Edward Hyde is the alter ego (alternative personality) of Dr Jekyll. He is pure evil and grows in strength until he dominates and destroys his ‘better’ half.
‘trampled calmly… like some damned Juggernaut’
• Hyde is introduced through Enfield’s description of how he ‘trampled calmly’ over a girl.
• The juxtaposition of the violent verb ‘trampled’ with the adverb ‘calmly’ reveals his complete lack of consideration for the innocent victim and the vicious force with which he walks over her. The brutal vocabulary shows how dreadful the event was, shocking both Utterson and the reader.
• The simile compares Hyde to ‘some damned Juggernaut’, establishing him as an unstoppable force. This foreshadows how his evil gathers in strength and becomes uncontrollable.
‘dingy, windowless structure’
• The laboratory at the back of Jekyll’s house where he conducts his experiments is a ‘dingy, windowless structure’.
• The adjective ‘dingy’ suggests a seedy, dirty atmosphere while the the fact that it’s ‘windowless’ creates a sense of secrecy and represents the unpleasant, sly, base nature of Hyde who comes and goes through the laboratory.
• Setting is used here to show the theme of duality. Jekyll’s house appears wealthy and welcoming but there is a darker side.
Context: Stevenson used the literary traditions of Gothic novels. One of these was that of the doppelganger (double character) and Stevenson shows how Jekyll chooses to explore his duality through the creation of Hyde.
• Utterson states that he sees ‘Satan’s signature’ in Hyde’s face.
• This metaphor suggests that the devil has marked Hyde for his own; he belongs to Satan and is therefore pure evil.
Context: The Christian religion was very important in Victorian society and this association with the devil would have disturbed Stevenson’s readers.
‘something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable’
• Enfield describes Hyde as physically repulsive.
• The repetition of the pronoun ‘something’ shows how difficult it is for Enfield to pin down exactly what is is that repels him.
• The heavy alliteration of the ‘d’ sounds emphasises the force with which Enfield speaks and condemns Hyde, reflecting his strong disgust.
• Hyde is the repressed alter ego of Jekyll; the fact that Enfield finds it hard to define his appearance suggests that Enfield also has a dark side that he is repressing and denying.
Context: Physiognomy is the pseudoscience (mistaken science) of using a person’s physical appearance to judge his or her character; it was very popular in Victorian Britain. Hyde’s physical appearance would indicate to Stevenson’s readers that he is a deeply unpleasant character.
‘snarled a savage laugh… ape-like fury’
• Hyde is described like an animal; the verb ‘snarled’ shows his bestial nature.
• The ‘savage’ laugh suggests someone uncivilised, beyond society. The sibilance helps create the sinister nature of this laugh. The simile ‘ape-like’ reminds us that Hyde is often described as more like an animal that a man and here resembles a powerful ape.
Context: When Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859, the theory of evolution caused a huge stir. The idea that humankind is descended from apes was deeply uncomfortable and unsettling for many people in Victorian Britain. Stevenson explores these ideas and reflects this anxiety in the civilised, respectable Dr Jekyll who has an alter ego which behaves in a brutally animalistic way.
‘I was the first that could thus plod in the public eye… and in a moment… spring headlong into the sea of liberty’
• Hyde is the hidden dark side of Jekyll. Jekyll recalls how he enjoyed the ability to change his personality by becoming Hyde.
• We see his contempt for respectability in the verb ‘plod’ which suggests the mundane and unexciting. This contrasts with the much more energetic verb ‘spring’ which shows how he eagerly embraces his dark side. Hyde represents freedom from repression and Jekyll revels in the evil that Hyde encapsulates.
Grade 9 Analysis
Look at the character in a different way.
Does Hyde completely destroy Jekyll?
Yes: Hyde physically destroys Jekyll, mentally and physically. It is Hyde’s body which is found ‘still twitching’ at the end, not Jekyll’s, showing how the evil side grew to be the most dominant. At the end, Hyde is in control as he dominates Jekyll. Jekyll writes that his brain is obsessed with ‘one thought: the horror of my other self’. Hyde’s evil is far stronger than Jekyll had ever imagined.
No: Jekyll’s reputation might well remain intact. If Utterson destroys the letters, then society will still know Jekyll as a man of good repute and Hyde will not have managed to destroy Jekyll’s stirling reputation. Interestingly, Jekyll’s letter of explanation are the last words of the novel; Hyde did not tear it to pieces and Jekyll was able to leave a rational account of the events. Civilised communication in the form of the written word, and the sense of the confessional, means that Hyde’s evil savagery are not the last of Jekyll. And, indeed, although it is not clear, it is arguable that it is Jekyll who commits suicide and therefore destroys Hyde.
Context: Stevenson’s portrayal of the strong scientist reduced to a weak creature who is dominated by the evil Hyde reflected contemporary concerns. There was a fear that, at the end of the 19th century, civilisation was degenerating and mankind was becoming weak.