illustration of a face with two separate halves, one good and one evil, located above the fumes of a potion

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

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What is the importance of the setting in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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The setting of the novel is Victorian England, an era known for its repression of sexual desire and anything considered to be "dark" or bad about human nature. Such a setting helps us to understand why Dr. Jekyll would be so driven to separate out any part of him that seems evil or bad and, thus, try to eliminate these components.  

In his "Full Statement of the Case," Jekyll says that he "stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life" and suffered from a "morbid sense of shame" due to the pleasures he found it necessary to "conceal" from those around him. Had his society not put so much pressure on him, a man of large fortune and good education, to adhere (or maintain the appearance of adhering) to such a strict moral code, perhaps he would not have felt the shame that prompted him to experiment with human nature. The Victorian era made no allowances for human error and vice. This pressure to be perfect and his attempt to eliminate the part of himself that did not fit this mold ultimately prompted Jekyll's demise.

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