In the following essay, I will be discussing a theme that runs like a silver thread through the novella, which is that of a repressed society during the Victorian era. In the novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson, the theme of a repressed society is evident in the character of Mr Hyde and it is clear that he represents the repression that Dr Jekyll experienced through his life. Through analyzing the text within the Victorian era, it will become clear that many Victorians were forced to act a certain way which led them to become less-human. During this time, splitting within males took place in order to afford a true representation of themselves (Cohen,183). In order to support this discussion, I will be making use of secondary sources and quotes from the text in order to strengthen my argument regarding this repressed society.
In order to discuss the repression that the Victorian society faced, we need to look at why there was a reason to repress one’s emotions and inner self. During the Victorian era, a good reputation was highly valued. Thus, having a career as a well-respected doctor or lawyer such as Utterson and Dr Jekyll had, meant that there was a certain standard that needed to be upheld and that citizens in these positions always had to put their best foot forward. This persona that was held by these citizens could have led to the repression of their true self, as in the case of Dr Jekyll (Stevenson, 81). This urge to keep up a good reputation is evident in the in which Utterson and Enfield avoid gossiping, because they believe it could ruin reputations (Stevenson, 10). This can also be seen later in the novella when Jekyll creates Hyde in order to prevent his own well-respected representation from being tarnished. Therefore, it can be said that the importance of one’s reputation goes hand in hand with repression during the Victorian era.
This standard that needed to be upheld in the Victorian society, clearly took a toll on Jekyll. He was born into a wealthy family and was thought to act like-wise. Therefore, he had to keep up with this ‘perfect persona’ for almost his entire life. However, Jekyll has repressed most of his true pleasures for all his life and when reflecting upon his life he comes to the realization that something is missing. Therefore, it is clear that Jekyll has had the desire inside of him to transgress from what he has been thought from a very young age. This desire has come from the way in which he led his life and the way he had to carry himself due to his profession. He gives into this desire and ceases to repress the evil side within him. Thus, the evil nature of society which the Victorians and himself wished to reject, he turned into a monster which would enable him to release his anger and frustrations upon the world.
As Cohen argues (188), Stevenson’s novella demonstrates an underlying critique of male subjectivity which they are forced to endure due to th...