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How does Stevenson present Mr Hyde as a frightening outsider?

Extract from Chapter 2


Stevenson presents Mr Hyde as a frightening outsider in the gothic 19thcentury novella both in this extract and throughout the novella through the animalistic and satanic descriptions presenting him as the Other to Victorian readers and the society in the novella. Stevenson also uses Hyde to question ideas of humanity, his questions associated with the character causing him to be seen as even more frightening.


Stevenson continually uses bestial imagery when describing Mr Hyde, the verb, “snarled” in the extract having animalistic connotations of aggression, continued throughout the novella such as the simile, “ape-like fury”, not only showing him to be animalistic  but also portraying Hyde as a primitive being and alluding to Darwinism. The continual alignment of Hyde to bestial imagery shows Hyde as frightening as it suggests that Hyde has no boundaries, conscious or any form of repression, making readers see him as an outsider as these aspects are excluded from polite society. Furthermore Stevenson alluding to Darwinism also presents Hyde as an outsider to Victorian readers as the fairly new theory was against the Christian beliefs of society, while Stevenson questioning the possibility of de-evolution and whether we all have a frightening primitive being within us, presents Hyde as frightening to Victorian and twenty first Century readers alike.


Stevenson’s use of the verb; “troglodytic” in the extract also describes Hyde as a primitive being, further portraying him as the Other in the evolved society, as well as the mythical and supernatural connotations showing him to be mysterious and unknown further isolating him from society as well as producing a fear of the unknown in the reader.


Stevenson also causes fear of the unknown and Hyde himself by aligning Hyde to satanic imagery as life after death, hell and the devil are all unknown to mankind; “Satan’s signature”, the sibilance in the extract further alluding to the devil through the biblical story of temptation with the serpentine sound. Stevenson continues using imagery alluding to the devil in the novella, the harsh consonance, “hellish Hyde”, and the metaphor, “My devil had been long caged” not only presents him as frightening to the religious society and Christian Victorian readers but also an outsider as he does not comply with  the God fearing society in the novella.


The fear of the unknown is further used by Stevenson through the absence of Hyde’s physical description and the absence of description referring to Hyde’s immoral deeds; his name ironic, “Hyde”, hide having connotations of the unknown; “the figure had no face” and “The pleasures which I made haste to seek in my disguise were, as I have said, undignified”, allowing Hyde and his actions to become a manifestation of the reader’s fears and evil nature arguably more frightening than any possible description. 


Stevenson’s absence of description when referring to Hyde also raises the question of our own dark side and evil; possibly referring to ideas at his time of writing, which later composed the Freudian theory; questioning whether the Id, Hyde, is in everyone causing Hyde to be seen as frightening to the readers as he represents the evil they are capable of, immediately making the readers isolate him due to their fear.


Not only Stevenson’s description of Hyde but also his actions portray him as being frightening: the eluded rape, Hyde having “trampled calmly over the child’s body”, portraying Hyde and his actions as frightening, emphasised by the “child” not having a name making the reader identify with the innocent victim as a possible loved one, causing them to fear the character of Hyde even more.  Furthermore the murder of Carew cause the Victorian readers to perceive Hyde to be frightening due to his ability to kill a man of “high position” as the upper classes were seen to be untouchable for the common Victorian. Both these crimes are portrayed as horrifying by Stevenson, the violence graphic to Victorian readers, “the body jumped upon the roadway” the dehumanisation of the victim further creating horror, causing the readers to perceive Hyde as even more frightening.


Stevenson also shows Hyde to have, “used a key” into Jekyll’s home, an extended metaphor alluding to Hyde’s access into Jekyll’s psyche and possibly the reader’s, provoking fear which is associated with Hyde.


 However this extended metaphor could also be interpreted as Hyde’s and evil‘s ability to become included within society, “unlocked the door and disappeared into the house”, rather, Hyde symbolically represents liberation from a repressed Victorian society, “delighted me like wine”, the simile having connotations of indulgence. This is shown through Stevenson’s continual use of imagery of locked doors and cabinets, “he locked the note into his safe”, illustrating the repressed desires and thoughts of Victorian society causing Hyde to be aligned with liberation from repression, instead of causing fear in readers, Hyde could allow the Victorian readers to identify with him when indulging their own desires in secret.


On the other hand Stevenson’s use of the extended metaphor of the buildings, being character’s psyches, to show Mr Hyde as the Other. Hyde’s side of Jekyll’s house, “thrust forward its gable”, the violent verb, “thrust” having connotations of brutality, a contrast with the street, representing the rest of society, which had an, “air of invitation”; emphasising Hyde’s exclusion from society.


Stevenson’s description of the “sordid negligence”, of Hyde’s entrance to Jekyll’s house contrasted with Jekyll’s grand side may have been inspired by respectful Victorian anatomists turning to body snatching at night, causing Hyde to be seen as frightening by Victorian readers by his alignment to this horrifying idea.


Stevenson’s continual use of the theme, duality used in the description of Mr Hyde, “murderous mixture of timidity and boldness”, the adjective, “murderous” having negative connotations of brutality, fear and violence, perceiving Hyde to be frightening heightened by his perceived duality showing him to be unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Stevenson may have been inspired to make duality a key theme in the novella by his home town of Edinburgh, notorious for its duality of the respectful new town and the more morally dubious old town and his rumoured double life as a university student there.


Stevenson may also be raising the question of humanity’s duality, frightening readers as Hyde’s duality questions their perception of everyone they know and whether they have a dual personality. 


Stevenson raising questions about humanity’s nature presents Hyde as a frightening outsider by producing a sense of horror within the reader which is in turn aligned with his character thus producing a physical effect on the reader possibly mirroring the other characters’ reaction to Hyde in the novella.


The Everyman investigative narrator, Utterson, which allows the novella and its questions to speak for themselves, portrays Hyde’s physical effect on him in the extract, mirroring the readers reaction of the frightening outsider, Hyde; “not all of these could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear”,  this is emphasised by Utterson being shown to be trustworthy as a “lawyer” allowing the reader to relate to him. 


Hyde’s physical effect is shown by Stevenson throughout the novella, the character’s effect in itself portraying Hyde as frightening, a “marked sinking of the pulse”, suggesting that Hyde brings death and therefore fear, as well as making people feel, “cold”, Stevenson possibly portraying Hyde as isolating as he has no warmth from company or friendship. Furthermore the repetition of the idea that Hyde has an, “impression of deformity”, suggests that he is a reject from society, the noun, “deformity” having connotations of illness, evil mythical beasts and in Victorian society a punishment from God, showing Hyde to be the Other and frightening to readers as well as the society in the novella.


Hyde’s physical effect on others in the novella also eludes to his power, continued in the novella by Stevenson use of natural imagery to describe Hyde, his power making him seem frightening, “hailing down a storm of blows”, the present participle, “hailing” and the noun, “storm” having natural connotations of an unstoppable elemental force, provoking a fear of the character Mr Hyde as well as portraying him as being an outsider with the connotations of the “storm” being uninhabitable.


Stevenson also uses fog to portray Hyde as frightening, “The fog still slept”, the recurring motif creating a sense of fear as it obscures your view both metaphorically and literally: metaphorically, you are unable to see Hyde and evil approaching or within others, inspiring fear of him and literally you are unable to see Hyde as he is within Dr Jekyll.  The verb “slept” also portrays Hyde as frightening as the verb has connotations of inevitability that Hyde and evil will wake up both in the novella and in the reader.


Stevenson also describes Hyde as “pale and dwarfish” in the extract, which has supernatural connotations with the adjective “pale” having connotations of illness and the adjective, “dwarfish” having connotations of being weak. Stevenson’s description presents Hyde as being an outsider as it is the opposite of perceived strong masculinity which would have been embraced in Victorian society. Also through this description of Hyde, Stevenson eludes to the fact that Hyde is not the stronger psyche due to less experience possibly raising the question of nature versus nurture and the ability for anyone to become evil and therefore Hyde if one indulges in immoral acts too much, presenting Hyde as frightening.


Overall Stevenson presents Hyde as a frightening outsider through his alignment to the animal kingdom, primitive humans and the devil as well as his inability to comply with Victorian society. Furthermore questions raised by Stevenson through Hyde about ourselves portray Hyde as a frightening outsider to both Victorian and modern readers.


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