Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde uses the archaic language of gothic horror to fuel supernatural elements
in an atmospheric build up of tension to depict animality. Drawing upon human
emotions in a moral evaluation inferred by the animalistic protagonist, Hyde,
Stevenson confronts societal standards. The extended metaphor of animality,
from ‘animal within'(69)1 to a scream ‘of animal
terror'(44) conveys the raw primality intended. The development of science led
to belief questioning and draws upon the Marxist ideology that “societies are
at their worst when seeking to reform”2. Animality aids Stevenson
in highlighting Victorian anxieties and truths on human nature.

 

Animality is stressed through lexical and syntactical choices. The
novella explores repressed aspects of humanity thus evolving a character such
as Hyde to portray animalism. Hidden qualities of man are emblematically
associated with the eponymous protagonist, the name pun ironically suggesting
that the villain is only a depiction of what truly hides beneath. Stevenson
offers no sympathy to the unappealing ‘brute that slept within'(72) Jekyll,
further depicting Hyde as untrustworthy from his savage visual representation:-
“a sense of unexpressed deformity” (24. ‘There was something wrong with his
appearance'(6), his ‘features seemed to melt'(56) fuels the thoughts that Hyde
is physically misshapen and lacks humanistic resonance. The substances found on
the body were ‘red'(52) hinting at an animalistic savagery and reflection upon
the ‘incredibly mangled'(21) body of Sir Danvers Carew. As a sadistic
‘madman'(21), the simile heightens the evil animality ‘much deeper in the
nature of man'(53). The name Jekyll roughly translates to ‘I kill’ in French
suggesting the underlying theme of animality. In addition, Hyde is a pun on the
verb ‘to hide’ conveyed by Utterson when he states “if he be Mr Hyde, I shall
be Mr Seek”(11). ‘Hyde’ is also reflective upon farming land in Old English
fuelling the link to the animalistic persona of Jekyll that he is trying to
kill. Language around Hyde is associated with the night where connotations
around ‘hues of twilight'(22) and light-dark imagery infer notions of the
supernatural; Jack the Ripper crimes heightened the fear that Hyde’s animality
was a tangible reality. “My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring”(67)
suggests that the animality of Hyde will overcome Jekyll. The unorthodox
animalistic violence displayed in Carew’s murder intensified the horror as it
emphasised the vulnerability of human nature. The exposure of the double
personality acts as a microcosm for man’s repressed animality that is aching
for liberation. ‘Masked thing like a monkey'(42) potently realises the disguise
over inner desires, similar to how the facade of society hides true indulgences
behind an illusion of respectability.

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Stevenson echoes Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man’3 by suggesting Hyde played
‘ape-like tricks'(21) and acted with ‘ape-like fury'(73). The primal semantic
field infers that Stevenson is promoting the “reversal of Darwin’s vision back
to the apes”4(Tischler,
146). The fear of the unknown triggered from the discovery of evolution caused
significant turmoil; Hyde portrayed as ‘hardly human'(14) establishes that
uncivilised characters were less evolved. Dr Lanyon’s trepidation around
darkened human nature touches upon Victorian fear around increasing controversiality
of God. Social Darwinism promotes animality as a potent theme; Stevenson supports
the reflection of human transmutation which disapproved notions of religion.
Hyde’s appearance provokes revulsion:- “pale and dwarfish… with a murderous
mixture of timidity and boldness”(13)- the parataxis accentuates Hyde’s
unevolved nature, “almost Neanderthal in looks and stature”5. Refusal of scientific
knowledge opposing the Bible and ‘troglodytic'(14) ancestry, contrasts
ecclesiastical portrayals of Adam and Eve from the Book of Genesis which
depicts the creation of Man as reflective of God’s image. Darwin’s research on
evolution from animals juxtaposed Christian ideas, which deemed science as ludicrous
that Victorians were once grotesque and uncivilised species. Darwin’s theory
was generally rejected, though people of higher class thought that they were
more evolved and closer to the pedestalised, Utopian view of the ‘perfect
human’. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde imagines the inextricable relationship
between savagery and civility.

 

1 Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, ed. Robert
Minghall, Penguin English Library (London, England: Penguin Group, 2012)­
–  All bracketed references from the
text.

2 Karl Marx, Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress
Publishers, 1959)

3 Charles. R Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, Vol. 1
(London: John Murray, 1871)

4 Nancy M. Tischler, Tennesse Williams: Rebellious Puritan’, (1961).

5 Dana Brook Thurmond, ‘The Influence of
Carl Jung’s Archetype of the Shadow’ (Degree of Master of Liberal Studies,
Rollins College, 2012)