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Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde criticizes the rising popularity of benthanism, a philosphy which had gained many supporters in both the political and private spheres of Victorian society. Basically, the core idea of this philosphy was an 'if it feels good, do it' mantra and that happiness could be gained by "avoiding pain and seeking pleasure" ("Historical Context," eNotes). Stevenson clearly sets out his disapproval of this philosphy through his portrayal of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Dr. Jekyll becomes addicted to the rush of freedom he felt in the form of Mr. Hyde:
"younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy ... an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul."
Dr. Jekyll selfishly chooses to return to the form of Hyde, which Stevenson then reveals as having drastic and terrible consequences. His novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde serves as a warning against the selfish philosophy of benthanism, which according to Richard Altick makes "no allowance for the promptings of conscience, or for ... the forces of generosity, mercy, compassion, self-sacrifice, love" (qtd. in "Historical Context," eNotes).
"Historical Context: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." eNotes. eNotes. web. 5 Jan. 2013.
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