The strange case of Dr. Jeckill and Mr. Hyde
It is Stevenson's most famous novel and it analyzes the dramatic conflict between man's good and evil natures. In this case the choice to deal with the theme of the double can be interpretated also as a reaction to the duplicity of the moral behaviour carried on by the upper classes after the Victorian compromise.
The novel exploits gothic elements to support the story of a scientist whose main concern was to separate the two main aspects of human soul. Stevenson attributes the characteristics of good and evil to his protagounist; this means that the fight of good against evil is no longer represented by the contrast between two human beings but it is a fight which takes place inside the soul of one person, in this case it is Dr.Jeckyll.
Dr.Jeckyll is a scientist, a wealthy and rich man of the Victorian upper classes and he is respected by everyone for his social position. He lives in a elegant house situated in an elegant district of London. Jeckyll is interested in studies about what he considers relevant in human behaviour. He thinks that man is made up of good and evil attitudes and he thinks that being able to isolate the one from the other would enable man to controll and reduce the evil part and favour the development of the good side. His scientific intent was a good one but it proved to be impossible because evil prevailed and suffocated the good side. Jeckyll carried on the experiment on himself and realized that when he turnen into Hyde he enjoyed committing crimes and he felt at ease. He even realized that in the moment in which his transformation took place in spite of all the pains and suffering of the moment as Jeckyll, he felt exciting and pleased at the idea of experiencing emotions and situations in which his irrational side dominated every sense of duty and dignity. His experiments had consequences on his life, profession and relationship but they also affected his physical appearance. As Dr.Jeckyll he was well built, handsome, brilliant while Hyde was young, slim, not very tall, definitely not handsome. At each transformation Hyde became stronger and stronger while Jeckyll, on the contrary, became weaker and weaker. At the end Jeckyll realizes that his evil part was dominating the good one and it was definitely stronger so he decides to committ suicide because death was the only solution he had to get rid of his bad side. Dr. Jeckyll left a letter in which he explained all the phases of his experiment.
Victorian society rejected the idea of suicide but in this case the novel didn't rise any scandal because death at the end of the experiment was the only solution to eliminate negative social consequences.
The novel's message was to warn scientists against the risk their profession implied. Stevenson pays attenction to the efforts made human beings to controll and limit their irrational nature; he points out the theme is the responsability of science, which makes Dr.Jeckyll an example of the overricher. Jeckyll wanted to experience being evil and he is the one who drives his actions, so he is responsable for what happens to him and for his punishment. (there is no reward).
The title is unusual and gives the idea of a detective story but actually the novel deals with serious and psichological aspects of human life.
Realism is one the elements characterizing the novel. The only supernatural element is the experiment which is also one of the gothic element. The influence of gothich literature can be also found in the setting in time and place: Mr.Hyde is at working during the night, such as the experiment.
The novel has a complex structure, this aspect is shown in the variety of the narrative point of view: there are three narrators: the third-person narrator who is a witness and tells most of the story; Dr.Lanyon; Dr.Jeckyll who explains his experiment in the last chapter of the book.