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Is man good or evil? This is the recurring theme in Robert Louis Stevenson’s books The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, and Kidnapped. In all three books, Stevenson explores both possibilities. For Dr. Jekyll in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Evil seems natural and addicting, but only once it is too late does he realize that Evil is wrong. For Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island, Good is the way to go, but there are definitely Evil obstacles to overcome. In the end, he finds that although there will always be some Evil left, the Good always prevails. Finally, in Kidnapped, David knows the Good only because he has to fight off Evil. However, he perseveres and earns his share of the estate.
All of these concepts can be applied to our lives. Is it human nature to be good, or do we tend to be evil? Just because the evil way is easier doesn’t make it right or just. Although it’s a rocky road, Good always comes out on top.
First off, Dr. Jekyll was having a tough time throughout the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. On page 99, he states, “It was the horror of being Hyde that racked me.” Dr. Jekyll had devised a complicated potion that allowed his body to take the form of some one else. Jekyll chose Hyde because he was already hated by society and could get away with irrational things in the form of him. Jekyll says, on page 83, “It seemed natural and human,” referring to taking his anger out in the form of Hyde. “I must still believe that (evil) is the lethal side of man.” Jekyll knows that what he was doing wasn’t right, though. When he injured the little girl in the street, Jekyll admits “My pleasures, to say the least, were undignified.” (Pg. 85). This shows us that although Jekyll enjoys inflicting pain, he at least realizes it is wrong. He tries to change his ways, but he kept coming back to Hyde. Although he was oblivious to the rest of the world when he was Hyde, Jekyll realized that he was the “cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit” (Pg. 91). By this, Jekyll is saying that he is where he goes to protect himself from Hyde. If he needs to protect himself from his other self, what he is doing must be really bad. Jekyll says the same thing on page 94: “Jekyll was now my city of refuge.” Hyde was the devil. If he came out just one little bit, the whole world puts their hands up in fear. Jekyll first thought of him as a way to release anger. However, Jekyll soon realizes it is getting out of hand. He tries to flee from Hyde, but that only gets him deeper into trouble. Hyde had been caged long enough, and he came out roaring. As Jekyll is gradually losing his grip on the situation, he realizes that his time is limited. He “embraces natural life” (Pg. 94). What does this show us about our life? We all have a Hyde in us. It is not a matter of whether there is one; it is a question of whether or not we let him out. On page 94, Jekyll reflects, “let but Hyde peep out an instant, and the hands of all men would be raised.” This is what we cannot afford to do. If Hyde does get out, there will be no stopping. Stevenson is giving us a warning. Everyone is born a Jekyll, but it is our decisions that can and will turn us into Hyde.
In the book Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins is an unsuspecting boy that is taking a voyage to a so-called treasure island to find an old pirate’s treasure map. Little does he know that he is about to enter a world of piracy, swindles, and much more. This book is not so much about good vs. evil as it is about greed. The antagonist, Long John Silver, play a role that appears to be helpful and friendly, but once Jim gets to know him, he finds out very differently. On page 83, when Tom confronts Long John Silver about murdering Alan, he burst out in a fit of rage and kills him too. Silver did this out of greed. He realized that with more people there, the less treasure he would get. This is the evil part of him. Evil is defined as “immoral and malevolent”. Malevolent is wishing to cause harm to other. He is trying to swindle everyone else out of the treasure. He is not only trying to swindle them out of it, but the rightful owners of it too. Jim resorts to the good side, but only to protect himself. What would have happened if Jim were selfish? If you look at it that way, Jim did not resort to the good side to save himself. He went to the opposite side to save himself. What if he had to somehow save himself from the good guys? Would he resort to the bad side? Both of these are examples of selfishness, which can easily turn into malevolence. In the end, the good side does end up winning, and protecting the treasure from the bad side. This book shows that you can get carried away very easily with greed, but the good will prevail. It might not be easy, but it is what’s right.
Finally, the book Kidnapped is kind of like a step up from Treasure Island. It is greed to the whole next level. David Balfour’s uncle is trying to steal his whole inheritance left by his father. Not only this, but he tries to kidnap him and sell him into slavery. David abolishes both of these plans because he can outsmart his uncle. This book focuses more on the fact that Good will overcome Evil. It isn’t quite a walk through the clouds, but if you work at something, the good will win. Stevenson is giving us reassurance in this book. He is telling us that there will be obstacles in the road, but we can overcome them. These obstacles are the evil in the world. While David’s uncle is doing his best to cause harm to him, David perseveres and ultimately fights his way through and exposes his uncle. Not only does he get back to where he was before the whole ordeal started, but also he goes past it and makes himself a fortune as the rightful owner of ? of the estate of Shaws. This shows us that with effort, good will triumph over evil. The keyword is effort. Stevenson shows us this in David’s character. He was the victim of evil, had everything taken away from him, was almost killed, and thrown on a ship heading towards slavery. This did not faze him, though. David knew that he could do it. It was his attitude that got him through along with motivation and perseverance. On page 217, he reflects, “This good change in my case unmanned more than any of the former evil ones.” In this book, Stevenson still focuses on the fact that there will always be some bad apples, but instead getting away with it like Long John Silver did in Treasure Island, he adds to it that with an extra amount of effort, the good will always emerge victorious. Although it is nature for us to be pessimistic, we can come out on top.
In conclusion, Robert Louis Stevenson has crafted three novels that explain to us not just the adventure of a young boy or a mad scientist, but human nature in general. He writes about greed, selfishness, and the war between good and evil. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, he shows us that the nature of man is to be evil. Next, In Treasure Island, he shows us that the good will win, but the evil might get away with part of it. Finally, in Kidnapped, he shows that if you put in some effort the good will come off on top and better than it was before. All of these concepts do not leave you when you close the book, but they should go with you everywhere. Do you find yourself becoming Mr. Hyde, Long John Silver, or Ebenezer Balfour? If so, it’s time to make some changes. It turns out you are normal. But “normal” is not what you want to be. Normal is resorting to pessimism, malevolence, and eventually evil. As Kidnapped suggests, hard work and perseverance can change that. It turns out to be what you make it, for better or worse. Stevenson himself says, “Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
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