Introduction: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Introduction: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Stevenson was interested in what made up a person’s character: How a person can be both bad and good


  • Our study of Dr. Jekyll… will focus heavily on theme.
  • You will writing an essay on a theme
  • What is a theme?


Theme is…

  • the central or dominant idea behind the story; the most important aspect that emerges from how the book treats its subject. Sometimes theme is easy to see, but, at other times, it may be more difficult.
  • Theme is usually expressed indirectly, as an element the reader must figure out.
  • The author implies a theme while the readers infer its meaning

Theme continued

  • It is a universal statement about humanity, rather than a simple statement dealing with plot or characters in the story.
  • Themes are generally hinted at through different methods: a phrase or quotation that introduces the novel, a recurring element in the book, or an observation made that is reinforced through plot, dialogue, or characters.

Themes in Dr. Jekyll…

  • Be aware for evidence of the following themes:
    • human ugliness originates in the soul
    • people who succumb to the temptations of evil risk losing their capacity (ability) for good
    • people who suppress, or restrain, their natural desires risk having them surface out of control.


First Interpretation: Born Evil

  • RLS had a strict Christian and moral upbringing. The idea of good vs. evil was one that he was quite aware of.
  • Adam/Eve and serpent, Cain and Abel
  • Thomas Hobbes thought that humans were naturally bad and would be like animals in a “state of nature”
  • In Christianity, original sin says that people are born inclined toward evil and struggle to be good

Second Interpretation: Society makes us evil

  • Context: Takes place in Victorian Era (1837-1901) in London, England
  • Members of the upper class in Victorian times were especially expected to behave virtuously. They, along with their homes, were expected to be proper and elegant at all times.

A Class Divided

  • Victorian society was divided.
  • Social classes did not mix, and behavior, especially among members of the upper class, was expected to be exemplary at all times.
  • The unrealistically rigid morality of upper class Londoners led many to live double lives.

2nd Interpretation: Tabula Rasa

  • The Enlightenment view was that people are born blank slates
  • society shapes the person into good or evil
  • Sigmund Freud, the father of psychotherapy, believed that human beings are powerfully influenced by impulses they are not aware of


  • Freud said there were three parts to a person’s psychology
  • Ego- the conscious part of oneself (adult)
  • Id- the unconscious part of oneself (childlike)
  • Superego- as society, ethics, and morals.
  • To many readers, Hyde represents Dr. Jekyll’s subconscious desire to be freed from society’s restrictions.
  • People need to repress desires for society to work.

What do you think?

  • Are good and evil innate (are they in us when we’re born)?
  • OR
  • Is it society who makes us who we are?
  • Consider:
    • Are people basically good or basically bad?
    • Can “good” people do “bad” things?
    • Is everyone capable of doing horrible things such as the crimes
  • Jot down some notes in prep for a 4 Corner Debate

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