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Robert Louis Stevenson


Stevenson was born in Scotland, grew up in a Calvinist family so he was educated with a severe moral. He have to attend religious schools. His father wanted to made him an engineer, but he understood that his way was to write novels. So he went to south of France, he meet a divorced American woman and he followed her in America. It was a great scandal for his family. Then he began to write the famous novel ‘’The Treasure Island’’. This novel had an immediate success, but of course his fame was increased at the publication of ‘’the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hide’’. Then he published the Scottish stories and he spent the last years of his life in the south Pacific, established in Samoa Island, and continued in writing stories about travels.
Stevenson was considered an anti-Victorian writer because he of course didn’t accept Victorian standards, and he denounced the hypocrisy and the falsity of Victorian establishment. The title of his play is ‘’the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hide’’. From the title we immediately understand that this is a sort of a crime story (case). It is the classical story about the struggle between good and evil. Dr Jekyll is an estimated doctor, he lives in a marvelous house and he as a coach, servants, so he’s a respectable person. Every people admire him. During the night he transform himself in a ugly, old person , Mr. Hide. He in fact took a poison, a sort of drug, and goes around the streets of London and murders. Stevenson in this novel wanted to attack the hypocrisy and the falsity of Victorian society, that appreciated only the appearance of people. In the end Dr Jekyll understands that Mr. Hide become stronger than him, and the only way to stop him is to kill himself; in fact in the end of the novel Dr Jekyll commits suicide, he leaves a letter to his best friend, explaining and recounting all the story and the reasons of his suicide.
We find a variety of theme in this novel:
The ethical theme. Even in this novel we can ask ourselves if science should have some limits, because Dr Jekyll, after his researches, has invented a potion that drinks.
The theme of the double. Dr Jekyll and Mr. hide are of course two sides of the same human being. Dr Jekyll is the good side ad Mr. hide is the evil side.
Lack of communication. Dr Jekyll is really alone; he has a best friend, he has a girlfriend, but is incapable to confess, to ask help them. He is unable to communicate, and in the end the only way to escape this situation is to commits suicide.
We can consider this novel another faustian story: Dr Jekyll wants to overcome human limits, he is an overreacher.
The female role in this novel is secondary: we find Dr Jekyll’s girlfriend, but she has a secondary role. The most important female figure is his maid, but we can note that she’s ignorant. There is a contrast between the female characters and the male characters; there’s a sort of female inferiority in this novel
There is a moral: if you live a life of sins, of course in the end you have to pay. Dr Jekyll kills a lot of people and in the end he has to die.
The transformation of Mr. Hide is symbolical. At the beginning when Dr Jekyll begins to transform himself into Mr. hide, he appears as an old crooked, malignant man. But as time passes Mr. hide becomes taller and stronger than Dr Jekyll. It means, symbolically, that the evil is overcoming the good, and the only way to stop this evil is for Dr Jekyll, to kills himself. We find a lot of symbols in this novel: for example the house of Dr Jekyll ,the coach, the servants, are symbols of richness, properties and they indicate his social condition, aristocracy. The house has a front door, from which Dr Jekyll every morning comes out, is symbol of respectability. Instead the back side of the house, the little door in the narrow street, from which Mr. hide during the night comes out, is symbol of the evil and the double side of Dr Jekyll personality.
Some critics want to see an homosexual relationship between Dr Jekyll and Mr. hide, a sort of extreme love for himself.
Talking about the fact that the novel is considered a crime story, is referred first of all to the title, because it is ‘’the strange case’’. Then the setting is a foggy London. We find ‘’scattered clues’’, because someone had seen a person coming out from the backdoor of Dr Jekyll’s house, even the maid begins to understand the story. So we find some scattered clues, that in the end lead us to the solution of the story, to understand that Mr. Hide is Dr Jekyll.
We find three narrators in this story: there’s an external narrator, which of course recounts the story in the third person. Then Dr Lanyon, who writes down his own version of the story, and, in the end, Dr Jekyll himself with his confession.
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