Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Symbols

Learn about symbols in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Course Hero's video study guide.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Symbols

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Darkness

Darkness is the realm of Mr. Hyde, and he is described as having a "dark influence" on the world. Hyde moves about mostly at night, committing his terrible deeds. Night therefore comes to be the time when readers expect dreadful, evil things to happen in the novella. The darkness extends as well to shadows and fog, creating a sense of gloom along with an inability to see things clearly.

Houses

In Jungian psychology the house represents the psyche of a person, so the state of the house gives clues to the state of the psyche. The front of a house is the public persona. The back of the house is the part hidden away and kept private. In this novella Dr. Jekyll greets people through the front of the house, while Hyde enters through the back, using a door that not everyone knows accesses Jekyll's house. Hyde, tellingly, has an entire house but uses only two rooms of it; the rest sits empty. This symbolizes Hyde's limited development, his possession of only a few aspects of the human psyche.

Doors

A person passes through a door to enter a house. In Jungian therapy and other systems, doors are passageways between worlds. A locked door, like the one Jekyll uses to keep both his friends and his servants out, is an attempt to control one's reality. When Poole and Utterson break down Jekyll's locked door, they are symbolically doing what Jekyll has already done to himself with his tincture: forcing access to his private, inner self.

The Walking Stick

In Victorian England gentlemen often carried walking sticks. They served both as weapons, if the need arose, and as signs of belonging to a higher social class. In this novella Enfield uses his cane to point out the door associated with Mr. Hyde in the first chapter. But whereas Enfield's cane remains intact, Hyde breaks his when he beats Sir Danvers Carew to death. This symbolizes the break in Jekyll's identity and in his use of Hyde as a cover story. When Hyde takes his broken walking stick back to his house and leaves it there, it serves as evidence that he killed Carew. More importantly, it shows Hyde so removed from normal life that he no longer thinks of such things. It may also demonstrate that he has no fear or does not feel guilt.

Clothing

Clothing is an external representation of one's self. In a society with clear class distinctions such as those in Victorian England, this is not subconscious or subtle. It is conscious, straightforward, and literal: servants wear livery, gentlemen dress formally, judges wear robes, and so on. The point at which clothing becomes symbolic in this novella is when Dr. Jekyll changes into Mr. Hyde. Because Hyde is physically smaller than Jekyll, Jekyll's clothes do not fit him. This can be read in several different ways, all of which work. Hyde is, as Jekyll said, younger than his creator. Hyde is not as mature or fully developed as Jekyll. He's not a complete human. Jekyll is a composite of good and evil, whereas Hyde is just evil, and so some of the original self is missing.

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