Society has a major effect on individuals. If you are expected to act and perform in a certain way it can cause you to rebel and demonstrate that you do have other traits. This is evident in Jekyll and Hyde as Jekyll is forced to change his ways as he is tired of being the refined, well respected man he is assumed to be. However, society isn’t the only thing that determined Jekylls actions.
In the 18th century, life was damnable, infernal and foul. Living conditions were tremendously cramped, murders were profuse, there was no welfare state and it was the abysmal era of Jack the Ripper. As a result of society’s exceeding anger and frustration, this may have leaded to an eruption of psychotic behaviour even in a character as reputable and pleasant as Jekyll.
As society was highly corrupted, this would have brought incredible pressure upon Jekyll and may have even been the reason Jekyll drank the potion and carried out such dishonourable events. His actions were intolerable, and this shows that Jekyll couldn’t endure the pressure that society had enforced on him.
Dr.Jekyll was assumed to be a “respected gentleman”. In the novella, he was presented as a tranquil, elegant and pleasant man. Jekyll felt pressured as he was also expected to be polite and well behaved but something incredible determined Jekyll to change his ways. Society has had a tremendous impact on Jekylls’ behaviour. There was a side of Jekyll that wanted to escape and let loose all of his repressed emotions. We are told “Jekyll was wild when he was young”.
Knowing that society was appalling, this was the only thing that determined Jekylls actions to reveal the hidden demons he had repressed. The potion is the chemical that caused a transformation in Jekylls actions but the reason why Jekyll took the potion isn’t definite. An assumption as to why Jekyll took the potion would be that he was mentally ill, Jekyll couldn’t control his emotions and had a division within his personality, “the man seems hardly human”, as Mr.Utterson commented.
You could say that Jekyll already had Hyde within him, waiting to blossom. For every time that Jekyll consumed the potion, Hyde got stronger. Jekyll tried to stop taking the potion but Hyde was too powerful, Jekyll could no longer control Hyde. “I don’t care what comes of Hyde, I’m done with him”, claimed Dr.Jekyll. Jekyll
knew he could no longer control Hyde. The only way to end the trauma was to kill Hyde thus resulting in killing his other side, Jekyll.
Jekyll regretted taking the potion soon after he had consumed it. “Ape-like fury”, These are the words used to describe Jekyll after the intake of the potion; this wasn’t the normal Jekyll everyone knew. Jekyll had lost himself; his actions were not his own, Jekyll had no stability.
The blame can’t just be put onto society, Jekylls actions were linked to many things. Most of the blame is to be put onto Jekyll, Jekyll was the person who decided to take the potion no-one else, and Jekyll was the only person who had the authority and responsibility for his actions before he took the potion. There’s a consequence to everyone’s actions, therefore Jekyll should have reviewed what he was going to do before he took the potion himself.
Another assumption could be that Jekyll had Hyde caged up inside him waiting to over power Jekyll. Some would say that Jekyll was schizophrenic, that he had a split personality. One side was the composed, placid and pleasant Jekyll and the other side of Jekyll was beastly, fuming and outrageous. Surely society alone couldn’t determine these contemptible actions.
“I was the first that could plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and in a moment, like a school boy, strip off these tending’s and spring headlong into the sea of liberty”. Within itself, this illustrates Jekyll knew what he was doing before he took the potion or was it his inner demon trying to get through? This evidently shows that behind locked doors no-one knew what was happening to Jekyll.
Everyday Hyde was getting stronger, this was something of a mystery. Jekyll gave up the potion for two months but Jekyll was unsatisfied and resolved to take the potion again. “I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse”. Jekyll no longer had self control, he would go to bed as Jekyll and awake as Hyde. This was worrying Jekyll, he had no discipline over his actions, “Hyde is a manifestation of Jekyll’s evil side”.
The crimes Hyde committed were despicable, Hyde trampled over an innocent child and killed Sir Danves Carew. This wasn’t in Jekylls character it was preposterous. Hyde’s actions were scandalous, “At the horror of these sights and sounds, the maid fainted”.
Society surely couldn’t alter someone’s intentions so greatly.
Jekyll transforms into Hyde to prove his experiments aren’t asinine. This is Jekyll trying to prove himself right and his experiments were defined as, “Unscientific balderdash”.
This is Jekyll being bold, not changing his mind because of what others think. This is partly caused by society, if his potions were accepted in society then he would not have had to carry out these experiments.
The period of Jekyll and Hyde was when times were changing, social stability was immensely changing, social class was growing, education was rapidly increasing, and science was becoming more known and accepted. Being accepted in society was important, that’s what Jekyll attempted to achieve but the pressure was too much and found the only way to express his other traits was through his potion. Jekyll was disturbed, he had an illness, and Hyde was his inner demon that took over his soul in the end. However, society did have a major affect on Jekyll’s actions. The pressure proceed upon him was unbearable and he found that maintaining a superficial facade was too exhausting. As a result of this he pushed the boundaries of science and decided to take matters into his own hands with devastating consequences.