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Hyde’s Character
[In the extract, Stevenson presents Hyde as sacrilegious and unchristian, so not a member of society.
There is a plethora of ‘drug’ and ‘God’ in the extract. The two antithetical words are structured to
show the incompatibility of Christianity and drugs. Therefore, Stevenson juxtaposes the two ideas to
foreshadow the multi-faceted nature of Victorian men. Hyde is a product of drug taking and does
not uphold Christian morals. The repetition of ‘God’ may portray the important part that Christianity
plays in many people’s lives but could perhaps be to mock the existence of God. Therefore Hyde is
seen to be a ‘polar twin’ to what a quintessential Christian should be, and so is deemed as an
anomaly in society. Stevenson’s novella could serve to be a satire of the realism of God. This may
have been influenced by Charles Darwin’s book, ‘The Descent of Man’, where he concluded that we
descended from a ‘hairy tailed quadruped’.]
Stevenson presents Hyde as a product of Victorian London’s prejudice. In chapter 1, Hyde is shown
to have ‘trampled calmly’ over a girl. The oxymoron depicts the inhumane and malevolent nature of
Hyde. He shows no remorse and is followed by a doctor who demands recompense. The doctor had
a ‘desire to kill him’; the doctor, who is supposedly respectable due to his occupation, has violent
and dangerous desires. Stevenson could perhaps be suggesting how Victorian gentlemen had a
voyeuristic attraction to violence. Hyde is prejudiced against even though the trampling may have
been a mistake for which he compensated for. Therefore, Hyde derives his ‘ape-like’ behaviour from
the Victorian norms. In existentialism, the second tenet states ‘existence precedes essence’, so it
could be argued that Hyde has been influenced by the society around him and is therefore an
archetypal member of society. Stevenson may have created Hyde in order to challenge the prejudice
faced by many due to their social class (classism). This may be why Stevenson left England and went
to live in the pagan country Samoa, where Christian moralities were not practiced.
On the other hand, Hyde is also presented to be atavistic and primitive. In chapter 4, the Carew
Murder Case, we are given the violent notion that Hyde ‘clubbed’ Sir Danvers Carew, a man with ‘old
word kindness’. He threw a ‘storm of blows’, conveying the plethora of damage that he gave to
Carew. This would be provocative to a Victorian reader as the act was gratuitous. Hyde’s inhumane
character is further emphasised when he is described to be a ‘damned Juggernaut’. The adjective
‘damned’ gives connotations of eternal punishment in hell, while ‘Juggernaut’ gives an allusion to
the Hindu reincarnation of Jagannathan. This was a ritual in which the God would be in a wheel and
is rolled on the streets, and devotees would sacrifice themselves by laying in front of it. This allusion
shows how Carew was almost at mercy to Hyde and sacrificed his life. This depicts Hyde as a
demonical character that goes against Victorian values, so an outcast in society.
However, a sophisticated reader may understand the hidden reason for the attack on Carew. Carew
gave a ‘very pretty manner of politeness’ to Hyde, which may have connotations of a homosexual
attraction that Carew had. Other characters had a repugnant attitude to Hyde, but Carew was
‘pointing’ and asking Hyde something. Perhaps Carew had a sexual attraction and displayed signs of
a homoerotic. Hyde attacked Carew, just like how the Victorian society would have if Carew’s
homosexuality was exposed. In 1885, the government made the criminal Law Amendment Act, in
which they banned ‘gross indecency’. So Hyde’s actions can be an epitome of Victorian society’s
regulations. Stevenson may have constructed this attack on Carew to challenge the strict rules of
homosexuality that was evident in Victorian London. Stevenson himself was instilled with the fear of
sensuality and homosexuality, a doctrine which he had understood due to his nanny, Alison
Cunningham, who taught him about the rules of Presbyterian Christianity.
In conclusion, Stevenson uses the novella as a diatribe to question the impact that moral codes had
on people. Stevenson presents Hyde as ‘hardly human’ but also shows the prejudice he is subjected
to by the critical, Victorian society.