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Runner Up, 2012-2013 Best Gateway Essay Contest

Instructor: Adam Woodis, Modern Languages and Literature

Abstract

This essay works to explain and generalize the values of the Victorian era and their suppressive quality, and then to apply this knowledge specifically to Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It argues that Victorian values were harmful to the people they governed and forced Victorians to choose between the parts of themselves that would lead to success, like measured behavior, and those that contain basic human desires, such as sexual desires. Respectability and reputation, as well as the need for the appearance of social perfection, suppressed unwanted aspects of human nature.

The essay first describes the qualities of the Victorian values in question, then focuses on the specific effects they had on Dr. Jekyll. After describing the behaviors encouraged by these societal values and addressing the fragmented nature of Dr. Jekyll, it explains the behaviors of certain characters as well as the overall effect this has on Dr. Jekyll.

Arguing that it is specifically Victorian England that created such a man, the essay concludes that another setting or different values within Victorian England may not have caused the separation of one man into two parts that is seen with Dr. Jekyll. It also asserts that Stevenson warns that total separation of one person is not possible and trying to divide oneself causes more harm to the person than the negative characteristics would have.

Disciplines

English Language and Literature | Rhetoric and Composition

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