Interesting Literature

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Full Analysis and Themes

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

The story for Jekyll and Hyde famously came to Robert Louis Stevenson in a dream, and according to Stevenson’s stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, Stevenson wrote the first draft of the novella in just three days, before promptly throwing it onto the fire when his wife criticised it. Stevenson then rewrote it from scratch, taking ten days this time, and the novella was promptly published in January 1886.

The story is part detective-story or mystery, part Gothic horror, and part science fiction, so it’s worth analysing how Stevenson fuses these different elements.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: analysis

Now it’s time for some words of analysis about Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic 1886 novella. However, perhaps ‘analyses’ (plural) would be more accurate, since there never could be one monolithic meaning of a story so ripe with allegory and suggestive symbolism.

Like another novella that was near-contemporary with Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde , and possibly influenced by it ( H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine ), the symbols often point in several different directions at once.

Any attempt to reduce Stevenson’s story of doubling to a moral fable about drugs or drink, or a tale about homosexuality, is destined to lose sight of the very thing which makes the novella so relevant to so many people: its multifaceted quality. So here are some (and they are only some) of the many interpretations of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which have been put forward in the last 120 years or so.

A psychoanalytic or proto-psychoanalytic analysis

In this interpretation, Jekyll is the ego and Hyde the id (in Freud’s later terminology). The ego is the self in Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, while the id is the set of primal drives found in our unconscious: the urge to kill, or do inappropriate sexual things, for instance.

Several of Robert Louis Stevenson’s essays, such as ‘A Chapter on Dreams’ (1888), prefigure some of Freud’s later ideas; and there was increasing interest in the workings of the human mind towards the end of the nineteenth century (two leading journals in the field, Brain and Mind , had both been founded in the 1870s).

The psychoanalytic interpretation is a popular one with many readers of Jekyll and Hyde , and since the novella is clearly about repression of some sort, one can make a psychoanalytic interpretation – an analysis grounded in psychoanalysis, if you like – quite convincingly.

It might be significant, reading the story from a post-Freudian perspective, that Hyde is described as childlike at several points: does he embody Jekyll’s – and, indeed, man’s – deep desire to return to a time before responsibility and full maturity, when one was freer to act on impulse? Early infancy is the formative period for much Freudian psychoanalysis.

Recall the empty middle-class scenes at the beginning of the book: Utterson and Enfield on their joyless Sunday walks, for instance. Hyde attacks father-figures (Sir Danvers Carew, the MP whom he murders, is a white-haired old gentleman), which would fall in line with Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex and Jekyll’s desire to return to a time before adult life with its responsibilities and disappointments.

However, one fly in the Oedipal ointment is that Hyde also attacks a young girl – almost the complete opposite of the ‘old man’ or father figure embodied by Danvers Carew.

Nevertheless, psychoanalytic readings of the novella have been popular for some time, and it’s worth remembering that the idea for the book came to Stevenson in a dream. Observe, also, the presence of dreams and dreamlike scenes in the novel itself, such as when Jekyll remarks that he ‘received Lanyon’s condemnation partly in a dream; it was partly in a dream that I came home to my own house and got into bed’.

thesis statements for jekyll and hyde

An anti-alcohol morality tale?

Alternatively, a different interpretation: we might analyse these dreamlike aspects of the novel in another way and see the novel as being about alcoholism and temperance , subjects which were being fiercely debated at the time Stevenson was writing.

Here, then, the ‘transforming draught’ which Jekyll concocts represents alcohol, and Jekyll, upon imbibing the draught, becomes a violent, unpredictable person unknown even to himself. (This reading has been most thoroughly explored in Thomas L. Reed’s 2006 study The Transforming Draught .)

Note how often wine crops up in this short book: it turns up first of all in the second sentence of the novella, when Utterson is found sipping it, and Hyde, we learn, has a closet ‘filled with wine’. Might the continual presence of wine be a clue that we are all Hydes waiting to happen? Note how the opening paragraph informs us that Utterson drinks gin when he is alone.

This thesis – that the novella is about alcohol and temperance – is intriguing, but has been contested by critics such as Julia Reid for being too speculative and reductionist: see her review of The Transforming Draught in The Review of English Studies , 2007.

The ‘drugs’ interpretation

Similarly, the idea that the ‘draught’ is a metaphor for some other drug, whether opium or cocaine . Scholars are unsure as to whether Stevenson was on drugs when he wrote the book: some accounts say Stevenson used cocaine to finish the manuscript; others say he took ergot, which is the substance from which LSD was later synthesised. Some say he was too sick to be taking anything.

You could purchase cocaine and opium from your local chemist in 1880s London (indeed, another invention of 1886, Coca-Cola, originally contained cocaine, as the drink’s name still testifies: don’t worry, it doesn’t any more).

This is essentially a development of the previous interpretation concerning alcohol, and arguably has similar limitations in being too restrictive an interpretation. However, note the way that Jekyll, in his ‘full statement’ becomes reliant on the ‘draught’ or ‘salt’ towards the end.

A religious analysis

thesis statements for jekyll and hyde

As such, the story has immediate links with the story Stevenson would write sixty years later. Stevenson was an atheist who managed to escape the constrictive religion of his parents, but he remained haunted by Calvinistic doctrines for the rest of his life, and much of his work can be seen as an attempt to grapple with these issues which had affected and afflicted him so much as a child.

The sexuality interpretation

Some critics have interpreted Jekyll and Hyde in light of late nineteenth-century attitudes to sexuality : note the almost total absence of women from the story, barring the odd maid and ‘old hag’, and that hapless girl trampled underfoot by Hyde.

Some critics have suggested that the idea of blackmail for homosexual acts lurks behind the story, and the novella itself mentions this when Enfield tells Utterson that he refers to the house of Mr Hyde as ‘Black Mail House’ as a consequence of the girl-trampling scene in the street.

thesis statements for jekyll and hyde

As such, the novella becomes an allegory for the double life lived by many homosexual Victorian men, who had to hide (or Hyde ) their illicit liaisons from their friends and families. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote to his friend Robert Bridges that the girl-trampling incident early on in the narrative was ‘perhaps a convention: he was thinking of something unsuitable for fiction’.

Some have interpreted this statement – by Hopkins, himself a repressed homosexual – as a reference to homosexual activity in late Victorian London.

Consider in this connection the fact that Hyde enters Jekyll’s house through the ‘back way’ – even, at one point ‘the back passage’. 1885, the year Stevenson wrote the book, was the year of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (commonly known as the Labouchere Amendment ), which criminalised acts of ‘gross indecency’ between men (this was the act which, ten years later, would put Oscar Wilde in gaol).

However, we should be wary of reading the text as about ‘homosexual panic’, since, as Harry Cocks points out, homosexuality was frequently ‘named openly, publicly and repeatedly’ in nineteenth-century criminal courts. But then could fiction for a mass audience as readily name such things?

A Darwinian analysis

Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species , which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection, had been published in 1859, when Stevenson was still a child. In this reading, Hyde represents the primal, animal origin of modern, civilised man.

Consider here the repeated uses of the word ‘apelike’ in relation to Hyde, suggesting he is an atavistic throwback to an earlier, more primitive species of man than Homo sapiens . This reading incorporates theories of something called ‘devolution’, an idea (now discredited) which suggested that life forms could actually evolve backwards into more primitive forms.

This is also linked with late Victorian fears concerning degeneration and decadence among the human race. Is Jekyll’s statement that he ‘bore the stamp, of lower elements in my soul’ an allusion to Charles Darwin’s famous phrase from the end of The Descent of Man (1871), ‘man […] bears […] the indelible stamp of his lowly origin’?

In his story ‘Olalla’, another tale of the double which Stevenson published in 1885, he writes: ‘Man has risen; if he has sprung from the brutes he can descend to the same level again’.

This Darwinian analysis of Jekyll and Hyde could incorporate elements of the sexual which the previous interpretation also touches upon, but would view the novel as a portrayal of man’s – and we mean specifically man ’s here – repression of the darker, violent, primitive side of his nature associated with rape, pillage, conquest, and murder.

This looks back to a psychoanalytic reading, with the ‘id’ being the home of primal sexual desire and lust. The girl-tramping scene may take on another significance here: it’s a ‘girl’ rather than a boy because it symbolises Hyde’s animalistic desire to conquer and brutalise someone of the opposite, not the same, sex.

There have been many critical readings of the novella in relation to sex and sexuality, but it’s important to point out that Stevenson denied that the novella was about sexuality (see below).

A study in hypocrisy?

Or perhaps not: perhaps there is something in the idea that hypocrisy is the novella’s theme , as Stevenson himself suggested in a letter of November 1887 to John Paul Bocock, editor of the New York Sun : ‘The harm was in Jekyll,’ Stevenson wrote, ‘because he was a hypocrite – not because he was fond of women; he says so himself; but people are so filled full of folly and inverted lust, that they can think of nothing but sexuality. The Hypocrite let out the beast’.

This analysis of Jekyll and Hyde sees the two sides to Jekyll’s personality as a portrayal of the dualistic nature of Victorian society, where you must be respectable and civilised on the outside, while all the time harbouring an inward lust, violence, and desire which you have to bring under control.

This was a popular theme for many late nineteenth-century writers – witness not only Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray but also the double lives of Jack and Algernon in Wilde’s comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). This is a more open-ended interpretation, and the novella does appear to be about repression of some sort.

In this respect, this interpretation is similar to the psychoanalytic reading proposed above, but it also tallies with Stevenson’s own assertion that the story is about hypocrisy. Everyone in this book is masking their private thoughts or desires from others.

Note how even the police officer, Inspector Newcomen, when he learns of the murder of the MP, goes from being horrified one moment to excited the next, as ‘the next moment his eye lighted up with professional ambition’. He can barely contain his glee. The maid who answers the door at Hyde’s rooms has ‘an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy; but her manners were excellent’.

From these clues, we can also posit a reading of the novel which sees it as about the class structure of late nineteenth-century Britain, where Jekyll represents the comfortable middle class and Hyde is the repressed – or, indeed, oppressed – working-class figure.

Note here, however, how Hyde is repeatedly described as a ‘gentleman’ by those who see him, and that he attacks Danvers Carew with a ‘cane’, rather than, say, a club (though it is reported, tellingly, that he ‘clubbed’ Carew to death with it).

A scientific interpretation

The reference to the evil maid with excellent manners places Jekyll’s own duality at the extreme end of a continuum, where everyone is putting on a respectable and acceptable mask which hides or conceals the evil truth lurking behind it. So we might see Jekyll’s scientific experiment as merely a physical embodiment of what everyone does.

This leads some critics to ask, then, whether the novella about the misuse of science . Or is the ‘tincture’ merely a scientific, chemical composition because a magical draught or elixir would be unbelievable to an 1880s reader? Arthur Machen, an author who was much influenced by Stevenson and especially by Jekyll and Hyde , made this point in a letter of 1894, when he grumbled:

In these days the supernatural per se is entirely incredible; to believe, we must link our wonders to some scientific or pseudo-scientific fact, or basis, or method. Thus we do not believe in ‘ghosts’ but in telepathy, not in ‘witch-craft’ but in hypnotism. If Mr Stevenson had written his great masterpiece about 1590-1650, Dr Jekyll would have made a compact with the devil. In 1886 Dr Jekyll sends to the Bond Street chemists for some rare drugs.

This is worth pondering: the use of the ‘draught’ lends the story an air of scientific authenticity, which makes the story a form of science fiction rather than fantasy: the tincture which Jekyll drinks is not magical, merely a chemical potion of some vaguely defined sort. But to say that the story is actually about the dangers of misusing science could be a leap too far.

We run the risk of confusing the numerous film adaptations of the book with the book itself: we immediately picture wild-haired soot-faced scientists causing explosions and mixing up potions in a dark laboratory, but in fact this is not really what the story is about , merely the means through which the real meat of the story – the transformation of Jekyll into Hyde – is effected.

It’s only once this split has been achieved that the real story, about the dark side of man’s nature which he represses, comes to light. (Compare Frankenstein here .)

All of these interpretations of Jekyll and Hyde can be – and have been – proposed, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the popularity of Stevenson’s tale may lie in the very polyvalent and ambiguous nature of the text, the fact that it exists as a symbol without a key, a riddle without a definitive answer.

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thesis statements for jekyll and hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert louis stevenson, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Introduction

Dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: plot summary, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: detailed summary & analysis, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: themes, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: quotes, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: characters, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: symbols, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: literary devices, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: quizzes, dr. jekyll and mr. hyde: theme wheel, brief biography of robert louis stevenson.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde PDF

Historical Context of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Other books related to dr. jekyll and mr. hyde.

  • Full Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • When Written: 1885
  • Where Written: Bournemouth, England
  • When Published: 5th January 1886
  • Literary Period: Victorian
  • Genre: Horror, Drama, Victorian Gothic
  • Setting: The streets of London
  • Climax: Utterson reads the narrative written by Lanyon before his death, which describes the horrific bodily transformation of Mr. Hyde into Dr. Jekyll, explaining everything that has happened so far in an absolutely incredible way.
  • Antagonist: Mr. Hyde forms the antagonist of the tale until we realize that he is in fact the double of Dr. Jekyll.
  • Point of View: A third person narrator tells the story with an omniscient view of characters but stays mostly with Mr. Utterson, which allows Stevenson to reveal things to the reader with suspense.

Extra Credit for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Beginnings. Robert Louis Stevenson reportedly wrote the draft of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in an astonishing three days in a drug-induced fever.

Expensive Taste. Robert Louis Stevenson was known as “Velvet Jaket” as a young man because of his dandy-fied taste in clothes.

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case

I WAS born in the year 18— to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellow-men, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future. And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many, but such as I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public. Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life. 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 hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame. It was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was and, with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature. In this case, I was driven to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life, which lies at the root of religion and is one of the most plentiful springs of distress. Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering. And it chanced that the direction of my scientific studies, which led wholly toward the mystic and the transcendental, re-acted and shed a strong light on this consciousness of the perennial war among my members. With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point. Others will follow, others will outstrip me on the same lines; and I hazard the guess that man will be ultimately known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous, and independent denizens. I, for my part, from the nature of my life, advanced infallibly in one direction and in one direction only. It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date, even before the course of my scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle, I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved day-dream, on the thought of the separation of these elements. If each, I told myself, could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust delivered from the aspirations might go his way, and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous fagots were thus bound together that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then, were they dissociated?

I was so far in my reflections when, as I have said, a side-light began to shine upon the subject from the laboratory table. I began to perceive more deeply than it has ever yet been stated, the trembling immateriality, the mist-like transience of this  seemingly so solid body in which we walk attired. Certain agents I found to have the power to shake and to pluck back that fleshly vestment, even as a wind might toss the curtains of a pavilion. For two good reasons, I will not enter deeply into this scientific branch of my confession. First, because I have been made to learn that the doom and burthen of our life is bound for ever on man’s shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful pressure. Second, because, as my narrative will make, alas! too evident, my discoveries were incomplete. Enough, then, that I not only recognised my natural body for the mere aura and effulgence of certain of the powers that made up my spirit, but managed to compound a drug by which these powers should be dethroned from their supremacy, and a second form and countenance substituted, none the less natural to me because they were the expression, and bore the stamp, of lower elements in my soul.

I hesitated long before I put this theory to the test of practice. I knew well that I risked death; for any drug that so potently controlled and shook the very fortress of identity, might by the least scruple of an overdose or at the least inopportunity in the moment of exhibition, utterly blot out that immaterial tabernacle which I looked to it to change. But the temptation of a discovery so singular and profound, at last overcame the suggestions of alarm. I had long since prepared my tincture; I purchased at once, from a firm of wholesale chemists, a large quantity of a particular salt which I knew, from my experiments, to be the last ingredient required; and late one accursed night, I compounded the elements, watched them boil and smoke together in the glass, and when the ebullition had subsided, with a strong glow of courage, drank off the potion.

The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside, and I came to myself as if out of a great sickness. There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a 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. 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. I stretched out my hands, exulting in the freshness of these sensations; and in the act, I was suddenly aware that I had lost in stature.

There was no mirror, at that date, in my room; that which stands beside me as I write, was brought there later on and for the very purpose of these transformations. The night, however, was far gone into the morning—the morning, black as it was, was nearly ripe for the conception of the day—the inmates of my house were locked in the most rigorous hours of slumber; and I determined, flushed as I was with hope and triumph, to venture in my new shape as far as to my bedroom. I crossed the yard, wherein the constellations looked down upon me, I could have thought, with wonder, the first creature of that sort that their unsleeping vigilance had yet disclosed to them; I stole through the corridors, a stranger in my own house; and coming to my room, I saw for the first time the appearance of Edward Hyde.

I must here speak by theory alone, saying not that which I know, but that which I suppose to be most probable. The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed. Again, in the course of my life, which had been, after all, nine-tenths a life of effort, virtue, and control, it had been much less exercised and much less exhausted. And hence, as I think, it came about that Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter, and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other. Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body an imprint of deformity and decay. And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human. In my eyes it bore a livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more express and single, than the imperfect and divided countenance I had been hitherto accustomed to call mine. And in so far I was doubtless right. I have observed that when I wore the semblance of Edward Hyde, none could come near to me at first without a visible misgiving of the flesh. This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.

I lingered but a moment at the mirror: the second and conclusive experiment had yet to be attempted; it yet remained to be seen if I had lost my identity beyond redemption and must flee before daylight from a house that was no longer mine; and hurrying back to my cabinet, I once more prepared and drank the cup, once more suffered the pangs of dissolution, and came to myself once more with the character, the stature, and the face of Henry Jekyll.

That night I had come to the fatal cross-roads. Had I approached my discovery in a more noble spirit, had I risked the experiment while under the empire of generous or pious aspirations, all must have been otherwise, and from these agonies of death and birth, I had come forth an angel instead of a fiend. The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prison-house of my disposition; and like the captives of Philippi, that which stood within ran forth. At that time my virtue slumbered; my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion; and the thing that was projected was Edward Hyde. Hence, although I had now two characters as well as two appearances, one was wholly evil, and the other was still the old Henry Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to despair. The movement was thus wholly toward the worse.

Even at that time, I had not yet conquered my aversion to the dryness of a life of study. I would still be merrily disposed at times; and as my pleasures were (to say the least) undignified, and I was not only well known and highly considered, but growing toward the elderly man, this incoherency of my life was daily growing more unwelcome. It was on this side that my new power tempted me until I fell in slavery. I had but to drink the cup, to doff at once the body of the noted professor, and to assume, like a thick cloak, that of Edward Hyde. I smiled at the notion; it seemed to me at the time to be humorous; and I made my preparations with the most studious care. I took and furnished that house in Soho, to which Hyde was tracked by the police; and engaged as housekeeper a creature whom I well knew to be silent and unscrupulous. On the other side, I announced to my servants that a Mr. Hyde (whom I described) was to have full liberty and power about my house in the square; and to parry mishaps, I even called and made myself a familiar object, in my second character. I next drew up that will to which you so much objected; so that if anything befell me in the person of Dr. Jekyll, I could enter on that of Edward Hyde without pecuniary loss. And thus fortified, as I supposed, on every side, I began to profit by the strange immunities of my position.

Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter. I was the first that ever did so for his pleasures. I was the first that could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete. Think of it—I did not even exist! Let me but escape into my laboratory door, give me but a second or two to mix and swallow the draught that I had always standing ready; and whatever he had done, Edward Hyde would pass away like the stain of breath upon a mirror; and there in his stead, quietly at home, trimming the midnight lamp in his study, a man who could afford to laugh at suspicion, would be Henry Jekyll.

The pleasures which I made haste to seek in my disguise were, as I have said, undignified; I would scarce use a harder term. But in the hands of Edward Hyde, they soon began to turn toward the monstrous. When I would come back from these excursions, I was often plunged into a kind of wonder at my vicarious depravity. This familiar that I called out of my own soul, and sent forth alone to do his good pleasure, was a being inherently malign and villainous; his every act and thought centred on self; drinking pleasure with bestial avidity from any degree of torture to another; relentless like a man of stone. Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde; but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience. It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde. And thus his conscience slumbered.

Into the details of the infamy at which I thus connived (for even now I can scarce grant that I committed it) I have no design of entering; I mean but to point out the warnings and the successive steps with which my chastisement approached. I met with one accident which, as it brought on no consequence, I shall no more than mention. An act of cruelty to a child aroused against me the anger of a passer-by, whom I recognised the other day in the person of your kinsman; the doctor and the child’s family joined him; there were moments when I feared for my life; and at last, in order to pacify their too just resentment, Edward Hyde had to bring them to the door, and pay them in a cheque drawn in the name of Henry Jekyll. But this danger was easily eliminated from the future, by opening an account at another bank in the name of Edward Hyde himself; and when, by sloping my own hand backward, I had supplied my double with a signature, I thought I sat beyond the reach of fate.

Some two months before the murder of Sir Danvers, I had been out for one of my adventures, had returned at a late hour, and woke the next day in bed with somewhat odd sensations. It was in vain I looked about me; in vain I saw the decent furniture and tall proportions of my room in the square; in vain that I recognised the pattern of the bed-curtains and the design of the mahogany frame; something still kept insisting that I was not where I was, that I had not wakened where I seemed to be, but in the little room in Soho where I was accustomed to sleep in the body of Edward Hyde. I smiled to myself, and, in my psychological way began lazily to inquire into the elements of this illusion, occasionally, even as I did so, dropping back into a comfortable morning doze. I was still so engaged when, in one of my more wakeful moments, my eyes fell upon my hand. Now the hand of Henry Jekyll (as you have often remarked) was professional in shape and size: it was large, firm, white, and comely. But the hand which I now saw, clearly enough, in the yellow light of a mid-London morning, lying half shut on the bed-clothes, was lean, corded, knuckly, of a dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair. It was the hand of Edward Hyde.

I must have stared upon it for near half a minute, sunk as I was in the mere stupidity of wonder, before terror woke up in my breast as sudden and startling as the crash of cymbals; and bounding from my bed, I rushed to the mirror. At the sight that met my eyes, my blood was changed into something exquisitely thin and icy. Yes, I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde. How was this to be explained? I asked myself, and then, with another bound of terror—how was it to be remedied? It was well on in the morning; the servants were up; all my drugs were in the cabinet—a long journey down two pairs of stairs, through the back passage, across the open court and through the anatomical theatre, from where I was then standing horror-struck. It might indeed be possible to cover my face; but of what use was that, when I was unable to conceal the alteration in my stature? And then with an overpowering sweetness of relief, it came back upon my mind that the servants were already used to the coming and going of my second self. I had soon dressed, as well as I was able, in clothes of my own size: had soon passed through the house, where Bradshaw stared and drew back at seeing Mr. Hyde at such an hour and in such a strange array; and ten minutes later, Dr. Jekyll had returned to his own shape and was sitting down, with a darkened brow, to make a feint of breakfasting.

Small indeed was my appetite. This inexplicable incident, this reversal of my previous experience, seemed, like the Babylonian finger on the wall, to be spelling out the letters of my judgment; and I began to reflect more seriously than ever before on the issues and possibilities of my double existence. That part of me which I had the power of projecting, had lately been much exercised and nourished; it had seemed to me of late as though the body of Edward Hyde had grown in stature, as though (when I wore that form) I were conscious of a more generous tide of blood; and I began to spy a danger that, if this were much prolonged, the balance of my nature might be permanently overthrown, the power of voluntary change be forfeited, and the character of Edward Hyde become irrevocably mine. The power of the drug had not been always equally displayed. Once, very early in my career, it had totally failed me; since then I had been obliged on more than one occasion to double, and once, with infinite risk of death, to treble the amount; and these rare uncertainties had cast hitherto the sole shadow on my contentment. Now, however, and in the light of that morning’s accident, I was led to remark that whereas, in the beginning, the difficulty had been to throw off the body of Jekyll, it had of late gradually but decidedly transferred itself to the other side. All things therefore seemed to point to this: that I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.

Between these two, I now felt I had to choose. My two natures had memory in common, but all other faculties were most unequally shared between them. Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most sensitive apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the pleasures and adventures of Hyde; but Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll, or but remembered him as the mountain bandit remembers the cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit. Jekyll had more than a father’s interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference. To cast in my lot with Jekyll, was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and had of late begun to pamper. To cast it in with Hyde, was to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow and for ever, despised and friendless. The bargain might appear unequal; but there was still another consideration in the scales; for while Jekyll would suffer smartingly in the fires of abstinence, Hyde would be not even conscious of all that he had lost. Strange as my circumstances were, the terms of this debate are as old and commonplace as man; much the same inducements and alarms cast the die for any tempted and trembling sinner; and it fell out with me, as it falls with so vast a majority of my fellows, that I chose the better part and was found wanting in the strength to keep to it.

Yes, I preferred the elderly and discontented doctor, surrounded by friends and cherishing honest hopes; and bade a resolute farewell to the liberty, the comparative youth, the light step, leaping impulses and secret pleasures, that I had enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde. I made this choice perhaps with some unconscious reservation, for I neither gave up the house in Soho, nor destroyed the clothes of Edward Hyde, which still lay ready in my cabinet. For two months, however, I was true to my determination; for two months I led a life of such severity as I had never before attained to, and enjoyed the compensations of an approving conscience. But time began at last to obliterate the freshness of my alarm; the praises of conscience began to grow into a thing of course; I began to be tortured with throes and longings, as of Hyde struggling after freedom; and at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught.

I do not suppose that, when a drunkard reasons with himself upon his vice, he is once out of five hundred times affected by the dangers that he runs through his brutish, physical insensibility; neither had I, long as I had considered my position, made enough allowance for the complete moral insensibility and insensate readiness to evil, which were the leading characters of Edward Hyde. Yet it was by these that I was punished. My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring. I was conscious, even when I took the draught, of a more unbridled, a more furious propensity to ill. It must have been this, I suppose, that stirred in my soul that tempest of impatience with which I listened to the civilities of my unhappy victim; I declare, at least, before God, no man morally sane could have been guilty of that crime upon so pitiful a provocation; and that I struck in no more reasonable spirit than that in which a sick child may break a plaything. But I had voluntarily stripped myself of all those balancing instincts by which even the worst of us continues to walk with some degree of steadiness among temptations; and in my case, to be tempted, however slightly, was to fall.

Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror. A mist dispersed; I saw my life to be forfeit; and fled from the scene of these excesses, at once glorying and trembling, my lust of evil gratified and stimulated, my love of life screwed to the topmost peg. I ran to the house in Soho, and (to make assurance doubly sure) destroyed my papers; thence I set out through the lamplit streets, in the same divided ecstasy of mind, gloating on my crime, light-headedly devising others in the future, and yet still hastening and still hearkening in my wake for the steps of the avenger. Hyde had a song upon his lips as he compounded the draught, and as he drank it, pledged the dead man. The pangs of transformation had not done tearing him, before Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. The veil of self-indulgence was rent from head to foot, I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood, when I had walked with my father’s hand, and through the self-denying toils of my professional life, to arrive again and again, with the same sense of unreality, at the damned horrors of the evening. I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul. As the acuteness of this remorse began to die away, it was succeeded by a sense of joy. The problem of my conduct was solved. Hyde was thenceforth impossible; whether I would or not, I was now confined to the better part of my existence; and oh, how I rejoiced to think it! with what willing humility, I embraced anew the restrictions of natural life! with what sincere renunciation, I locked the door by which I had so often gone and come, and ground the key under my heel!

The next day, came the news that the murder had been overlooked, that the guilt of Hyde was patent to the world, and that the victim was a man high in public estimation. It was not only a crime, it had been a tragic folly. I think I was glad to know it; I think I was glad to have my better impulses thus buttressed and guarded by the terrors of the scaffold. Jekyll was now my city of refuge; let but Hyde peep out an instant, and the hands of all men would be raised to take and slay him.

I resolved in my future conduct to redeem the past; and I can say with honesty that my resolve was fruitful of some good You know yourself how earnestly in the last months of last year, I laboured to relieve suffering; you know that much was done for others, and that the days passed quietly, almost happily for myself. Nor can I truly say that I wearied of this beneficent and innocent life; I think instead that I daily enjoyed it more completely; but I was still cursed with my duality of purpose; and as the first edge of my penitence wore off, the lower side of me, so long indulged, so recently chained down, began to growl for licence. Not that I dreamed of resuscitating Hyde; the bare idea of that would startle me to frenzy: no, it was in my own person, that I was once more tempted to trifle with my conscience; and it was as an ordinary secret sinner, that I at last fell before the assaults of temptation.

There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul. And yet I was not alarmed; the fall seemed natural, like a return to the old days before I had made discovery. It was a fine, clear, January day, wet under foot where the frost had melted, but cloudless overhead; and the Regent’s Park was full of winter chirrupings and sweet with spring odours. I sat in the sun on a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory; the spiritual side a little drowsed, promising subsequent penitence, but not yet moved to begin. After all, I reflected, I was like my neighbours; and then I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect. And at the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering. These passed away, and left me faint; and then as in its turn the faintness subsided, I began to be aware of a change in the temper of my thoughts, a greater boldness, a contempt of danger, a solution of the bonds of obligation. I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde. A moment before I had been safe of all men’s respect, wealthy, beloved—the cloth laying for me in the dining-room at home; and now I was the common quarry of mankind, hunted, houseless, a known murderer, thrall to the gallows.

My reason wavered, but it did not fail me utterly. I have more than once observed that, in my second character, my faculties seemed sharpened to a point and my spirits more tensely elastic; thus it came about that, where Jekyll perhaps might have succumbed, Hyde rose to the importance of the moment. My drugs were in one of the presses of my cabinet; how was I to reach them? That was the problem that (crushing my temples in my hands) I set myself to solve. The laboratory door I had closed. If I sought to enter by the house, my own servants would consign me to the gallows. I saw I must employ another hand, and thought of Lanyon. How was he to be reached? how persuaded? Supposing that I escaped capture in the streets, how was I to make my way into his presence? and how should I, an unknown and displeasing visitor, prevail on the famous physician to rifle the study of his colleague, Dr. Jekyll? Then I remembered that of my original character, one part remained to me: I could write my own hand; and once I had conceived that kindling spark, the way that I must follow became lighted up from end to end.

Thereupon, I arranged my clothes as best I could, and summoning a passing hansom, drove to an hotel in Portland Street, the name of which I chanced to remember. At my appearance (which was indeed comical enough, however tragic a fate these garments covered) the driver could not conceal his mirth. I gnashed my teeth upon him with a gust of devilish fury; and the smile withered from his face—happily for him—yet more happily for myself, for in another instant I had certainly dragged him from his perch. At the inn, as I entered, I looked about me with so black a countenance as made the attendants tremble; not a look did they exchange in my presence; but obsequiously took my orders, led me to a private room, and brought me wherewithal to write. Hyde in danger of his life was a creature new to me; shaken with inordinate anger, strung to the pitch of murder, lusting to inflict pain. Yet the creature was astute; mastered his fury with a great effort of the will; composed his two important letters, one to Lanyon and one to Poole; and that he might receive actual evidence of their being posted, sent them out with directions that they should be registered.

Thenceforward, he sat all day over the fire in the private room, gnawing his nails; there he dined, sitting alone with his fears, the waiter visibly quailing before his eye; and thence, when the night was fully come, he set forth in the corner of a closed cab, and was driven to and fro about the streets of the city. He, I say—I cannot say, I. That child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred. And when at last, thinking the driver had begun to grow suspicious, he discharged the cab and ventured on foot, attired in his misfitting clothes, an object marked out for observation, into the midst of the nocturnal passengers, these two base passions raged within him like a tempest. He walked fast, hunted by his fears, chattering to himself, skulking through the less-frequented thoroughfares, counting the minutes that still divided him from midnight. Once a woman spoke to him, offering, I think, a box of lights. He smote her in the face, and she fled.

When I came to myself at Lanyon’s, the horror of my old friend perhaps affected me somewhat: I do not know; it was at least but a drop in the sea to the abhorrence with which I looked back upon these hours. A change had come over me. It was no longer the fear of the gallows, it was the horror of being Hyde that racked me. I received Lanyon’s condemnation partly in a dream; it was partly in a dream that I came home to my own house and got into bed. I slept after the prostration of the day, with a stringent and profound slumber which not even the nightmares that wrung me could avail to break. I awoke in the morning shaken, weakened, but refreshed. I still hated and feared the thought of the brute that slept within me, and I had not of course forgotten the appalling dangers of the day before; but I was once more at home, in my own house and close to my drugs; and gratitude for my escape shone so strong in my soul that it almost rivalled the brightness of hope.

I was stepping leisurely across the court after breakfast, drinking the chill of the air with pleasure, when I was seized again with those indescribable sensations that heralded the change; and I had but the time to gain the shelter of my cabinet, before I was once again raging and freezing with the passions of Hyde. It took on this occasion a double dose to recall me to myself; and alas! Six hours after, as I sat looking sadly in the fire, the pangs returned, and the drug had to be re-administered. In short, from that day forth it seemed only by a great effort as of gymnastics, and only under the immediate stimulation of the drug, that I was able to wear the countenance of Jekyll. At all hours of the day and night, I would be taken with the premonitory shudder; above all, if I slept, or even dozed for a moment in my chair, it was always as Hyde that I awakened. Under the strain of this continually-impending doom and by the sleeplessness to which I now condemned myself, ay, even beyond what I had thought possible to man, I became, in my own person, a creature eaten up and emptied by fever, languidly weak both in body and mind, and solely occupied by one thought: the horror of my other self. But when I slept, or when the virtue of the medicine wore off, I would leap almost without transition (for the pangs of transformation grew daily less marked) into the possession of a fancy brimming with images of terror, a soul boiling with causeless hatreds, and a body that seemed not strong enough to contain the raging energies of life. The powers of Hyde seemed to have grown with the sickliness of Jekyll. And certainly the hate that now divided them was equal on each side. With Jekyll, it was a thing of vital instinct. He had now seen the full deformity of that creature that shared with him some of the phenomena of consciousness, and was co-heir with him to death: and beyond these links of community, which in themselves made the most poignant part of his distress, he thought of Hyde, for all his energy of life, as of something not only hellish but inorganic. This was the shocking thing; that the slime of the pit seemed to utter cries and voices; that the amorphous dust gesticulated and sinned; that what was dead, and had no shape, should usurp the offices of life. And this again, that that insurgent horror was knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born; and at every hour of weakness, and in the confidence of slumber, prevailed against him and deposed him out of life. The hatred of Hyde for Jekyll, was of a different order. His terror of the gallows drove him continually to commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate station of a part instead of a person; but he loathed the necessity, he loathed the despondency into which Jekyll was now fallen, and he resented the dislike with which he was himself regarded. Hence the ape-like tricks that he would play me, scrawling in my own hand blasphemies on the pages of my books, burning the letters and destroying the portrait of my father; and indeed, had it not been for his fear of death, he would long ago have ruined himself in order to involve me in the ruin. But his love of life is wonderful; I go further: I, who sicken and freeze at the mere thought of him, when I recall the abjection and passion of this attachment, and when I know how he fears my power to cut him off by suicide, I find it in my heart to pity him.

It is useless, and the time awfully fails me, to prolong this description; no one has ever suffered such torments, let that suffice; and yet even to these, habit brought—no, not alleviation—but a certain callousness of soul, a certain acquiescence of despair; and my punishment might have gone on for years, but for the last calamity which has now fallen, and which has finally severed me from my own face and nature. My provision of the salt, which had never been renewed since the date of the first experiment, began to run low. I sent out for a fresh supply, and mixed the draught; the ebullition followed, and the first change of colour, not the second; I drank it and it was without efficiency. You will learn from Poole how I have had London ransacked; it was in vain; and I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught.

About a week has passed, and I am now finishing this statement under the influence of the last of the old powders. This, then, is the last time, short of a miracle, that Henry Jekyll can think his own thoughts or see his own face (now how sadly altered!) in the glass. Nor must I delay too long to bring my writing to an end; for if my narrative has hitherto escaped destruction, it has been by a combination of great prudence and great good luck. Should the throes of change take me in the act of writing it, Hyde will tear it in pieces; but if some time shall have elapsed after I have laid it by, his wonderful selfishness and Circumscription to the moment will probably save it once again from the action of his ape-like spite. And indeed the doom that is closing on us both, has already changed and crushed him. Half an hour from now, when I shall again and for ever re-indue that hated personality, I know how I shall sit shuddering and weeping in my chair, or continue, with the most strained and fear-struck ecstasy of listening, to pace up and down this room (my last earthly refuge) and give ear to every sound of menace. Will Hyde die upon the scaffold? or will he find courage to release himself at the last moment? God knows; I am careless; this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns another than myself. Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.

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Analysis of Jekyll and Hyde Duality in Stevenson's Novel

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  • Edley, N., & Wetherell, M. (2001). Jekyll and Hyde: Men's constructions of feminism and feminists. Feminism & Psychology, 11(4), 439-457. (
  • Doane, J., & Hodges, D. (1989, October). Demonic Disturbances of Sexual Identity: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr/s Hyde. In NOVEL: a Forum on Fiction (Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 63-74). Duke University Press.(
  • Rose, B. A. (1996). Jekyll and Hyde Adapted: Dramatizations of Cultural Anxiety (No. 66). Greenwood Publishing Group. (
  • Becchio, C., Sartori, L., Bulgheroni, M., & Castiello, U. (2008). The case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: a kinematic study on social intention. Consciousness and cognition, 17(3), 557-564. (
  • Lacey, N. (2010). Psychologising Jekyll, demonising Hyde: The strange case of criminal responsibility. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 4, 109-133. (

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thesis statements for jekyll and hyde

Key Themes (Jekyll and Hyde)

This section looks at the Key themes in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Duality of man

Jekyll asserts that “man is not truly one, but truly two,”

Stevenson uses the characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to expresses his beliefs about human duality by introducing them as two contrasting characters. Using two completely different characters with different names and appearances gets his message of human duality across effectively.

Good versus Evil

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is as an allegory about the good and evil that exist in all men, and about our struggle with these two sides of our personality. In the novella the battle between good and evil rages within the individual. Since Hyde seems to be taking over, one could argue that evil is stronger than good. However, Hyde does end up dead, perhaps suggesting a weakness or failure of evil. The big question, of course, is whether or not good can be separated from evil, or whether the two are forever intertwined.

Repression is indisputably a cause of troubles in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The repression here is that of Victorian Britain: no sexual appetites, no violence, and no great expressions of emotion, at least in the public sphere. Everything is sober and dignified. The more Jekyll’s forbidden appetites are repressed, the more he desires the life of Hyde, and the stronger Hyde grows. We see this after Dr. Jekyll’s two-month hiatus from being Hyde; Dr. Jekyll finds that the pull to evil has been magnified after months of repression.

Friendship and Loyalty

Friendship in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde serves to drive the plot forward. Aside from human curiosity, Utterson is compelled to uncover the mystery of the evil man because of his friendship with Dr. Jekyll. In trying to unravel the secret, he uncovers crucial pieces of information. In this sense, friendship acts as both a motivator and an enabler. As for the friendship between Dr. Lanyon and Dr. Jekyll, it’s certainly not as unconditional as the loyalty Mr Utterson bears for Dr. Jekyll. Instead, it’s fraught with competition, anger, and eventually an irreconcilable quarrel. We see that friendships can be ruined by differences of opinion.

Appearances and Reputation

Appearances figure in the novel both figuratively and literally. Dr. Jekyll definitely wants to keep up a well-respected façade, even though he has a lot of unsavoury tendencies. In a literal sense, the appearances of buildings in the novel reflect the character of the building’s inhabitants. Dr.Jekyll has a comfortable and well-appointed house, but Mr. Hyde spends most of his time in the "dingy windowless structure" of the doctor’s laboratory.

In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, curiosity drives the characters to seek knowledge. This curiosity is either suppressed or fulfilled in each character. Curiosity lacks any negative connotation; instead, characters who do not actively seek to unravel the Jekyll and Hyde mystery may be viewed as passive or weak. Finally, the characters’ curiosities are, to some degree, transferred over to the reader; we seek to solve the puzzle along with Mr. Utterson.

Lies and Deceit

The plot is frequently driven forward by secrecy and deception; Mr.Utterson doesn’t know the relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and he wants to find out. Also, by omitting the scenes of Mr. Hyde’s supposedly crazy debauchery, Stevenson allows our imaginations to run to wild and fill in the gaps.

This novel details two crimes of violence against innocent and helpless citizens: first, a little girl, and second, an elderly man. The violence in the novel centres on Mr. Hyde, and raises the question as to whether or not violence is an inherent part of man’s nature.

God and Satan figure prominently in this text, as well as many general references to religion and works of charity. As part of their intellectual lives, the men in the novel discuss various religious works. One sign of Mr. Hyde’s wickedness, for example, is his defacing Dr. Jekyll’s favourite religious work. Mr. Hyde is also frequently likened to Satan.

Women and Femininity

Most female characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are passive and weak. The first female we see is a young girl mowed over by Mr. Hyde. Although she is "not much the worse, more frightened, "she still kicks up an incredible fuss and a large group of people come to her aid. The next woman we see is via a maid’s narrative of the Carew murder. After witnessing the murder, she faints, awakening long after the murderer is gone making her a passive spectator.

Science, Reason and the Supernatural

Science Reason and the Supernatural are the main factors in the development of the conflict between Dr. Lanyon and Dr. Jekyll which is integral to the plot. Dr. Lanyon adheres to a more traditional set of scientific notions then Jekyll. In the book science becomes a cover for supernatural activities. Jekyll’s brand of science veers towards the supernatural.

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Human Character in «The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde» Essay

Introduction, historical context, characterization of the protagonist, film comparison, works cited.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is an investigation into the duality in human character. The novel demonstrates the duality in personality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through the conflict between the good and evil side of human personality.

Dr. Jekyll, a scientist, brews a potion that he tests on himself and brings out the duality in his personality in the form of evil Mr. Hyde. Initially, the emergence of the ‘Other’ in the form of Hyde is harmless, but soon it transforms into murderous chaos. This essay discusses the novel in three different perspectives.

The first thesis is based on the historical context of the novel and I believe that the novel by Stevenson is a resonance of the frustration of many Victorian intellectuals of the stifling social norms that prevented self-expression.

The second thesis is that in the novel, the protagonist in the form of Mr. Hyde is described through narration. The third thesis is that the 2006 film adaption of the novel by John Carl Buechler there are major deviation from the novel in form of the theme, subplots, and the characters .

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a representation of the society in London during the Victorian era, which was the milieu for the novel. In the novel Stevenson, pens down the frustration that Victorian England felt at the early nineteenth century. Initially, the potion made by Jekyll helps him to transform himself from one persona to another at will.

However, as the dosage increases, the ‘Other’ in form of Hyde becomes all-consuming. The initial desire to change into a more daring, revolting, maverick person is an expression of the Victorian frustration with the laid rules and norms of Victorian society. This is in a way is the personification of the Victorian men.

The transformation of Jekyll to Hyde allows the former to do things that the polite society would consider scandalous. The potion that Jekyll takes is a metaphor for opium addiction prevalent in London in late-Victorian era. It was the desire to break the bondage of a constructed behaving pattern of the Victorian era that Jekyll looked for a way of expression of his suppressed, baser animal instincts.

In the Victorian era, there was a pressure to behave in a certain way at the cost of suppression of the instinctive, baser elements of man. Therefore, Jekyll was the personification of the frustration of Stevenson and many others of his time.

Hyde was an escape for Jekyll (as opium was for many Victorian men) to shed the garb of discipline and conforming to a more instinctive, passionate, and unpredictable character. Therefore, the novel can rightfully be dubbed as a fable of Victorian anxieties.

The protagonist in Stevenson’s novel is the scientist cum devil Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. In most part of the novel, the character of both Jekyll and Hyde is developed through narrative description in speeches of other characters like Mr. Utterson or through description in letters or narration of by the author. The character of Jekyll is introduced in the novel through the description of a certain Mr. Enfield:

He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. … He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. he’s an extraordinary looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way.

Hyde are known to the reader through the narration of the other characters of the novel viz. Mr. Utterson, Poole (Jekyll’s butler), Dr. Laylon, Mr. Enfield, Dr. Jekyll and others. Their description of Hyde brings forth the man the readers are encountering. The most important narrations that describe Hyde are the letter of Dr. Laylon and the full statement of Dr. Jekyll which forms the last two chapters if the novel.

Therefore, Stevenson actually does not introduce or develop the character of Hyde who is created through the perceptions of the other characters of the novel.

It is the perception of the other characters that the reader gets the picture of Hyde to be short, evil looking, having a cruel countenance, responsible for all the crimes enacted in the novel. Therefore, the novel follows a narrative style of characterization of its protagonist Mr. Hyde.

This section presents a comparison of Stevenson’s novel and a 2006 film adaptation of the story. On watching the movie, it is apparent that the movie is an adaptation of Stevenson’s novel but only to the extent that the theme of duality of human character and the name of a few of the characters such as Utterson, Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and Dr. Laylon.

The movie is set in modern times and Dr. Jekyll still shown as a scientist, works on a high-tech bioscience research. Dr. Jekyll in the movie had developed a remedy to cure a rare heart disease in high primates. However, intentionally (like Stevenson’s Jekyll) tests the potion on himself. The experiment has similar results in the modern Jekyll and the evil Hyde emerges.

The adaptation is similar this far, but a few tenets of the Stevenson’s novel are re-sculpted. For instance, all the main characters in Stevenson’s novel were bachelors (for example Utterson, Jekyll, and Laylon). However, in this film, Jekyll is a married man and the story of the murders by Hyde revolving around the café of Jekyll’s wife. Utterson in the film is a police officer instead of a lawyer and is a woman.

However, the biggest deviation that the movie shows is the murders committed by Hyde. In the movie, Hyde is shown to attack young women. He does not only murder them but sexually abuses them before committing murder. This is a definitive deviation from the novel as all the murder victims in Stevenson’s novel were old and distinguished men (for example Carew and Sir Danvers).

The gothic element of the novel is played down in the movie which is set in a modern American town with young and beautiful characters with little dark or weirdness around. The gloomy setting of the novel set in the mists of winter in London is missing in the movie.

For someone who watches the movie without reading Stevenson’s novel would perceive Jekyll to be a sexually repressive character who invokes an alter ego to give force to his darker instincts. Actually, Stevenson’s novel was not confined to the darker sexual desires of man but to the darker side of the soul of human being.

The essay traces the true character of the novel by Stevenson. It shows the historical significance of the novel in showing the repressive frustration among Victorian men and shows that the novel uses a narrative style in characterization of its protagonist.

A comparison with a 2006 movie shows that modern adaption of the novel has deviated largely in subplot and characterization. Overall, Stevenson’s novel helps the readers today to identify the presence of duality in human personality and the need to understand it and use it positively rather than giving it free reign.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . London: Harper Collins, 1895. Print.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . Dir. John Carl Buechler. Perf. Tony Todd. 2006. DVD.

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