Q. Please can you explain the historical and social context in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Thanks
The Victorians were on the surface an extremely civilised society dominated by strict codes of conduct, politemanners and repressed sexuality. Great emphasis was placed on duty and decency. However, this covered a great deal of hypocrisy. Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shows the limitations of civilization. Stevenson's novel very clearly highlights the immoral, Hyde as evil and the stoic, archetypical Victorian, Utterson, as good. But the novel refuses to decide which of these natures represents true human nature, and therefore shows that no matter how civilised we become, we cannot ever hope to eliminate the primal, seething human subconscious. Victorian England stood at the tip of a massive Empire spanning much of the "uncivilized" world, and, with great pride, England thought of itself as the civilizing force of the world. Yet the immense success enjoyed by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde upon its publication suggests that its themes struck a chord among the English population, that England was far less certain of the power of civilization than it claimed, both abroad and at home.
Stevenson became one of the leading lights of English literature in the 1880s. This success was long in coming; he had been publishing essays and novels since the early 1870s. He travelled often, seeking both to distract himself from and to find a climate more amenable to the tuberculosis that haunted his later days. Stevenson died suddenly in 1894, at the age of 44.
Submitted by: Laura, (Age 15)
Back to full list of questions
A highly interactive Key Stage 3 English site designed specifically to meet the needs of En3 Writing, Spelling and Punctuation.
Way with Words
Write poetry with Benjamin Zephaniah. The fun site also contains word games and a useful glossary.