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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By angelschmidt Sep 08, 2013 1973 Words
In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll has an aching curiosity to discover the vulgar and divergent side to life that he’s never been able to experience before. With prolonged amounts of time spent pondering about the measures needed to be taken to attain what he wants, Henry Jekyll creates a plan and gathers quantities of chemicals and salts that he believes will transform him into a different being; a sinister being that could commit the sins that he had always been disciplined to avoid but inwardly always wanted to do himself. After consuming his concoction of chemicals, Dr. Jekyll alters into what we soon become very well accustomed to, Mr. Hyde. With a new evil being to escape into, Jekyll experiences things he couldn’t before, but is also guilty for the crimes that Hyde commits as well. Jekyll and Hyde, although the same person in principle, are two very different people with altered personalities, looks, motives, and actions. Dr. Henry Jekyll is a physician in London and is “a large, well-made, smooth faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness” (15). He is described as being “professional in shape and size” (58). Dr. Jekyll was born “to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among [his] fellowmen…with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future” (54) Jekyll began looking into the nature of man and reflecting upon man’s dual nature; that “man is not truly one, but truly two” (55) One being good, and the other ill. “If each could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable…it was the curse of mankind that these…were bound together” (55). He deliberated human evil and how it could be perceived as a living being inside of man and constructed an ingenious idea that, with the correct combination of chemicals, good and evil could, in theory, be separated. After much reflection, Dr. Jekyll put his theory to the test, creating and putting together a potent elixir that would alienate him from his good self. Upon consuming the potion, “the most racking pangs succeeded…a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death” (56) “Out of a great sickness” arose a new, wicked, Mr. Hyde. Edward Hyde is an evil manifestation of Dr. Jekyll and his personality. He is “pale and dwarfish” and gives “an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation” (12). Mr. Hyde’s stature is much smaller than Dr. Jekyll’s and the man speaks “with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice” (12). He is younger, more energetic, and described by just about everyone as seeming to have a deformity. No one can pinpoint exactly what this deformity is, but they unanimously agree that it’s there, and that it’s definitely evil. Upon catching sight of Mr. Hyde, people seem to be at a loss of words in their explanation as to what is wrong with the man or why they feel such immense amounts of hate toward him, but what is repeatedly stated is that “[he] is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable” (6). Dr. Jekyll thoroughly thought out his experiment so that while in the form of Hyde, he could again mix together certain chemicals and salts, drink the concoction they produced, and return back to his normal self. But when Jekyll continuously transforms into Mr. Hyde, Hyde begins committing crimes that Jekyll cannot control. The novel begins with Mr. Utterson and a Mr. Richard Enfield walking along a street in London. Mr. Enfield has a recollection of a previous incident in which he witnessed an extremely unpleasant man and explains how the man “trampled calmly over [a young girl’s] body and left her screaming on the ground” and continues to say that it was “hellish to see” (3). A large crowd had gathered around and they saw that the man was in fact Edward Hyde. To avoid a scene, Mr. Hyde offered a figure of one hundred pounds to the parents of the young girl and obtained a check for the family. Mr. Enfield explains that he “had every reason to believe [the check] was a forgery. Not a bit of it. The cheque was genuine” (4). Jekyll becomes very comfortable in Hyde’s body and enjoys “the comparative youth, the light step, leaping impulses and secret pleasures…in the disguise of Hyde” (63). In a matter of months though, Hyde took over in a way that Jekyll hadn’t expected. Mr. Hyde committed a sin that left Jekyll speechless and highly concerned. Hyde murdered “an aged beautiful gentleman with white hair” by the name of Sir Danvers Carew (18). “A maid servant living alone in a house not far from the river” witnessed the murder from her window-side box. She stated that Hyde met with a man in the street. As the two men exchanged words, the maid described Hyde’s “ill-contained impatience” as the gentleman spoke to him (19). Mr. Hyde then lifted his heavy walking stick and bludgeoned the old man to death. “With ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows” (19). After the murder had taken place and Hyde transformed back to Jekyll, Jekyll was struck with the cruel reality that not only had Hyde committed the homicide, but Jekyll was responsible as well. “I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse” (62). Dr. Jekyll realized that he needed to discontinue these changes at once in order to retain what he had left of his self-control. With a final act, Jekyll “locked the door by which [he] had so often gone and come, and ground the key under [his] heel!” (64). But by the time Jekyll had come to realize that Hyde was becoming too powerful, it was already far too late. At sporadic moments, Jekyll felt “a qualm come over [him], a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering” (65). When he came to, he felt “a change in the temper of [his] thoughts, a greater boldness, a contempt of danger…I was once more Edward Hyde” (66). This posed a great problem on Jekyll. The only way to transform back to himself was to take the chemicals that he had already locked in the cabinet and stomped the key. He could not show himself as Hyde for Hyde was “the common quarry of mankind, hunted, houseless, a known murderer, thrall to the gallows” (66). His last chance to save himself was through his colleague, Mr. Lanyon. The novel is viewed in the perspective of Mr. Utterson, a lawyer and fellow colleague of Dr. Jekyll. Mr. Utterson is a boring man of routine. He is described as being “cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse…lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow loveable” (1). When Utterson hears of Mr. Enfield’s story about the strange unpleasant man and hears that the man’s name was Hyde, it sparks an interest in him. Mr. Utterson recalled a Mr. Hyde being mentioned in his colleague, Dr. Jekyll’s, will. The will stated that in the “disappearance or unexplained absence for any period…Edward Hyde should step into Henry Jekyll’s shoes without further delay and free from any obligation” (7). Utterson hadn’t thought much of the statement prior to Enfield’s story, but upon learning of Mr. Hyde’s “detestable attributes” (7), he began brewing questions about that particular detail of the will that seemed very strange to him. Mr. Utterson became a detective in this mystery of how a man such as Dr. Jekyll would have a malevolent man as Mr. Hyde written in his will. Hastie Lanyon, another fellow colleague of Jekyll’s, is very hostile and bitter in the mentioning of Jekyll’s name. In Lanyon’s narrative and letter to Utterson towards the end of the novel, it is explained that Lanyon was involved in one of Jekyll’s transformations and is very well the reason for Lanyon’s peculiar actions. When asked by Utterson, Lanyon replies “[Jekyll] began to go wrong, wrong in mind; and though of course I continue to take an interest in him for old sake’s sake as they say, I see and I have seen devilish little of the man” (8). As Jekyll began to lose control in his transformations to Hyde and succumbed to solitude in order to keep his secret secure, the people involved in Jekyll’s life reacted in similar ways. Mr. Poole, Jekyll’s servant, was very distressed upon seeing the shadow of a man of smaller stature and a husky voice that he had never heard out of his master. Utterson was also worried about Jekyll’s safety and concerned as to why Jekyll hadn’t made an appearance for such an extended amount of time. The characters all carry about feelings of confusion, distress, and speculation. The mood and setting around the two characters of Jekyll and Hyde are greatly differential. With Jekyll, there is a warm sense of kindness, life, and entirety. His mansion is well-furnished with oak cabinets and a warm fireplace always lit. Hyde is just the opposite. Hyde’s house is located on a “sinister block of building” and has “marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. The door [is]…blistered and distained” (2). The two characters settings cross paths at interesting periods throughout the novel. The warmth of Jekyll can be seen in Hyde’s house. When Utterson investigates the murder of Sir Danvers Carew and is brought to the home of Mr. Hyde, he observes the decor. “Mr. Hyde had only used a couple of rooms; but these were furnished with luxury and good taste” (21). Dr. Jekyll's cabinet is “a large room fitted round with glass presses, furnished, among other things, with a cheval-glass and a business table, and looking upon the court by three dusty windows barred with iron. The fire burned in the grate" (25). The bars on the windows can help build upon the motif of silence since bars are normally used to keep things from coming and out it can be used to symbolize all the secrets that are meant to be kept inside. “I have grounds for certainty that I cannot share with anyone" (26). When Jekyll’s Full Statement is read, it is easy to tie together the story and settings of the two men’s appearances and moods. Jekyll appears when Hyde does not, and vice-versa. Dr. Jekyll tries to keep Hyde from escaping his grasp, and surrenders to seclusion when he loses that control. No matter how hard Jekyll had tried, he could not prevail over Hyde’s swelling power. In his final statement, he states “I am careless; this is my true hour of death” (70). Dr. Jekyll was an insightful old man that wanted to discover life in a new, younger sense of being, but ultimately lost the willpower to sustain a balance between good and evil. Every time he let evil out, it returned stronger and more severe than before. Jekyll and Hyde battled each other for life, but in the end, Hyde won. Evil is like a piece of delicious cake; once you get a taste, you can’t have just one bite, you have to have the whole slice. Dr. Jekyll got a taste of what it was like to experience the evil side, and low and behold, the evil of Mr. Hyde took over his mind, body, and life entirely. Stevenson’s novel honorably shines a brighter light on the fact that, “Man is not truly one, but truly two” –Dr. Henry Jekyll.

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