How does Stevenson use London to explore his theme of duality in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? 

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just as Mr. Hyde represents the dark underbelly of Dr. Jekyll, the setting of Victorian London possesses such a duality as well.  On the surface, London is the civilized, cosmopolitan capital of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Society is polite, and high moral standards are firmly in place. This is one reason that Dr. Jekyll feels the need to experiment with his fundamental humanness in the first place.  He has found himself drawn to things -- what those things are we never learn -- that are less than seemly for a morally upright, well-respected doctor. Rather than deal with his own demons or accept himself as humanly flawed, Jekyll decides to try to eliminate his own darkness by separating it from his goodness. The problem?  Once separated, the darker part of his nature actually becomes more powerful than the good. Just like Dr. Jekyll possesses a fundamental human propensity for breaking rules or doing things that would not be socially acceptable, so too does London possess a dark, hidden, side: this is the era, after all, of Jack the Ripper and the sensationalized rise of garrotting (street robberies). While Londoners often tried to maintain appearances of propriety, they were simultaneously drawn to stories of crime and murder. Just as Jekyll cannot hide his dark side, neither can London or London society.

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