Social Darwinism Reflected in Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde


Stevensons theme of good versus evil reflects the belief system of the Victorian period, where nature versus nurture forms a frequent argument. This brings into question whether people are innately good or bad. Mr.Hyde is obviously bad but Dr.Jekyll isn’t all good. It is also a direct reflection of the role that social Darwinism played during this time. According to Miriam Webster dictionary social Darwinism is described as:

“A sociological theory that sociological advance is the product of intergroup conflict and competition and the socially elite classes possess biological superiority in the struggle for existence”

The theory applies biological concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest to sociology and politics of this time. Stevenson uses duality to represent these themes, using Jekyll as the facade of man and Hyde as the primitive core of man. Social Darwinism separates the two sides when they are in fact one being, a primitive being constantly suppressed by the facade of society.

In a true representation of good versus evil Mr.Hyde would be entirely evil and Dr.Jekyll would be pure and good. This is not the case; Dr.Jekyll still continues to struggle with some of his less than favorable attributes. While Mr.Hyde is a representation of what man would be without the limitations Of society and self awareness. Mr.Hyde has no fear of public perception, which is what makes him inherently bad. For example when he stomps the little girl in the square in plain site (1679 nortons anthology). Dr.Jekyll struggles with substance abuse and a sex addiction both of which he attempts to hide. It’s ironic that MR.Hyde would have a second home in SoHo where prostitutes frequently roamed, and gin ran rampant. He goes further into detail about his indescretions during his full statement.

The concept of social Darwinism is directly demonstrated with the description of Mr.Hyde and his obviously ethnic features which are equated to to ape like features. As well as during their visit to Mr.Hydes second home which is located on a more diverse side of town where exotic women lay slumped over on stoops or walking the streets. Anglo Europeans or WASP (white Anglo Saxon Protestant) is used to depict the standard of beauty as well as the moral compass here. Mr.Hyde’s barbaric behavior is justified by his ethnicity and it is assumed that he doesn’t know any better. His entire description is very barbaric and archaic, his home is even described as cave like. He is also cruel and murderous with no regards to consequences. Celt’s and negroes were during this time period were viewed as closer to ape like and less like man, therefore they had no understanding of morals or societal expectations. Even in illustrations they are depicted with stronger jaw lines and hunched shoulders much like the description given of Mr.Hyde. This could be the reason that his deformity could not be pinpointed initially (1864 nortons anthology). Mr.Hydes small stature could also be a repress golf Dr.Jekylls suppression of his animal instincts.

Hyde’s primal desires seem to control his entire being: he is easily succumbed to violent behavior without being provoked. This is demonstrated when he tramples the young girl and later murders the old man. He felt no sense of restraint or remorse for either incident. Not only does he take part in violence but he evokes and inspires it in other people. Simply looking at him inspired people to take part in heinous crimes as well. For example after he tramples the little girl, Mr.Einfield mentions he feels an urge to kill him when he stops him after the heinous crime.

“Every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw Sawbones turn sick and white with the urge to kill him”

Not only did he inspire murder in Mr.Einfield but in the hearts of other bystanders as well.

During this day and age it seems ridiculous to believe someone’s intelligence level or moral obligations could be determined by their ethnicity. During the Victoria period the theory of social Darwinism was very popular, even comforting during a period of rapid change. Stevenson tears apart the stereotype of morality during this time by revealing that we are not all entirely good or bad, essentially we are a reduced version of our primitive selves. We are primitive at the core but are taught to suppress animalistic urges to conform to societal norms. Stevenson essential creates a mockery of the social infrastructure developed during the Victorian time period. Victorian society is perceived as very conservative when in reality they were quite perverse. Both prostitution and addiction ran rampant, they were not quite as conservative as they would have liked us to believe which is why Stevenson uses this novel to expose them as the hypocrites they are.


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