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Conformity and Repression in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Conformity and Repression in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Essay

In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the author, R.L. Stevenson uses the views of a repressive society and Dr. Jekyll’s conformity to show when people are held under harsh principles and expectations some are forced to find an outlet to compensate for the things that are not socially appropriate. Jekyll was born into a wealthy and respectable family, from a young age there were many things expected from him. Jekyll was expected to respect his elders, do good by his fellowmen, and live a respectable life. What people didn’t know was Jekyll was starting to feel temptations to do things that did not fit into his family’s guidelines for his life, he was forced to bury them to live up to his family’s expectations.

Repression played a huge part in Jekyll’s life, he constantly felt the need to push his feelings and temptations down for fear of how someone might view him if they found out what he was thinking. Concealing these feelings and temptations at such a young age caused Jekyll to have a split personality, “…I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life”. Jekyll felt immense guilt for his temptations but having a separate person to blame those temptations on, Hyde gave him a sense of relief. Jekyll talks about the dual nature of man “… that man is not truly one, but truly two”. He believes there is strictly a good side and a bad side in him that is separated by a trench. This trench he physiologically gives him the ability to only feel guilt when he is physically Jekyll, Hyde does whatever he wants with no remorse.

Hyde is pure evil, he is all of the bad parts of Jekyll bottled up; he was a mad man who did whatever he wanted, and he embodies all that was socially unacceptable in the Victorian Society. There were very few people who knew of Mr. Hyde, but of those who did, not a single person had anything good to say about him. “Mr. Hyde, who had once visited her master and for whom she had conceived a dislike”. Hyde did many questionable things but a crime that really stood out was when he murdered Sir Danvers Carew. Mr. Carew was a very important man and was highly respected in the community for his job and being a gentleman. Hyde’s motive had to do with the fact that Mr. Carew was everything Jekyll was supposed to be. All those feelings that Jekyll had once repressed rushed back causing Hyde to lash out.

A great example of a repressive Victorian society is in the movie “Mary Poppins.” The father, Mr. Banks is searching for a nanny who will straighten out his children and make them act properly. Mr. Banks represents a social tradition in the movie, similar to Stevenson’s Victorian Society, meaning he is well kept, has a good job, and rules the house. Marry Poppins brings organized chaos into the house which allows the children to have a creative outlet and simply gives them the opportunity to be children. Mr. Banks’ logic is what helped create a repressive society in the first place. It is the idea that people need to act a certain way in order to be accepted.

This idea still has an immense impact on society today, especially when it comes to teenagers. In my life, the outlet I use for repressed feelings is music. Nowadays, there are a lot more standards and expectations for teenagers, this has to do with social media and the standards we hold ourselves to. Repression happens when a thought or memory is too painful to deal with so our mind subconsciously pushes out the thought or memory. This way we don’t think about it, but it still has the power to affect the way we act and view things.

Jekyll is always one to follow the rules, he is an exceptionally good looking man, and he is very respected in the community for being a doctor. Given these circumstances, nobody would ever guess that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person for they were mentally and physically different. Even though there were physical differences it was clear the Hyde did not want to be seen by many people, “Will you let me see your face?’ asked the lawyer. Mr. Hyde appeared to hesitate”. Hyde seemed to want to stay anonymous but he showed Lanyon his potion and practically turned himself in. If it were not for Jekyll going mad and losing control of his transformations, the community would have never been able to catch them.

As a reader, one may wonder if Lanyon’s death had anything to do with repression. Lanyon died a few days after Jekyll had shown Lanyon that he had a separate side, Hyde. Lanyon explains to Utterson at a dinner party that he will no longer be friends with Jekyll but he can not tell Utterson why. “ Someday, Utterson, after I am dead, you may perhaps come to learn the right and wrong of this. I cannot tell you”. It is possible that the stress of having to keep Jekyll and Hyde’s secret killed Lanyon.

Jekyll knew from a young age the difference between right and wrong. Although as he grew up there was a side of him that chose to not abide by the social rules. This allowed Jekyll to truly do whatever he pleased but his pleasure did not come without a price. Hyde ended up killing a man, now he is forced to live with that guilt for the rest of his life which brings us back to the beginning. If Jekyll had been raised in a home where the standards weren’t so high, he was able to explore, find himself, and be a child. Rather than being told what to do and already having his life planned out for him. Things might be different, Jekyll may not be the respected doctor he is, but he also may not have been a murderer.

In conclusion, a repressive society and Dr. Jekyll’s conformity is used to show that when people are held under harsh principles and expectations some are forced to find an outlet to compensate for the things that are not socially appropriate. There are going to be impossible standards that people are expected to live up to if they want to fit in with society. When living in a repressive society one is forced to push away their feelings while pretending that they are practically perfect while living the flawless lives that were planned for them. Some people may be able to handle this type of staged lifestyle, but every once in a while you may come across a Jekyll and a Hyde. These are the few that couldn’t handle the pressure of society’s expectations and found other ways to compensate for their socially inappropriate behaviors. 

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Conformity And Repression In The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. (2021, November 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
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