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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the original title of a short story writtenby the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson that was first published in 1886.Robert Louis Stevenson was born inEdinburgh on 13 November 1850by Thomas, civil engineer, andMargaret Isabel Balfour, son of aPresbyterian minister.Unfortunately, Robert inherits atuberculosis from her mother , sohe spends his childhood withoutany contact with the outside worldand with a lot of treatments, oftenoppressive. Thanks to AlisonCunningham, her housekeeper“Cummy”, he learns some ancientScottish ballads and biblicalhistories, really important for thecomposition of his “fantasy world”.
In 1857, Robert decides toattend the public school for ashort-term, but traumatizedby the contact with theoutside world, he continueshis studies under the guidanceof a mentor. Finished thestudies, his father Thomasdecides that his son will be adesign lighthouse engineer, ashe is.But Robert loves thedaydreams and he has theinclination to tell stories. But,he had a poor health, in factduring these years he wasaffected by a severe form ofphthisis.
In the 1871 finally heunderstands to break the stronglink with his parents: he had arelationship with KateDrammond, a Scottishprostitute, and he decides tointerrupt his studies forbecoming an engineer, andspending his time exclusively onliterature. But, in the end, hedecides to make happy hisfather, graduating in law in1875. In 1876 he meets aBarbizon, in France, FannyOsbourne: she’s 36 years old,American, married and motherof 2 child; she’ll become herwife from there to four years.Maybe, thanks to the closenessof her wife and his stepsonLloyd, that Robert writes in thisperiod his masterpieces“Treasure Island” and “Thestrange case of Dr. Jekyll andMr. Hyde”
In the 1888, Thomas Stevensondie. So, Robert decides to treathis tuberculosis with a differentclimate: in fact he and his familyhave a long cruise in South Pacific(Marquesas Islands, Tahiti,Honolulu and Gilbert Islands). So,in 1890, Robert and his familydecide to settle in Samoa, inFrench Polynesia, in anindigenous village called“Vailima”, where he defendsindigenous people from theavidity of American and Germanmerchants of alcohol. Honouredlike a tribal chief of the island,Robert Louis Stevenson dies on3rd December 1894 in Vailima,because of a sudden cerebralhemorrhage. He’s buried onMount Vaea, overlooking thePacific Ocean.
The plot begins talking about thelawyer Utterson:‘’ MR. UTTERSON thelawyer was a man of arugged countenance,that was never lightedby a smile; cold, scantyand embarrassed indiscourse; backward insentiment; lean, long,dusty, dreary, and yetsomehow lovable .,,
Also, Mr. Utterson, the realmain character, was agenerous man, especially inhelping friends and severewith himself. Mr. Utterson,one evening, goes out withhis cousin, Mr. Enfield, whosays to Utterson somethingbad affairs about a man,called Mr. Hyde. After, Mr.Enfield shows Utterson abattered house, where it isthought Hyde resides. Also,in the same district, it isthought that Mr. Hyde hasmassacred an innocentbaby-girl, leaving her in thestreet with all brokenbones.
However, for the lawyer Utterson, the surname Hyde is familiar: in facthis name is cited in the testament of Utterson’s old friend and customer,Dottor Jekyll:‘’The will was holograph, for Mr. Utterson, though he tookcharge of it now that it was made, had refused to lend theleast assistance in the making of it; it provided not onlythat, in case of the decease of Henry Jekyll, M.D., D.C.L.,LL.D., F.R.S., etc., all his possessions were to pass intothe hands of his ‘friend and benefactor Edward Hyde,’ butthat in case of Dr. Jekyll’s ‘disappearance or unexplainedabsence for any period exceeding three calendar months,’the said Edward Hyde should step into the said HenryJekyll’s shoes without further delay and free from anyburthen or obligation, beyond the payment of a few smallsums to the members of the doctor’s household.,,
• For this, Utterson wants to help hisfriend Jekyll, believing him in trouble.Mr. Utterson succeeds after fifteen daysto meet Jekyll, and succeeds also todiscuss on the affair Hyde, but withoutgetting nothing. It’s still a mystery. Aftera year, Hyde kills Sir. Danvers Carew, anillustrious man, Utterson’s customerand member of the Parliament, whohad a letter for Utterson. For that,Utterson, really impressed, goes to thepolice station where, recognized thecorpse, understands immediately thatthe assassin was Hyde. For this,Utterson, with Newcomen, theScotland Yard inspector, goes in theputrid house of Hyde, where they founda piece of stick, the crime weapon andalso an old gift byUtterson to Jekyll, anda checkbook with thousand pounds.After that, Utterson goes to Jekyll, whoadmits not to have any contacts withHyde.
In fact, Jekyll will shows Utterson a strange letter without anypostmark, signed Edward Hyde:
With Hyde’s disappearance,Jekyll returns to his old life,but for a few days. In fact,after this short period ofhappiness, Jekyll decides toremain lonely at home,without seeing Utterson andanyone else of his otherfriends. For that, Uttersongoes to Dr. Lanyon, Uttersonand Jekyll’s old friend, whoseems very strange. In fact,Lanyon knew and affirmedthat his death was near. Afew days later, Lanyon dies.The night after the funeral,Mr. Utterson receives a letterby the deceased Lanyon, aletter that he should haveread only after Jekyll’s death.‘’ TIME ran on; thousands of pounds were offered inreward, for the death of Sir Danvers was resented as apublic injury; but Mr. Hyde had disappeared out of theken of the police as though he had never existed. ,,
SO, AT HOME, UTTERSON DECIDES TO READ THELANYON’S LETTER AND THE JEKYLL’S PAPERS. IN THELANYON’S LETTER, UTTERSON FINDS THAT HISFRIEND DIES FOR THE ENORMOUS WONDER CAUSEDBY THE DISCOVERY THAT JEKYLL WAS,TRANSFORMING HIM, HYDE. IN THE JEKYLL’S PAPERS,UTTERSON COULD READ THAT ALL JEKYLL’S MONEYWENT NOW ALL TO HIM, AND THE ENTIRE STRANGESTORY OF JEKYLL, A MAN WHO WANTED TO BEDIFFERENT, WHO DESIRED TO HAVE A DOUBLE LIFE, AGOOD AND AN EVIL ONE, WHO DIED AFTER HADFULFILLED HIS ENORMOUS MISTAKE….An evening, Poole, Jekyll’s old butler, veryworried, asks Utterson for helping him. In fact,arrived at Jekyll’s house, Poole points out toUtterson the strange voice of his owner, whowas closed in his office for a lot of days, wore astrange mask, required strange drugs and waslower than usual. So, Poole and Utterson decideto break down the door of the studio: here, inthe center of the room, there was Hyde dead,just poisoned. In the studio, there were somepapers addressed to Utterson, that the lawyerdecides to read at home. And no trace of Mr.Jeckyll.
• In 1891 Wilde added to the double natureof man the Victorian attempt to hid thecorrupted side of ones personality underthe mask of respectability and beauty."The picture of Dorian Gray" is profoundlyallegorical and it is a 19th century versionof the myth of the Faust, the story of aman who sells his soul to the devil so thatall his desires might be satisfied. In thisnovel the soul becomes the picture, whichrecords the signs of experience,corruption, horror, concealed under themask of Dorian timeless beauty. Thepicture stands for the dark side of Dorianspersonality, which he tries to forget bylocking the picture in a room. Thehorrible, corrupting picture could be seenas a symbol of the immorality and badconscience of the Victorian middle classes,while Dorians purity and innocence aresymbols of the bourgeois hypocrisy.
• In the novel written by Stevenson, "Thestrange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"the duplicity of the human naturebecomes more explicit, in fact the sameman, drinking a potion, can makedominant the one or the other dispositionof his soul. The theme of the ambivalenceis reinforced by the symbolism of Jekylland Hyde’s house, whose two façades aresymbolically the two opposite sides of thesame man: the front of this house, used bythe doctor, is fair; while the rear side, usedby Hyde, is "part of a sinister block ofbuildings, which showed no windows". MrHyde is deformed and smaller than Dr.Jekyll and we can interpret it as the evilpart is a small part of the human feelings.When Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde, hebecomes able to satisfy all his hiddenwishes. Originally Dr Jekyll is a good manand he has faith in progress, but he darestoo much. Mr Utterson is the typical midVictorian man and the difference betweenhim and Dr Jekyll is that the first acceptsthe compromise, while the second doesntaccept the role imposed by society.
As we know, the Victorian Ageis not only a great age of greatvirtues, but also of murders,atrocious rituals, blasphemousrites and sexual violences. TheVictorian Age is all a show ofrespectability, serenity andvirtues, trying to imitate thequeen Victoria. But, behindthese virtues, thisrespectability, there is the “darkside of the human world”.Perhaps this is the real themeof this beautiful novel, whereJekyll is the incarnation of thevirtues, and Hyde the evil partin the Victorian society and thehuman world.
The language is simple and clear. There are some importantfeatures:• Use of asterisks, like in Foscolo and Manzoni, for a greater reluctanceand credibility‘’ NEARLY a year later, in the month of October, 18** , London was startled bya crime of singular ferocity and rendered all the more notable by the highposition of the victim. ,,• The use of some puns and learned allusions‘’ ‘If he be Mr. Hyde,’ he had thought, ‘I shall be Mr.Seek.’ ,,‘’ Such unscientific balderdash,’ added the doctor, flushing suddenly purple,‘would have estranged Damon and Pythias.,,
• There isn’t any female character: the story reflects the malepatriarchal world of Victorianism• Utterson has the role of a detective, like Arthur ConanDoyle’s Sherlock Holmes• For the description of Hyde, Stevenson drew inspirationfrom Darwin’s studies: in fact, Hyde s similar to an“homo neanderthalensis”
An important feature is the landscape: London.In fact there is a beautiful detailed descriptionof London, that reflects the double nature ofthe capital, the hypocrisy of Victorian society ,and the situation and the mood of the maincharacter, Mr. Utterson.
“The strange case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde”had immediately an enormous success. But itincreased the numbers of murders did bydoctors, lawyers, etc. Like, for example, themost known assassin “Jake the Slayer”