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The Generation of Edward Hyde

The Animal within, from Plato to Darwin to Robert Louis Stevenson

Jay Bland

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde first appeared in 1886. Readers at the time commented on three major influences at work on the text: Darwinism, the Bible, and Platonism. With the passage of time commentators have tended to focus on either the Darwinian or the biblical implications surrounding Hyde, and the Platonic implications have been more or less overlooked. For a full understanding of Hyde all three must be considered; and they must all be considered together.
This book locates Robert Louis Stevenson’s Edward Hyde within the history of ideas. It examines a range of texts from earlier literature involving apes or ape-like creatures, thereby revealing a tradition which explores and questions the origins of mankind – theological, philosophical, and scientific – in an attempt to account for the presence of our lower impulses. The chosen texts show that, as knowledge of the natural world increases through exploration and scientific learning, earlier ways of looking at the world have accommodated new ideas by absorbing the new and incorporating it into the old mythological framework. The author demonstrates how this tradition feeds naturally into Stevenson’s text, providing a Darwinian–biblical–Platonic context within which to examine Hyde.

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