The Societal Norms of the Victorian Era

The duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde represents the implications of a highly judgmental society in the Victorian era. Throughout the Victorian era, England was predicated on class and social status. Peers judged each other constantly by these aspects, and it made people act differently compared to their true nature. For instance, Dr. Jekyll stated, “I was born in the year 18— to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellowmen, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honorable and distinguished future” (Stevenson, “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”). From a young age, Dr. Jekyll was clearly concerned about the opinions of his peers, especially since he came from wealth. It shows how concealing his true nature resulted in his duality of life.
The judgments made people live two different lives in the public and private spheres. On the one hand, there would be well-respected citizens like Dr. Jekyll. On the other, there would be a person full of temptations and bold actions like Mr. Hyde. For instance, Dr. Jekyll said, “The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed” (Stevenson, “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”). Dr. Jekyll is saying part of himself or his own nature, has been suppressed, and due to the suppression of his nature, he has ended up creating an evil half of himself. The suppression of one’s true nature that Dr. Jekyll experienced was not uncommon in the Victorian era. It is the reason many people live dual lives in private and public spheres. Duality can not only explain Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but also the duality of many gothic characters through the social norms and class of the Victorian era.

One thought on “The Societal Norms of the Victorian Era”

  1. I really find your take engaging and similar to how I read the poem “The World” by Christina Rossetti. Despite the fact that you discussed the idea of how the public views one due to social class creating duality, I read the poem from the standpoint of secrecy of one’s inner thoughts creating duality. Despite the fact that these two texts have two different roots for why duality is present, they both still feature the common duality trope present in Victorian literature. I think that in the end, between the woman hiding her erotic desires in the night and Dr. Jekyll secretly having frowned upon desires both texts establish a theme of duality.

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