London's Social Class in Robert Louis Stevenson Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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London's Social Class in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

One Victorian sentiment was that a civilized individual could be determined by her/his appearance. This notion was readily adopted by the upper classes and, among other things, helped shape their views of the lower classes, who certainly appeared inferior to them. In regards to social mobility, members of the upper classes may have (through personal tragedy or loss) often moved to a lower-class status, but rarely did one see an individual move up from the abysmal lower class. Although poverty could be found almost anywhere in Victorian London (one could walk along a street of an affluent neighborhood, turn the corner, and find oneself in an area of depravity and decay), most upper-class
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It was two storeys high. . . and bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. . . Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors to repair their ravages. (5)

This is the environment in which Stevenson places his novel, in which Hyde, the exemplification of the East Ender, thrives and commits his heinous and unspoken acts.

If Hyde represents all that Victorian London characterized as the East End, then Henry Jekyll, in turn, represents London's West End. As Hyde and Jekyll are dual natures of the same entity, then so are London's East and West sides. Throughout the novel, Stevenson could be using the theme of duality to represent the growing social and economic barriers that existed between these two parts of the city - especially during the 19th century. More importantly, if the novel can be interpreted as a homoerotic commentary of 19th century London, then Stevenson could certainly be observing the obvious increase of homosexuals in the East End, which incited fear and indignation from their more upper-class neighbors to the west.

The reason for Jekyll creating Hyde is to release these (his own) primitive urges and to allow them to flourish unhindered by societal laws or mores. It

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