The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde left me with several theories after I turned the last page. First, I thought maybe Dr. Jekyll was affected by some kind of mental disorder that gave him multiple personalities. This would explain Mr. Hyde sometimes taking over his body and doing what he wanted, regardless of what Jekyll wanted. I have researched mental disorders a lot, and there is a disorder where people have other personalities that take over during certain situations as a defense mechanism. While under the other personalities’ control, the person cannot control their own actions and may or may not be able to see and hear what is happening. So, I thought maybe Dr. Jekyll had one of these disorders.
However, tying to the idea of doubles and monsters, I think Robert Louis Stevenson may have been trying to show that we all have good and bad sides through Jekyll and Hyde’s story—we all have doubles. Jekyll represents the “good” side of people—working toward the “furtherance of knowledge [and] the relief of sorrow and suffering”—while Hyde represents the “bad” side of people—pure evil, working for the fulfillment of his own desires without caring about others (Greenblatt, 2019, p. 799). Dr. Jekyll says himself in his letter to Mr. Utterson that when he first looked at his reflection as Mr. Hyde, he “was conscious of no repugnance, rather a leap of welcome. This, too, was [him]self. It seemed natural and human” (Greenblatt, 2019, p. 801). Jekyll acknowledges that this form of himself, deformed and evil, was natural and human. If Jekyll sees the naturality and humanity in this part of himself, we all have this part too, whether we acknowledge it or not. He also goes on to state that “all human beings…are commingled out of good and evil,” which again reiterates this idea (Greenblatt, 2019, p. 801). We all have selfish desires that we push away because of morals; we just may not ever fulfill them like Hyde did for Jekyll. So, keeping with this idea, one can argue that Stevenson was trying to show us that selfish desires and even arguably “bad” thoughts are part of human nature and we all have them. We all have a Jekyll and Hyde, though we may not switch between forms.
Hyde also gives us an idea of what society viewed as monstrous during the Victorian age. Hyde is “pure evil”—committing murder and giving all people he came into contact with a feeling of uneasiness (Greenblatt, 2019, p. 801). Jekyll describes Hyde as the embodiment of his selfishness and desires. So, in looking at Mr. Hyde, we can deduce that Victorian society identified selfishness and self-indulgence as monstrous, since Hyde’s only goal was to do what he wanted, when he wanted. We can also see that societal norms were to push away “bad” desires because of morals and focus on helping others. We know this from Jekyll choosing to stay Jekyll and try to not be Hyde, consequently focusing on relieving suffering and avoiding self-indulgence. Society really seemed to focus on working for others and not for the self since fulfilling self-desires was villainized. Clearly, as he speaks often about relieving suffering, Jekyll was the embodiment of “good,” non-monstrous society members while, in contrast, Hyde, committing a murder out of anger, represented the “bad,” monstrous members of society trying to only please themselves. I think this work can force us to truly look into ourselves as we try to identify our own Jekylls and Hydes and push us to think about which of our doubles we want to be. I think we must admit that we have selfish, perhaps unhealthy desires so that we can grow and succeed, even if we are uncomfortable, and Stevenson can push us to this through The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Greenblatt et. al., (Eds). (2019). The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York, NY: Norton & Company.