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 are some debatable essay questions about human duality in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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One of the most notable themes in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is the duality of human nature. There are many possible topics related to this theme for you to explore and debate in your essay. Here are a few suggestions.

Consider the physical descriptions of the two titular characters: Dr. Jekyll is a typical, fully developed man, and Mr. Hyde is unusually small in size and has a strange, almost deformed appearance. What do you suppose is the reason for this physical contrast? How does Stevenson communicate the theme of dualism in human nature through his physical descriptions of these two characters?

Consider the physical descriptions of Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s respective dwellings: Dr. Jekyll lives in a nice house that has a “great air of wealth and comfort.” Mr. Hyde lives in the decrepit laboratory that is attached to the back of Dr. Jekyll’s home. How do these dwellings reflect the characteristics of their inhabitants? In what ways do these homes and their differences connect to the overarching theme of the dualism in human nature?

Consider the aspect and nature of one’s dark side: Do you believe it is possible to control the dark aspects of one’s personality? Based on the story and its conclusion, what do you think Stevenson’s answer to this question would be?

Consider the spectrum of good and evil in this story: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde represent two extremes: good and evil, respectively. Are there characters in the story who occupy the middle ground between the two opposing forces? If so, who are they, and how do they demonstrate qualities of both good and evil?

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What are some interesting and debatable essay questions for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that can be found in the text?

The following are some text-based, debatable essay questions for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

1. Dr. Lanyon says of Dr. Jekyll "He began to go wrong, wrong in mind..." How did Dr. Jekyll go wrong, morally and intellectually?

2. Examine Dr. Henry Jekyll's statement of the case, particularly his initial estimate of his own character. To what extent does he corroborate the views of Utterson and Lanyon? Which of them is the most reliable narrator, and why?

3. In popular illustrations and film versions of the book, Mr. Hyde is sometimes shown as a hirsute monster. The way he is depicted in the book is quite different, prompting Utterson himself to ask a question: "God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell? or is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent?" What does Stevenson have to say about the way in which Hyde's evil nature becomes clear to those who encounter him?

4. Both Utterson and Lanyon express a distaste for the "fanciful." What does this mean, and how far does the author appear to share their view?

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