There are noticeable differences between Stevenson’s and earlier novelists such as Dickens’ approach to character. First, Stevenson’s novel includes only a few characters making the novel easy to understand whereas Dickens’s novels such as “David Copperfield” includes several characters, and this complicates the novel’s plot. Second, Stevenson’s novel includes solely male characters throughout the plot whereas earlier novelists like Dickens include both male and female characters in the plots of their novels. The male characters in Stevenson’s novel include Dr Henry Jekyll, Mr Edward Hyde, Mr Gabriel John Utterson, Dr Hastie Lanyon, and others. On the other hand, Dickens’ “David Copperfield” includes female characters such as Agnes Wickfield and Clara Peggotty, as well as male characters such as David Copperfield and James Steerforth.
Despite the differences especially in the approach to character, Stevenson’s novel and much of the literature from the Victorian era exhibit thematic similarities. It is evident that both Stevenson’s novel “Jekyll and Hyde” and other novels from the Victorian era probe themes of crime and punishment, mutable and malleable identity, as well as temptation and sin. The theme of crime and punishment in Stevenson’s novel is evident where Hyde brutally beats an old man to death and afterward, the police hunt him for committing the crime. In Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” crime is evident when Mr Murdstone is violent towards David and his mother. Mr Murdstone is then punished when David bites his hand during one beating.
It is true that the novel “Jekyll and Hyde” is very much a novel of and about men, and this is evident in the fact that almost all the characters are men. Besides, the major character, Jekyll who also transforms into Hyde after taking a potion, is a man. One thing that the novel says about masculinity and the class-bound figure of the Victorian gentleman is that both disapprove behaviors such as gossiping, which are largely associated to feminine individuals.
Stevenson’s novel highlights that Dr Jekyll frequently metamorphosed into Hyde, who according to Lanyon and Utterson, was undefinably ugly and deformed. In fact Enfield says that “I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why.” An amazing fact is that Dr Jekyll prefers to transform himself into someone that is uglier than he is in real life situation. The fact that Dr Jekyll transforms himself into an ugly and deformed person is a reflection of anxiety about degeneration, where other races were degenerating into more primitive versions instead of better versions of the human species.