9 September 2011
Dr. Jekyll: Good or Evil
André Gide once said “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” In Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Dr. Jekyll is not a moral, decent man and helpless victim as portrayed, but a true hypocrite. The novel focuses on the supposed conflict between the forces of Good and Evil within the human soul. Dr. Jekyll theorizes that “man is not truly one, but truly two,” and he imagines the human soul as the battleground for an “angel” and a “fiend,” each competing for dominance (Stevenson,48-49). Despite their dramatic opposition, Dr. Jekyll’s deceitful nature, his amazement at the results of the potion, his addiction to the potion, his ignorance of signs that he was losing control and, his final acceptance of the evil makes him just as vile as Mr. Hyde.
While it is true that Dr.Jekyll largely appears as moral and decent person, active in charity work and enjoying a reputation as a courteous and good-natured man, he in fact is a deceitful man. Although Dr. Jekyll creates his potion on the belief of separating and purifying the Good and Evil elements within his own soul, he succeeds in only purifying the dark side, Mr. Hyde. If the human soul is truly half good and evil, as Dr. Jekyll theorized, there should have automatically been a purification of both good and evil with his soul. Without the manifestation of an angelic counterpart, it demonstrates Dr. Jekyll’s intent to deceive the public to his darker, more violent nature. If the righteous side of the human soul was to be purified with the creation of his potion, there must first be some sort of foundation for the forces of good to arise. In Dr. Jekyll’s situation, there was never a modicum of virtue or honor in his soul for the potion to purify. In his letter to Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll quotes, “Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and with an almost sense of shame” (Stevenson,.48). Like many other common men, Dr. Jekyll had a past filled with many regrets. As other men, Dr. Jekyll wanted to avoid the consequences and temptation of his past sins and impersonate a more virtuous nature. As result of his deceitful living, there was never a reason for Good to rise within Dr. Jekyll’s soul, allowing only evil to manifest.
After exhaustive research on the divided human soul, Dr. Jekyll believed he found a chemical solution that might serve his purpose. Buying a great amount of ingredients, he drank the potion with the knowledge he was risking his life, but was blinded by the confidence of a great discovery. After enduring terrible pain, Dr. Jekyll quoted, “I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine” (Stevenson, 50). Upon looking into a mirror after his first transformation, Dr. Jekyll-turned-Mr. Hyde was not afraid of his evil side; instead, he experienced “a leap of welcome.” Accepting his results quickly, Dr. Jekyll demonstrated he was not afraid of the pure Evil now arisen from his soul. This should have been Dr. Jekyll’s first warning that something was terribly wrong with his experiment and his own soul. However, he quotes, “. . . Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most shared in the most sensitive apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the pleasures and adventures of Hyde” (Stevenson, 55). Dr. Jekyll only thought he was becoming too old to act upon his sincere nature, and Mr. Hyde was a younger man, the perfect solution to achieve his darkest wishes. Transforming himself into Hyde became a welcoming experience for Dr. Jekyll’s buried evil desires. With his new found power, Dr. Jekyll was now free to pursue his dark pleasures as he wished. If Dr. Jekyll...
Cited: Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ed. Katherine Linehan. New York: Norton, 2003. Print.
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