across boundary lines.
A creation of this disturbance of peace is something that can be related to despite differences and intrusions of the mind. In fact, the exaggeration of the novella is arguably what makes the story so universally understandable. The way that Stevenson is able to convey a story through a moral and distorted compass of one’s self awareness and consciousness is what creates a tapping and breaking through to the reader and audiences mind and senses.
Its address on not just the torn ideals and struggles within man but its address on the societal duality of not just Stevenson’s time but for the issues of moral for future societies to come. Despite cultural differentials, this work is able to interact with different communities and societies across the map because of its fundamental core of good vs. evil. In every society there has been thousands if not hundreds of thousands of different takes on this idea with countless of different approaches as to what to believe about it. Different definitions and theories about the origins of good and evil can be found in basic fairytales and fables yet also can be found in diplomatic and philosophical teachings throughout history. This age old dichotomy is seen within Stevenson’s work in that, “present evidence indicates that Victorian man was haunted constantly by an inescapable sense of division,” which was not only the good and evil haunting him outside in day to day life, but was also haunting him within his own mind (Saposnik, 716). This lingering idea of a sort of “play pretend” mentality within one individual is something else that is another strikingly intriguing concept that is undertaken by Stevenson. The way that he is able to dissect both psyches of this one man is truly a great feat, showcasing different moods and attitudes and even two entirely different thought processes depending on which character he is personifying in the novella. “He found himself necessarily an actor, playing only that part of himself suitable to the occasion,” as Saposnik describes him, which again invokes these sense of pretending within this one individual (Saposnik, 716). He clearly seems to understand that while being one man he is able to twist and change according to the atmosphere that he is in, appeasing his audience depending on just what kind of audience it is that he is addressing.
The issue of the self and the mind are topics that are heavily addressed within Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydethat ignites a sense of reflection upon one’s own psyche and mental processes. While diving deep into that rabbit whole of good and evil, Stevenson also unveils his own thoughts and feelings about the Victorian society that he finds himself in. He doesn’t shy away from the critiques and skepticisms he has about his community nor does he limit himself to judgements of just one culture. His concepts and ideas can be taken with a universal grain of salt at least, his attentions and focus is on his own society though. He seeks to expel, “with characteristic haste, it plunges immediately into the center of Victorian society to dredge up a creature ever present but submerged; not the evil opponent of a contentious good but the shadow self of a half-man” truth that is the approach to his novella (Saposnik 717). The true intentions and expressions of man are not solely their own, but are somewhat like a looking glass of one’s own society and the pressures and influences that it has on the human psyche.
Saposnik, Irving S. “The Anatomy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 11, no. 4, 1971, pp. 715–731. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/449833.
iesnoth. Jekyll and Hyde. October 21, 2013. Deviant art. https://www.deviantart.com/iesnoth/art/Jekyll-and-Hyde-408705228.