“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
Lanyon Robert Louis Stevenson
“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Lanyon Robert Louis Stevenson, is a novel set in the late nineteenth century in London. It is a gothic mystery that is told in past tense. The narrator is anonymous and speaks in third person. Dr. Lanyon (A reputable London doctor who is also one of Dr. Jekyll friends) and Dr. Jekyll each narrate one chapter of the novel via a confessional letter at the end. This novel is a timeless classic, which is alluded to in many modern cartoons such as, “Tom and Jerry” and in sitcoms, such as, “Dexter.” It has inspired countless authors to create similar story lines; Steven King for example, utilizes this method of storytelling in many of his books. The theme of, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” revolves around good and evil. It shows the two sides of human nature. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde play on our deepest fears of being deceived by what we trust to be safe and hold close to our hearts as being respected and innocent. It shows us that although you can see evil, when it’s in your face, you can easily be deceived when evil presents itself as kind and innocuous. This is the classic tale of good intentions causing catastrophe. It is a story spun about a good person taking advantage of what he can do, when he is incognito. It is a continuation of the legendary battle of good and evil . . . this time, played out in a man’s mind. However, as the old saying goes, “be careful where your mind wanders, for where the mind wanders, the feet are sure to follow.” Dr. Jekyll is a well respected doctor, well established in his community, and known for his decency and charitable works. However, when he was younger he engaged in untold corrupt behavior that only Mr. Utterson (a prominent and upstanding lawyer who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll) seems to know about. Dr. Jekyll has a hard time marrying his past along with his darker side and the face he wears for society. To alleviate his emotional discomfort, he invents a mysterious potion that allows him to transform into his darker side. Dr. Jekyll morphs into his hideous alter ego, Mr. Hyde, when he drinks the potion. Mr. Hyde is a murderous, abominable and hostile man. Everyone who comes in contact with this Mr. Hyde seems to be repulsed by him, describing him as evil, ugly and deformed. Anyone that glimpses Mr. Hyde immediately loathes him upon first sight. Yet, no one is exactly sure why Mr. Hyde is described like this because, he is an extraordinary looking man. There is nothing unbecoming about him, except for the emotions he elicits from everyone that he comes in contact with. Perhaps, what people can not put their finger on, is Mr. Hydes soul. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, his pure malice and evil intentions must be so palpable as to be seen and fealt rather than physically noted. It is extremely evident that Mr. Hyde is pure evil; everyone can see him for who he really is. Mr. Hyde adds to his creepiness factor by only coming out at night, like a monster. Despite the opposition between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, their relationship involves complicated dynamics. Dr. Jekyll appears moral and decent, with a reputation as a courteous and congenial man. He in fact never fully embodies virtue in the way that Mr. Hyde embodies evil. Although, Dr. Jekyll intended to purify the good side of his persona from then bad, the result was purifying the bad persona. He was creating an evil side, while leaving his former self, as mixed as ever before. Dr. Jekyll says that he was motivated by dark urges such as ambition and pride when he first drank the potion. He implied that, if he did the experiment with pure motives, an angelic being would have emerged rather than the evil Mr. Hyde. After a time period of taking the potion to become Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll no longer had to take the potion, to get results. He was automatically turning into Mr. Hyde without it. Slowly Mr. Hyde (evil) took over until Dr. Jekyll (good) no longer existed. At the end of the novel, when we find out that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are one and the same, he explains that, “… man is not one, but truly two.” He is discussing of the duality of human nature; everyone is plagued with a personal battle between good and evil. After Dr. Jekyll drinks his potion, he let’s go of all of his inhibitions and becomes the evil Mr. Hyde; a primitive creature that lurks under his exterior. In the novel, we only learn about two acts of violence by Mr. Hyde. One time, Mr. Hyde assaulted a young girl. They ran into each other at a street corner, “…and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground.” The second act of violence was when Mr. Hyde attacked a gentle old man, “he was out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway.” Neither of these attacks had any merit. No one had done anything to provoke such acts of violence. But, does this prove how evil Mr. Hyde is, or how ruthless Dr. Jekyll’s dark side is? Dr. Jekyll had to keep his evil side repressed because he was well respected and he didn’t want to lose the positive public opinion about his reputation. However, the more he repressed this, the more his evil side wanted to come out. Repression seems to have helped to create Mr. Hyde, “It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together – that in the agonized womb of the consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling.” This quote shows that humans have a continuous struggle in their soul every day, between good and evil. Mr. Hyde seems to win in the end of the novel, representing evil prevailing over good. Although in the end, Mr. Hyde dies implying a weakness or failure of evil. The big questions are, can good exist without evil, or are the two forever intertwined? Dr. Jekyll admits to experiencing a certain sense of freedom when he transforms into his “shadow side.” Noting that when he becomes Mr. Hyde, “I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill race in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul.” The freedom he experiences, results from the release of his inner most desires. Being a respectable Victorian gentleman, he previously had to suppress these urges. The preservation of Dr. Jekylls reputation was very important throughout this book, as was friendship. Dr. Jekyll wanted to keep a well respected façade even though he had a lot of unsavory tendencies. John Utterson, was a prominent lawyer (Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer and friend) and well respected in their community. He was reserved and dignified and did not believe in gossip, he is the representation of a gentleman. Throughout this novel, Mr. Utterson tries to guard his friends’ reputation as if it were his own. He is very loyal to Dr. Jekyll. Even when he suspected Dr. Jekyll of blackmail and harboring a murderer, he pretends like he hasn’t heard any of it, rather than take a chance at ruining his friends’ reputation. He did not want anyone to know think that Dr. Jekyll could be involved in any sort of a scandal such as this one. Mr. Utterson is compelled to uncover the mystery of the evil man Mr. Hyde because, of his friendship with Dr. Jekyll. In trying to unravel the secret, his many friendships with other people deliver crucial pieces of information. In this sense, reputation and friendship act as both a motivator and an enabler for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Utterson searches for excuses not to take any drastic steps to interfere with Dr. Jekyll’s life. But even in the end of the novel, when Mr. Utterson was learning of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he said to Dr. Jekyll’s butler Mr. Poole “If your master has fled or is dead, we may at least save his credit.” Once again, Mr. Utterson does not want to ruin the reputation of Dr. Jekyll, even in his death or if he had fled the area.