Not Entirely Other

As we discussed in class, Mr. Hyde elicits strong physical reactions from those around him, separating and isolating him from all of the other characters, who form their own group as insulation.  Barbara Smith’s explanations related quite clearly to this idea, and to some of the reasons that we make these distinctions.  One passage that initially stuck out to me was this:

“In responding strongly to members of certain animal species (for example, mammals) as kin or kind and, conversely, to members of other species (for example, snakes, insects, and other invertebrates) as alien or remote, we exhibit capacities and rehearse impulses that are, in some of their origins and operations, extremely primitive.” (5)

In the novel, as we saw, people do indeed have basic physical reactions to Mr. Hyde.  However, this also really got me thinking about whether or not Hyde really is the other, or whether he is simply seen and treated that way.

The incident that sparked this thought for me was the scene that occurrs after Hyde hurts the young girl.  After being caught by the men, Hyde quickly consents to protect his reputation by paying the family off.  The fact that he so easily operates within the social norms of this society seems to undermine the idea that he really stands apart from everyone else.  Even the fact that he is referred to as Mr. Hyde (which begs the question of how he even developed a name in the first place) indicates that he lives and acts within the standard system.  Sure, we the readers tend to think of Hyde as a primitive being, and the characters certainly describe him as such, yet he is not so different that he cannot function successfully.  Does this mean that Hyde is really not so creature like other than in appearance, that his isolation from the rest of society is just arbitrary?  Or is his place in society a result of the others imposing their tools of understanding and living on him?  While I don’t have the answers to these questions, I do think it is important to consider not only the ways in which Hyde is different, but also the ways in which he is a part of society and resembles at least some part of everyone else.

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1 Response to Not Entirely Other

  1. Breanna Moret says:

    I think Colleen brings up a good point here by questioning how Hyde fits into society and I think it somewhat relates back to what Johan and Ivy said in their blog posts that maybe Jekyll and Hyde aren’t really separate. The novella uses the theme of duality to discuss the good and evil in people. And while the novella is read as there being a transformation between Hyde and Jekyll, I find Ivy and Johan’s theory compelling because it speaks to the struggle of people living within the Victorian era and following a regimented social structure.

    I also think Colleen’s question of whether Hyde’s place in society is imposed on him by society and societal norms of the time and I definitely think that plays a role. It reminds me a lot of Williams’ dominant and emergent and how the dominant is always seeking to claim the emergent and frame both the emergent and the residual in a context in which is can understand it. The narration by Utterson, a classic dominant voice, frames the story and the conversation in that of squarely the dominant and Hyde falls outside of that and so is automatically seen as “the other”. I think that perception changes depending on the narrator and the events shown in the novella.

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