Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Most female characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are passive and weak. The first female we see is a young girl mowed over by Mr. Hyde. Although she is "not much the worse, more frightened," she still kicks up an incredible fuss and a large group of people come to her aid. The next woman we see is via a maid’s narrative of the Carew murder. After witnessing the murder, she faints, awakening long after the murderer is gone. She is a passive spectator. There is much speculation as to the reasons for the absence of females in the story; one particularly compelling argument is that women function as moral bedrocks in most Victorian novels. They’re supposed to be beacons of good moral influence. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde therefore, women may have unnecessarily complicated the story.
Questions About Women and Femininity
- The women in this novel are passive spectators who require outside help. How central is it to Stevenson’s novel that he cast women in this light?
- In most stage and film adaptations of the book, Dr. Jekyll has a romantic interest. In what ways would a romantic interest complicate the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Is this a unacceptable alteration of Stevenson’s story?
- Is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because it’s a novel that focuses on internal human struggle, a story that transcends gender distinctions and appeals to all humans? Or is it male-specific?
Chew on This
By relegating women to weak, subordinate roles, Stevenson was better able to focus on the central tension between man’s good and evil sides.