The Pressure To Be Good Can Force One To Go Bad

1095 words - 4 pages

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was based in the Victorian era, which was a time when hypocrisy was rampant. “Insincerity” was not the mark of a bad man; in fact it was what one needed to practice in order to blend with society and to have a decent reputation. Today one may think of hypocrisy as a bad character trait, where as the Victorians would have thought of being improper the same way. Therefore the Victorians were actually hypocrites, because the alternative was to be honest, and as a result improper. The pressures of “conformity, moral pretension, and evasion” made up Victorian hypocrisy (Houghton 146-149); furthermore they are also the very things that pushed Dr. Jekyll to create an alter ego, Mr. Hyde, and are what caused him to eventually be taken over entirely.
Dr. Jekyll found that the expectations to stay in line and not show his inner desires were hard to control, so he created an outlet for them, Mr. Hyde. In a new society conventions determine whether or not one fits into society or is out casted from it (Houghton 147). To Dr. Jekyll, these proprieties were tedious and difficult to manage: “I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and bear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public” (Stevenson 48). Houghton states that individuals in Victorian society were inclined to avoid behavior that “might make him look like an outsider or upstart” (147). In the form of Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll was able to gain relief from the cultural pressures to act and behave a certain way. He could finally escape the demands that he faced on an everyday basis. Dr. Jekyll had done what he needed to do to “avoid social stigma” in his public life (147): “Men have hired bravos to transact their crimes while their own person and reputation sat under shelter. I was the first that ever did so for his pleasures” (Stevenson 52). Dr. Jekyll cared a great deal about his reputation. With Mr. Hyde he thought that he had found a way to preserve it, while also acting on the impulses of human nature.
With his outlet, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll was at first able to appear morally superior to his colleagues and friends, yet still escape into Mr. Hyde to be free of Victorian obligation. Dr. Jekyll lived in a time of unobtainable high standards, “too high for human nature.” If one could fake the desirable Puritan characteristics, as a result one could gain the respect and following of their fellow members of society (Houghton 147-48). The Victorians did not deceive for cruel motives; they did it to survive socially. Dr. Jekyll describes his life as “nine-tenths a life of effort, virtue, and control” (51). And so, growing restless he tried to separate himself into two parts to escape the need to fake moral righteousness: “the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil”...

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