Perils of Addiction Exposed in Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Perils of Addiction Exposed in Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The values, standards, and expectations of the upper-middle class in the 19th-century Victorian society were conservative and strict; the pressure to earn prestige and achieve upward mobility in social rank required men to sustain an image of propriety and respectability in public. These obligations often created a longing to divert from the personality facades they had to keep, and from the ideal behavior and polite manners that were expected of bourgeois society men. Some would fulfill their wishes by leading a secret double life that allowed them to temporarily escape from societal responsibilities and restrictions. In more private settings, men would partake
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As Jekyll relates, he lived "nine-tenths a life of effort, virtue, and control" (Stevenson, 63). His professional and public life denied him of hedonistic pleasures; he felt overwhelmed and unrewarded for the sacrifices he made in order to secure his position as a respected doctor. Then, under the guise of Edward Hyde, Dr. Jekyll was able to carry out his self-indulgent desires, and escape from the pressures of his career and his status. Jekyll's means of escape parallels Robert Louis Stevenson's vice - the use of booze and rowdy behavior (under the protection of an alias) as an outlet for relief from the pressures of his social obligations. For Dr. Jekyll, however, it is his intense addiction to escaping life's troubles through the character of Hyde that ultimately leads to his downfall. Perhaps Stevenson became addicted to drunkenness and disorderly conduct as a means of escape from his life, and wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in order to warn against the dangers of addiction. There are elements in the story that could support this assertion.

Throughout the novella, Robert Louis Stevenson associates Jekyll's addiction - his double life and personality - to many of the experiences that an alcoholic or drug addict may go through. Hyde becomes the symbol of Jekyll's addiction; he becomes the drink or the drug that addicted many people in Stevenson's day, as well as in our own time. The reader sees how

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