31 March 2014
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A Representation of the Duality of Human Nature
From the beginning of time, stories have been passed down through generations that have depicted the wild adventures of the unorthodox hero. Stories like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the hated and feared outcast of society becomes a beloved hero. Or in Robin Hood, where the thief helps put away the bad guy, saves the townsfolk from poverty, and gets the girl. The made up characters often go against the grains of society, and exhibit a completely opposite state of mind and a completely opposite set of values than the current social standard. These stories have been, and will continue to be a sort of guilty pleasure for society, where individuals can indulge in their fantasies, and become the unlikely individual who changes the way society views things without the repercussions of their own current society values. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one can fully grasp the opposite values and state of mind of society in the behaviors of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as the two different sides of human nature. Throughout The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, there is an almost constant mention of the strange figure called Mr. Hyde. Steven Padnick puts it plainly when he states “There is no Mr. Hyde” (Padnick). Though Doctor Henry Jekyll talks about and describes Mr. Hyde as another, separate person, Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll are one in the same. Hyde is a representation of humans’ darkest emotions and desires, and, like a costume that can be donned and disrobed, this is depicted through Dr. Jekyll himself, unbeknownst to Mr. Utterson and the readers. Humans are capable of feeling extremely strong emotions that are often accompanied by equally strong desires to act on those emotions. These strong feelings are frequently repressed because of societies’ values, as well as because it is never acceptable to murder someone, or something of the like, regardless of the emotions one might be feeling. Dr. Henry Jekyll was a man who was respected by society, and as a doctor, he had a certain role and image he had to fulfill and maintain. Because of the pressures of society, Dr. Jekyll was pushed to the breaking point regarding upholding standards and such, and he escaped the pressures by becoming something completely opposite: a social outcast that behaved atrociously and frightened the individuals of the society. In the chapter titled “Search for Mr. Hyde”, Mr. Utterson states quietly to himself “If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek” (Stevenson). As a play on the words “hide and seek”, this statement also represents the two opposite sides to human nature. To hide and to seek are two different actions, one meaning to conceal, and the other meaning to find something. Much like hiding and seeking, human nature’s two sides mean two opposite things. One side of it means to accept society’s values and behave accordingly, while the other side pushes for you to be different and upset the standards of society. Overall, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shows that everyone is capable of having a dark side, and how the pressing values of society can push one to a breaking point. Ultimately, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not only a story written to represent the duality of human nature, but it also represents the values of the Victorian society as well. Although a fictional story, Dr. Jekyll’s manic need to escape and become Mr. Hyde could have possibly been due to the social pressures of society, an accurate representation of the Victorian era. The same type of pressures can be seen in society today in what is considered socially acceptable and what is not. Individuals often face problems such as depression due to the pressure they feel when they do not fully fulfill society’s social standards. Through it was written some 130 years ago, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a fair representation of the social pressures still around today, and the individuals who express themselves differently because of said pressures.