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Thread: Is Mr Hyde just working class?

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Is Mr Hyde just working class?

    The description of Mr Hyde is not like he is usually portrayed in films and TV, where he is large and hairy, rather like a werewolf (actually I don't think I have seen any straight adaptions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, just comedy spoofs). In the book he is described as being young, small, pale, unpleasant looking, and gives an impression of deformity. That reminded me of something I read in Jack London's People of the Abyss, which was a bit of reportage on the East End of London:

    Class supremacy can rest only on class degradation; and when the workers are segregated in the ghetto, they cannot escape the consequent degradation. A short and stunted people is created - a breed strikingly differentiated from their masters' breed, a pavement folk, as it were lacking stamina and strength. The men become caricatures of what physical men ought to be, and their women and children are pale and anemic, with eyes ringed darkly, who stoop and slouch, and are early twisted out of all shapeliness and beauty.

    Then there are several paragraphs where London thinks the people of the End End have been devolving into a brutish subspecies because anyone with any ability got out, leaving the dregs to breed with each other.

    They become indecent and bestial. When they kill, they kill with their hands, and then stupidly surrender themselves to the executioners. There is no splendid audacity about their transgressions. They gouge a mate with a dull knife, or beat his head with an iron pot, and then sit down and wait for the police. Wife-beating is the masculine prerogative of matrimony. They wear remarkable boots of brass and iron, and when they have polished off the mother of their children with a black eye or so,they knock her down and proceed to trample on her very much as a western stallion tramples on a rattlesnake.


    I am sure I read another bit where Jack London walks down a street and is fearful of some men coming the other way, but I cannot find it right now. iirc, the men were small, but looked dangerous.

    In The Time Machine H.G. Wells depicts the Morlochs as a species of people devolved from working class slum dwellers, while the middle class and aristocracy have deteriorated into the Eloi.

    I wonder if Mr Hyde's appearance did represent a middle-class fear of the working-class / underclass, and if so, did RLS mean to portray him as such, or was it subconscious?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    That is a very good point. He may have been drawing on the work of Charles Booth. In "Life and Labour of the people of London" from about that time (1890's). He catagorised and colour coded London street by street and called the lowest class (whos' streets were coloured black!) " Vicious, semi-criminal."
    ay up

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I nearly finished rereading the novel. I paid some more atention to certain details this time. The depiction of space is very interesting it goes paralel with
    the depiction of the characters. The way the houses aredescribed tells a lot about them. Hyde, for example, lives in Soho and in the back part of Dr Jekyill´s house. One might say one of the key words is Soho. What kind of people lived in that quarter during Victorian Times?

    More than a clear class opposition, a contrast which I noticed was between people in general who led (seemingly)stable lives and had solid occupations, which include the loyal servantes x Hyde´s dark irregular ways.

    In the first case, the cherry on the cake is the well to do urban middle/upper class? of the lawyers and doctors, who live in beautifull houses, sport golden canes, have long lasting friendships and give grand parties. On the other end there are vicious creatures like Hyde who don´t follow any occupation at all but have the power to undo the security of the stable ones.
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 11-01-2016 at 08:42 AM.
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    It is more Dwarvin influence. Jekyll is uncivilized, degrated, almost animalistic version of a man.
    #foratemer

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    I nearly finished rereading the novel. I paid some more atention to certain details this time. The depiction of space is very interesting it goes paralel with
    the depiction of the characters. The way the houses aredescribed tells a lot about them. Hyde, for example, lives in Soho and in the back part of Dr Jekyill´s house. One might say one of the key words is Soho. What kind of people lived in that quarter during Victorian Times?
    I wondered about that. Soho has been a part of London notorious for strip shows and pornography, but I suspect it was not like that in C19th.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Skimming through Jack London's book last night, I was struck that most the East End poor he actually talked to were not like the hard cases he was decribing in the sections I quoted. Most the people he talked to seemed like normal people, although he regularly wrote how sickly they looked. There was a report from early on in C20th which described their physical condition being so poor, the army had difficulty finding enough recruits. I thought it was odd that Mr Utterson had little trouble catching Mr Hyde in the first chapter, even though Hyde appeared young and Mr Utterson was fairly middle aged.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "By the mid-19th century, all respectable families had moved away, and prostitutes, music halls and small theatres had moved in. Soho's population increased rapidly during this time, reaching 327 inhabitants per acre by 1851; then one of the most densely populated areas of London. Houses became divided into tenements with chronic overcrowding and disease. A serious outbreak of cholera in 1854 around Soho caused the remaining upper-class families to leave the area. A considerable number of hospitals were built to cope with the health problem, with six being constructed between 1851 and 1874.["
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soho
    A fitting enviroment for Edward Hyde (poor tenement + cheaper night life)
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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