Good and Evil in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a gothic novella, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, depicts how damaging society pressure can be. The battle between dualism is seen between the two characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story represents how a man’s soul is paired with both elements of evil and good. Stevenson’s novella showcases how the Victorian society forced people to suppress any evil nature that would cause one to outburst, and in doing so opened the door for society to understand polarized personalities.

Robert Louis Stevenson had a reputation of including the idea for duality in his short stories. He was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a child, Stevenson felt like he was always living a double life, “trying to be in two places… at the same time” (Livesey). In 1873, Stevenson suffered from hemorrhaging lungs. He spent six months resting and during that time, writing was the only activity he could do. He became a Scottish novelist and the base of his work was influenced by his birth city. There were two sides of Edinburgh, the respectable and religious part, and the more bohemian town with a shady crowd. Stevenson was “obsessed with man’s double” and composed short stories about that topic (Bevan). Through his insight on the duality of human nature, he published one of modern literature’s most famous works, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Despite the highly civilized Victorian Era, it was also a glorious time period. It lasted between 1837 to 1901. During this time period, many restrictions were placed in Victorian society. One’s true nature was expected to be concealed in order to adhere to the social norms. Just like Jekyll, some people were unable to contain themselves against the standards. After time, Jekyll realized the “danger that Mr. Hyde poses to society” (Singh). Jekyll and Hyde were such a “dreadful shipwreck” that the existence of the two could no longer survive (Stevenson). This gradually weakened them due to all of the pressure of Victorian society. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a reflection of suppression from Victorian society and hypocrisy.

Stevenson explored the idea of dual personality through the characters Jekyll and Hyde during the Victorian era. At this time, it was uncommon to have anything other than “standard gentlemanly behavior” (Saposnik). Virtue and vice most rapidly developed in London. Victoria’s age was directed towards the nature of moral behavior and was male-centered. Jekyll created Hyde because he “wishes to live more comfortably with his peccadilloes” rather than giving himself free expression (Saposnik). In Jekyll’s experiment, it was difficult to free himself because he was “a victim of society’s standards” while Hyde represented the worst of Victoria’s social beings (Saposnik). This shows how people would do anything to not stand out and be considered a disgrace to Victorian society.

The door to Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory, a symbol of barriers, becomes essential to the secret of Mr. Hyde. The idea of darkness and light are both representing Jekyll and Hyde. Darkness may be seen as depicting evil and a hiding place where people cannot see one’s actions, such as the existence of Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is afraid of opening up to himself because of “the fear of social criticism” (Singh). The door to Jekyll’s laboratory cabinet symbolizes the duality of his good and evil as well as his transformation into Hyde. On the other side of the door, Jekyll is able to release the pure evil part of himself so that he can “indulge in a life unfettered by the demands” from other people (Singh). Stevenson shows how Victorian society was not accepting of any man who did not meet their expectations, thus leading to their destruction and feelings of shame.

The fear and horrific sounds coming from Mr. Hyde during his fragile state represent him accepting his despair. Whenever Jekyll unleashes Hyde, he no longer feels the burden of his dual personality. Due to the expected social status in the Victorian era, men were not able to fully express themselves. As most things in life come to an end, so did the broken side of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll was “drawing steadily nearer to the truth” (Stevenson). Evil no longer needed good to “justify itself,” thus causing the darker side of Jekyll to take over (Singh). The good and evil nature of the two is simply independent. When Poole and Utterson break into Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory, they heard “A dismal screech, as of mere animal terror” (Stevenson). They witnessed a suicide attempt from not “the Doctor but the body of Hyde” (Sanderson). This represents how good and evil coexist and attempting to separate the two forces will leave men feeling empty.

Despite the repressive society during the Victorian era, there still seems to be stereotypes and limits on mankind to restrain oneself from letting out feelings. To this day, men are still expected to not express themselves emotionally and fit in a specific “mold of boy and manhood” (LaLiberte). They get mocked for crying or opening up to themselves. People believe that if they are open about their feelings, they will be considered less manly because society has implemented the idea that “strong men do[not] cry” (It). Suppressing one’s emotions can build up and cause them to fall apart. The outcome of this can be seen in the story regarding the death of Dr. Jekyll. This shows the impact of society’s pressure to become people who conceal their feelings. Given that Hyde is not accepted in a conservative society, the novel displays knowledge about people who want to be perceived differently today.

The concept of dualism has connected creators in the film industry. This story has taught readers that several personalities can co-exist in a human being. People continue to see it and still acknowledge the existence of darkness and light. Stories about duality can be seen in films, cinema, and parodies. The idea of dual personalities can be seen in the TV show, The Flash. Caitlin Snow is perceived as an excellent scientist while the other side of her character, Killer Frost, is considered a supervillain. Eventually, Caitlin realizes that they would be broken without each other and will not be able to exist if she lets go of that other part of her. Stevenson’s novel about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has shown how “man is not one, but truly two” (Stevenson). Not being able to accept that there are “dark impulses that lurk within us all” will cause one’s mind to overflow.

Through The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson is able to demonstrate how there is not a clear line between the two sides of good and evil in a human being. During the Victorian Era, there were oppressive restrictions held against men. Repressing one side of human nature creates a battle between good and evil and is detrimental for a person to handle. By bringing awareness to this, it can show people that there are consequences of concealing one’s identity.


Cite this paper

Good and Evil in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (2021, Apr 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/good-and-evil-in-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/



How does Stevenson show good and evil in Jekyll and Hyde?
Stevenson shows good and evil in Jekyll and Hyde by portraying Jekyll as a morally upright and respectable individual, while Hyde is depicted as a malevolent and twisted version of Jekyll. The duality of Jekyll and Hyde's personalities highlights the struggle between good and evil that exists within all individuals.
Is Dr Jekyll good or evil?
Dr Jekyll is a good person who turns into the evil Mr Hyde.
Is Mr Hyde good or evil?
No one knows for sure. He seems to get a thrill out of doing evil deeds, but sometimes he does good deeds too.
What does Jekyll and Hyde teach us about the theme of good and evil?
There isn't a definitive answer, but some people believe that the unluckiest number is 13. This is because it's often associated with bad luck, such as Friday the 13th.
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