How does Stevenson present Mr Hyde as a frightening outsider ?
At the beginning of the extract, Hyde is first seen as not meeting the expectations of Victorian society. Whilst conversing with Mr Utterson he experiences a “flush of anger” and implies him to be a “liar.” Mr Utterson comments that this is not “fitting language,” showing Hyde’s disregard for the rules, and his unwillingness to conform with society’s expectations. Later in the novella, Hyde is described as having “ a contempt for danger [and] a solution to the bonds of obligation.” Stevenson therefore portrays Hyde as outside of the normal conventions. Shortly before the extract, Hyde is described as being an atypical Victorian gentleman, being “ a little man” and “pale and dwarfish.” His “irregular habits” such as “seeking to shake” Dr Lanyon would be seen as uncouth and poor etiquette . This also emphasises his portrayal as an outsider, being physically and psychologically different.
Later on whilst describing his clothes, Dr Lanyon comments “they would have made an ordinary person laughable” and yet not so Hyde – implying Hyde to be different from an “ordinary person.” He is portrayed as having something “abnormal and misbegotten in his very essence.” Stevenson implies there is an innate feeling of abnormality surrounding Hyde and his actions, and “misbegotten” suggests his already cursed soul. The triple of present participles used, “ seizing, surprising and revolting” show the immediate effect of Hyde, and the strength of feeling that he is not normal and therefore outside of normal humanity . Elsewhere, Hyde is also described as “seizing” attention, being so different that he forcibly draws the eye of the character involved.
An element of fear is created by the bestial imagery used to describe Hyde. The verb “snarled” is used to describe his “savage laugh”, and elsewhere in the novella Hyde is also depicted as animalistic and sub-human. He has “ape-like fury” whilst committing a brutal murder, and later the simile “ a masked thing like a monkey” is used to describe him. This is reminiscent of Darwin’s theory of evolution that was prominent at the time, and suggests that Hyde is maybe devolving back into an animal’s natural desires for indulgence. Upon meeting Utterson, Hyde “shrank back with a hissing intake of breath,” the consonance used here shows the harsh nature and the onomatopoeic verb “hissing” has connotations of serpents and evil. Often Hyde is referred to as the “creature” or the “thing” – all this shows that “[Hyde] seems hardly human,” and is a darker being. Stevenson plays on the natural human fear of the unknown, and the mystery and suspense created by Hyde throughout the novella also instils a sense of fear.
Hyde is also shown to be frightening by his complete lack of mercy, remorse, or feeling. The adverb “calmly” is used to describe his trampling of the young child, showing his uncaring and utterly remorseless nature. By the brutal murder of Danvers Carew, he “startles London by a crime of singular ferocity.” The adjective “singular” shows the unique character of the bloodthirsty Hyde and how London had never seen anything of the like before. During the attack Stevenson describes Hyde as “breaking out of all bounds,” showing his unacceptable behaviour and his disregards for moral as well as social conventions. The violent verb choices of “ clubbed” “trampled” and “shattered” assault all the senses of the reader, and introduces an element of the horror genre. During the Victorian time period, this scene would have been viewed as extremely graphic and violent, producing a sense of fear. This reiterates Hyde’s frightening qualities, not least because of his “insensate cruelty” and his lack of any morality. His lust for violence is conveyed by “the transport of glee” with which he kills Carew, showing his malicious nature. Unlike the rest of society with strict social expectations and repressive conventions, Hyde indulges all his senses by “tasting delight with every blow.” His “gloating” emphasises his remorseless and unfeeling nature, marking him out as different from humanity.
In the extract, whilst debating on Mr Hyde, Utterson sees the problem as “of a class that is rarely solved.” Similarly, Hyde himself is implied to be in a class of his own, with something “troglodytic” about him. Later in the book, Stevenson describes Hyde as “not a popular character”, which seems to be something of an understatement. Another simile, describing Hyde as “crying out like a rat” is used, aligning him with rodents and other creatures that are traditionally disliked and considered to be vermin. This generates a feeling of revulsion or disgust for Hyde, echoed through the effect he has on the characters around him. Hyde seems to instil fear and hatred into whoever comes near him. Utterson himself, who has an “approved tolerance” for others, feels “unknown disgust, loathing, and fear,” at the sight of Hyde. Yet the revolting qualities of Hyde seem “unexplainable” despite his appearance and mannerisms, for even before knowing him he “goes strongly against the watchers inclination.” None of the characters can really explain their instant and strong dislike for Hyde – whilst describing him , Enfield “can’t specify the point”, although the image of Hyde has obviously affected him for Enfield “[declares] he can see him this moment.” Throughout the novella, Stevenson’s characters have an innate and instinctive fear and hatred of Hyde, once more marking him as outside of the normal population.
The ill effect of Hyde on people is shown throughout the novel. Stevenson describes him as having a physical influence on people, for example “sweating” with fear, and having the “blood run cold in [one’s] veins.” Dr Lanyon as a man of science identifies the symptoms more carefully, and feels “ an incipient rigour” and a “marked slowing of the pulse.” Hyde is associated with cold and languid imagery, having connotations of death and decay. This could also be an explanation to the natural aversion to Hyde.
Whilst thinking of Hyde, Utterson thinks that his repulsiveness is caused by “perhaps the radiance of a foul soul … that transfigures its clay continent.” As the human form was believed to have been created by God, this idea implies that Hyde is not only going against human but divine conventions by interfering with God’s work. The biblical allusion is reiterated elsewhere by the description “really damnable”, implying that Hyde’s soul is beyond saving. Utterson believes to have witnessed “Satan’s signature upon [his ] face,” suggesting that the devil had marked out Hyde for his own. However later, Henry Jekyll refers to Hyde as the “spirit of hell” itself. The metaphor “my devil had long been caged, he came out roaring” also alludes to Hyde breaking free of normal constraints, and to him being a physical manifestation of evil. The verb “roaring” shows the unstoppable and violent force of Hyde. Characters of higher moral standards such as Utterson are therefore immediately repulsed by him as a human instinct to avoid evil. Towards the end of the book, Dr Jekyll puts forward his hypothesis of humans having both good and evil sides, but confesses “Hyde alone in the ranks of mankind, was of pure evil.” This quote identifies Hyde as one of a kind, being “alone” and once again shows him to be “the Other” compared to the rest of humanity.
However on another level, Stevenson does not portray Hyde as so much of an outsider as we think or rather wish to believe. As a metaphor for “pure evil,” he is the darker side of Jekyll’s own mind. The character of Jekyll is used as an example of the “thorough and primitive duality of man” and the effect of temptation of humans. Jekyll describes Hyde through the oxymoron “an ugly idol”, showing his admiration and pride of his creation. This shows his willingness to engage with evil, yet other characters are also depicted as being imperfect – Dr Lanyon is swayed by temptation that leads to his downfall, Enfield’s business and moral character are implied to be dubious, and even Utterson himself is seen as being “envious” of his criminal clients and is “humbled to the dust by the many ill things he had done.” Stevenson uses Jekyll to describe humans as being “commingled out of good and evil” it could be argued that Hyde exists in all of humanity, therefore bringing him closer than expected. Stevenson explores the theme of repression and hidden desires in his novella, and for some Hyde as the dark side of a psyche may indeed be a frightening outsider, but for others Hyde is perhaps a more familiar concept as an internal part of the mind. During the novella, Stevenson neglects to ever properly describe Hyde’s face, and rarely goes into detail about his heinous crimes, defining them only as “moral turpitude” , inviting the reader to use their own dark side and imagine Hyde for themselves. Through his allegorical portrayal of good and evil, and his suggestion that “man is not truly one, but truly two” Stevenson suggests that Hyde, as a hyperbole of evil that is “caged in the flesh” may be an outsider on a physical level, but mentally may in fact be much closer to our own psyche than we would like to admit.