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Essay: Rebecca’s Cottage and Hyde’s Apartment as Facilitators of Vice

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  • Published: 18 June 2021*
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  • Words: 1,190 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)
  • Tags: Jekyll and Hyde essays

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In the novel Rebecca, Rebecca de Winter’s sexual endeavours and wild attitudes are abruptly concluded when she is killed by her husband for her actions in her own cottage. Edward Hyde’s struggle with addiction and his fight against his gothic double in the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde comes to an end when Dr Jekyll commits suicide, ending Hyde’s narrative in the Soho apartment. These environments, separate from the characters’ conventional homes, facilitate behaviour that would not be regularly appropriate for both Rebecca and Dr Jekyll. Rebecca’s cottage and Hyde’s Soho apartment act as gateways to the alter ego of the character. Through the course of their respective works, Rebecca’s cottage and Hyde’s Soho apartment serve as locales facilitating the succumb to vice, eventually leading to the unfortunate demise of the character involved.
In the public eye, Rebecca is the perfect wife to Maxim, throwing parties, commanding the estate, and taking on the many duties expected of a married woman living within her means. She is perceived as the ideal Victorian woman: kind, submissive, and gentle. Everyone who visits Manderley knows that the very state of the home is a product of Rebecca’s doing. She is highly skilled at creating the illusion that the life that she and Maxim live together is everything that it should be, and that they have the picture-perfect marriage. In reality, Rebecca is far from the ideal Victorian woman that she is perceived as. She is strong-willed, lacks compassion, and has an untameable sexual nature, somewhat resembling more of a man than a lady of her time.
Rebecca’s cottage and boathouse, situated away from Manderley, allow her to become the woman she really is, to the point where it eventually leads to her extinction. As per her agreement with Maxim, she is permitted to do whatever she pleased in London, as long as it does not come back to hurt Manderley (De Maurier 308). The freedom that Rebecca is given in London isn’t satisfying enough, and the real trouble begins when she starts to bring her pursuits home. Her very nature, as described by Mrs Danvers, is wild, strong-willed and untameable, and it is evident in her inability to keep her side of the deal. Maxim compares Rebecca’s careless actions to that of an addict, “go[ing] easy at first, just a little at a time, a bad bout perhaps every five months or so [,] and the period between grows less and less. Soon it’s every month, every fortnight, every few days” (De Maurier 308, 309).
The existence of the cottage is a visible symbol of Rebecca’s vices, and her inability to be tamed. Its existence away from the main house gives the illusion that she is in her own space and can do as she pleases, although she is indifferent whether her actions affect anyone. As long as she receives the gratification that she seeks, Rebecca is content. She begins to allow her carelessness to creep into inappropriate contexts, making passes at Giles and Frank. Rebecca clearly pushes the limits of the agreement she and Maxim have made. When she threatens Maxim with an illegitimate pregnancy, claiming her heir will inherit Manderley, their relationship reaches an irreparable breaking point. Maxim, while clearly hurt and shocked that his wife would go that far to hurt the one thing he genuinely loves, kills her, putting an end to Rebecca’s promiscuity and the indulgence of her vices. Essentially, the cottage on the beach, being separate from her conventional home, allows Rebecca to become the truest version of herself. The wicked, promiscuous woman that she hides from the public manifests completely and overwhelmingly at any opportunity of distance from normality.
Dr Henry Jekyll is known by friends and the public to be a decent man. He is well-respected and of a quiet demeanour. His gothic double, Edward Hyde is born amidst Jekyll’s creation of a potion intended to draw out the purest version of himself. Hyde is described as being bizarrely deformed, with a “displeasing smile”, seeming “hardly human” but troglodytic (Stevenson 43). His very appearance is discomforting for those who encounter him, and with good reason. Seemingly, his appearance is really foreshadowing the evil that oozes from within. Edward Hyde embodies and humanizes the tiny slivers of evil found within Dr Henry Jekyll.
Hyde’s behaviour throughout the novel shows a lack of control over his actions and an absence of morality. His Soho apartment facilitates his immoral actions and crimes. Soho itself is a neighbourhood known for its “muddy ways, and slatternly passengers”, resembling “a district of some city in a nightmare” (Stevenson 49). On multiple occasions, characters from the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde describe a feeling of terror simply being in the area. Henry Jekyll purchases the Soho apartment with the intent of Hyde blending in with the neighbourhood. Jekyll knows that Hyde will not fit into his regular surroundings, therefore he creates a completely separate existence for him. Inside the apartment, it is clear that Jekyll has furnished the residence, and this acts as one of the few occurrences where Hyde and Jekyll do not exist as opposites in the novel.
Hyde’s apartment in Soho, like Rebecca’s cottage, allows him to succumb to his vices and to become the purest version of himself, facilitated by the potion created by Dr Jekyll. He is able to trample children, beat men to death, and essentially behave like a savage without any consequences because of his home separate from Jekyll. Conversely, to the case of Rebecca, where she herself has two different personalities, Hyde is a literal other half of Jekyll. He is able to do all the evil things that Jekyll cannot, while Jekyll sustains no consequences and upholds his public persona. Hyde’s Soho apartment permits Jekyll to fulfil his immoral urges, which occur more and more often, and are more and more difficult to resist until the potion eventually fails and is unable to alter his human state. Ultimately, Hyde takes over Jekyll’s body and evil triumphs over good. Jekyll is lead to suicide in an attempt to extinguish his double’s power, and once again, the Soho apartment proves to be both the facilitator of his vices, and the instigator of his demise.
In discussing both Rebecca de Winter and Edward Hyde’s particular personality traits, the situations of their homes, and the behaviour related to these places, it is clear that they are similar in nature. Socially unacceptable behaviours are nested and hidden within both Rebecca’s cottage and Hyde’s apartment in Soho. The characters are able to become pure versions of themselves within these environments, unfortunately leading each of them to fall to their addictions. De Maurier and Stevenson both raise interesting debates on the worldview of addiction during their respective periods as Rebecca and Dr Jekyll both experience such problems. Both their deaths involve mortal sins, Rebecca being murdered, and Hyde committing suicide, implying a wholly indecent, sin-fearing societal viewpoint on the behaviour of addicts within both time periods.

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