Contrast essay on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Essay by cyannacanada April 2004

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The duality of mankind, or the belief that the human mind is made up of a good and evil part, has always been a matter of great interest for many philosophers, psychologists and writers. Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr.Hyde is a unavoidable classic on the subject; for its portrayal of both nature in the persons of Hyde and Jekyll is efficiently drawn in the symbolic descriptions, and the significant critic that is made through the novel, which is the hypocrisy of the society where image is more important than anything else, is still relevant today. Stevenson, in his descriptions of Hyde and Jekyll and their actions demonstrates how the good part of the human mind (Jekyll) is better, more developed than the darker one, the innate evil, embodied by Hyde, which is harmful for society and the individual.

First, the physical appearance tells us a lot about Hyde and Jekyll and, at the same time, what the author thinks about the two parts of the human mind.

Jekyll is tall, handsome and well-built; "a large well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty (...) with every mark of capacity and kindness". His hands are "large, firm, white and comely". In the descriptions made by observers, Jekyll appears to be a perfect, distinguished gentlemen. The good part of the human mind is therefore perceived as eminent, more distinguished than the other part. Indeed, Stevenson reinforces this position with Hyde's physiognomy. Hyde, is seen by other people who meet him as a dangerous and terrifying beast. Although they cannot name why, Hyde appears to those who meet him as repulsively ugly. He is younger than Jekyll but he is ape-like and dwarfish and also much smaller than Jekyll, for instance Jekyll's clothes don't fit him. As the doctor says in his statement,