Fear

  • Stevenson establishes a link between the urban landscape of Victorian London and the mysterious yet horrifying events surrounding Hyde
  • Nightmarish imagery – dark streets twist and coil, lie draped in fog: sinister landscape that befits crime that takes place
  • Hyde is an urban creature that is completely at home in this terrifying environment

Science vs Religion

  • At the time the novel was written, there was a distinct tension between science and religion.
  • This was because of the publication of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, which caused many people to question religion and its teachings
  • Science: based on cold, hard facts and evidence
  • Religion: based on belief in an omnipotent and omniscient being
  • For many Victorians, this caused inner turmoil, whether to believe religion or science. This meant that they did not trust science, and so the many mentions of science (with Jekyll being a doctor) instantly catches the reader on guard.
  • Religion teaches us that everyone is sinful
  • Jekyll is presented as a hypocrite – he does good deeds in public and bad deeds in private (or as a separate person)
    • This could be Stevenson criticising Victorian society
  • Science is unsettling
    • Causes the transformation of Jekyll into Hyde, which is frightening and disturbing
  • Science is powerful
    • Causes death and destruction and has the potential to upset the whole of Victorian society

Reputation

  • In Victorian society, a person was only as good as he was viewed by others. Reputation was everything
  • Jekyll is hugely concerned about reputation
    • He goes as far as creating Hyde to cover up his evil deeds   
  • Jekyll is hugely concerned with maintaining his reputation – he wants to hide his sins rather than face them – thus the creation of Hyde​
  • Jekyll associates Hyde with freedom – “sea of liberty” and believes his reputation will not be harmed – “safety was complete”.  He sees Hyde as someone completely separate to himself – “I did not even exist!”​
  • Utterson is more concerned about preserving Jekyll’s reputation than bringing Hyde to trial for the murder of Carew ​
  • Reputations cannot be trusted as they are only based on appearances
READ:
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Chapters 1-10 Summary

Secrecy

  • The plot of the novel revolves around the secrets that are kept from the characters, and the audience ​
  • Stevenson keeps secrets from the audience through narrative gaps – makes us more suspicious, more on edge about the things left unsaid or unexplained​
  • Jekyll’s secret is obviously his alter ego Hyde​
  • Lanyon and Jekyll choose to write about their experiences in letters – only to be revealed at the end of the novel – adding to the suspense and secrecy​
  • Utterson and Enfield agree never to talk about Hyde again​
  • Stevenson uses the motif of locked doors/closed doors to represent secrecy – therefore the smashing of the cabinet at the end of the novel symbolises the breakdown of Jekyll’s walls of secrecy

Duality

  • Duality is probably the main theme of the novel.
  • Stevenson separately said ‘Man is not one, but two’

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Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Themes in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/themes-in-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/.
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