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пѓ� "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
was written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
пѓ� Stevenson was interested in what made up a
person’s character: why they could be bad as well as
пѓ� He came from a good family but he was fascinated
by the "dregs of humanity", something that the upper
class pretended never existed.
пѓ� After a nightmare, Stevenson wrote the story of
Dr. Jekyll in just three days.
Trivia Tidbit
• Stevenson intended Jekyll to be pronounced
“Jeekyll,” as a Scot would, because “Hyde
and Jeekyl” sounds like “hide and seek.”
• Key Question: What’s being hidden, what’s
being sought in this tale?
Victorian London: Social Classes
• The rich people of London were those of high
social status (e.g. doctors, lawyers, members of
parliament) who lived like kings and queens with
the finest of everything. They attended high-class
balls, parties, and the theatre.
• Men normally worked and socialized with other
men only. They employed lowly paid servants
who cooked for them, cleaned, answered the door,
and who would even help them dress in the formal
attire of the rich. The butler was the head servant
who had the most contact with the master.
Victorian London: Social Roles
• A wealthy woman, although there are none in the
book, stayed at home and oversaw her children
and the many servants and goings-on at her
household. Women were not allowed to vote, and
wealthy women did not work outside of the home.
• Members of the upper class in Victorian times
were especially expected to behave virtuously.
They, along with their homes, were expected to be
proper and elegant at all times. The wealthy were
looked up to and were expected to serve as
caretakers of the less fortunate in society.
Social Roles and Rules, cont.
• Wealthy men often went to school together
and established networks and friendships
that lasted their lifetimes. We see this in the
novella between all of the upper class male
• Men were expected to behave as
“Gentlemen” but had a looser leash than
women. Transgressions, however, were not
discussed in polite society.
Victorian Social Classes
• Victorian society was highly stratified.
Social classes did not mix, and behavior,
especially among members of the upper
class, was expected to be exemplary at all
• The unrealistically rigid morality of upper
class Londoners led many to live double
lives. (compare to Freud’s comments on
Breakdown of Victorian Society
• At the end of the 1800s, Britain was
experiencing a period of intense social,
economic, and spiritual change, after many
decades of confident growth and national
• Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde perfectly captured
some readers’ fears that their carefully built
society was hypocritical.
London as Setting
• In the 1880’s British society was sharply divided into
distinct social classes and their corresponding
communities. In Forlorn Sunset (1947), Michael Sadleir
described the city as “three parts jungle” noting that very
few districts were truly public in the sense that people
could move in and out of them with ease. Generally,
people were uncomfortable and often unwelcome in parts
of town that were not inhabited by their own social
group. To avoid wandering into an unknown area, most
Londoners stayed in their own neighborhoods.
• This geographical and social fragmentation is an
essential part of the setting of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,
which also relates to the psychological fragmentation of
many of the characters.
London as Setting
• Cavendish Square, the area in which Jekyll,
Utterson and Lanyon live, was the
wealthiest part of London. Only a few
blocks away one would find ghettos such as
Soho where Hyde kept his residence. People
tended to keep to the main thoroughfares
because a “wrong” turn could land you in
the ghetto and exposed you to theft or
London as Setting
• London was dreary at this time – foggy, dark, and
poorly lit with gas lamps that were used to light
the streets. The fog was also worse than it is today
due to the coal fires used for heat. Crime was rife
in London at the time of the book’s publication.
• Note how Stevenson uses the historical setting of
London symbolically in the novella
Hyde as a Sign of Political and
Social Upheaval
• To many readers, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a
symbolic representation of these threats to traditional
British society. Political reforms had given many more
men the right to vote, and the working classes were
beginning to flex their political muscles.
• Karl Marx’s ideas about the struggle for power among
the different social classes were becoming more
• To some of Britain’s upper-class readers, the character
of Edward Hyde represented the increasing political
power of the working class.
Influence of Darwinism
• Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution came out in 1857, and
some readers saw in the novella echoes of the theory. Earlier in
the century Darwin had challenged the long-held religious belief
in God’s creation of the universe. Darwin had claimed that lifeforms developed as a result of evolution, the extremely slow and
gradual changes species underwent in response to their
environments. Gone was the certainty of the religious model of
life. It was replaced by social Darwinism, a radical new
conception of life as a struggle in which only the fittest survived.
• Interestingly, Hyde is described as “apelike” and as moving “like
a monkey” in the novel. Hyde is sometimes viewed as a “Natural
Man,” free of the civilizing influences of society and religion.
• Some readers considered Hyde to be a model of the strong yet
evil individual who would survive while Jekyll fell.
Freudian Influence
• Sigmund Freud, the father of psychotherapy, lived
at the same time Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was
published. Freud believed that human beings are
powerfully influenced by impulses of which they are
not aware and which are often expressed in dreams.
Freud named the conscious part of oneself the ego. He
named the unconscious part of oneself the id. He also
labeled the superego as society, ethics, and morals.
Stevenson was on the cutting edge of science to be
writing about division in the human mind.
• To many readers, Hyde represented Dr. Jekyll’s
subconscious desire to be freed from society’s
• Role of repression in functioning civilization.
Author’s Background
• Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) was born in 1850
in Edinburgh, Scotland and died in 1894 in Samoa
where he is buried and lovingly referred to as
Tusitala (the teller of tales). In addition, he lived
in Europe, America and in other parts of the South
• RLS was the only child from a wealthy family, his
father being a famous engineer (!).
• RLS was ill as a child and spent a lot of time
Author’s Background, cont.
• RLS was fascinated by the story of the true
character, Deacon Brodie. Brodie was a
cabinetmaker by day and a thief at night. Even
today Brodie’s death is an unsolved mystery.
Some speculate that he avoided his death at his
own hanging by placing a metal ring in his throat.
When his grave was exhumed it was found empty.
Later, RLS wrote a play about Brodie.
• This “doubleness” of human nature is, of course, a
theme of Dr. Jekyll
Childhood – Good vs. Evil
• RLS had a strict Christian and moral upbringing. The
theme of good vs. evil (strict repression of “evil” actions
and even thoughts) was one that he was quite aware of.
• RLS was brought up in the wealthy part of Edinburgh.
However, as a student he liked visiting the ghettos of
Edinburgh and would even put on a false identity for his
ventures into the ghettos. This dichotomy is much like
differences between Jekyll and Hyde’s worlds.
• RLS studied engineering and law in college but became
an author – a wild path compared to his father’s.
• In the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll says that he
is like the father and Hyde is like the son.
Composing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
• The idea for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to RLS
as a dream (Freud?). He wrote the first version of
the book in three days and then burned it due to
criticism from his wife (hmm!). He wrote the
second version in three days as well. It became an
overnight success and was published in 1886.
• The book was written when Stevenson lived in
Stevenson was very interested in the contrast between
good and evil and he showed this in how he described
the setting before Mr Enfield and Mr Utterson start
talking about Mr. Hyde.
It chanced on one of these rambles that their way led
them down a by-street in a busy quarter of London. The
street was small and what is called quiet, but it drove a
thriving trade on the weekdays. The inhabitants were all
doing well, it seemed and all hoping to do better still the shop fronts stood along that thoroughfare with an
air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen. Even on
Sunday, when it veiled its more florid charms and lay
comparatively empty of visitors, the street shone out in
contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in a
forest; and with its freshly painted shutters, wellpolished brasses, and general cleanliness and
cheerfulness of note, instantly caught and pleased the
eye of the passenger.
After the positive description of the
street, comes the negative.
Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east
the line was broken by the entry of a court; and just at
that point a certain sinister block of building thrust
forward its gable on the street. It was two storeys high;
showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey
and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and
bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid
negligence. The door, which was equipped with neither bell
nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched
into the recess and struck matches on the panels; children
kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had tried his
knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no
one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or
to repair their ravages
Note down the positive and negative
• Stevenson, Robert Louis, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adapted by Michael
Lawrence. Great Britain: DK Publishing, 1997. 0-7894-2069-4, pages
• Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
adapted by Michael Lawrence. Great Britain: DK Publishing, 1997. 07894-2069-4.
• Teixido, Oscar Sabata and Joan Pere Rosello Garcia, How is Mr. Hyde
characterized and what does he stand for? Available URL:, Date of access:
• Glencoe Literary Library, Study Guide for The Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
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