Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By: Alex Albright

Prompt

2002, Form B. Often in literature, a character’s success in achieving goals depends on keeping a secret and divulging it only at the right moment, if at all. Choose a novel or play of literary merit that requires a character to keep a secret. In a well-organized essay, briefly explain the necessity for secrecy and how the character’s choice to reveal or keep the secret affects the plot and contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. You may select a work from the list below, or you may choose another work of recognized literary merit suitable to the topic. Do NOT write about a short story, poem, or film.

Thesis

Because of the natural desire to hide the dark spots in one's life, Robert Louis Stevenson's disturbing, yet strangely relevant novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde encompasses and illustrates the character trait of secrecy -- which majority of individuals are guilty to the possession and use of this idiosyncrasy -- and how it, if used incorrectly, may lead to the damage of one's reputation, live's of one's peers, as well as in serious cases, one's own demise.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Doctor Jekyll, and Mr. Hyde

Here is the book trailer for Jekyll and Hyde!

Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde Book Trailer

Significant Quotes

1. "Poor Henry Jekyll," he thought, "my mind misgives me he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace: punishment coming, pede claudo, years after memory has forgotten and self-love condoned the fault" (Stevenson 21)

Commentary

From this quote, the reader is able to understand that Mr. Utterson and Mr. Poole are confused about what could be happening the Dr. Jekyll. At this point, they are coming to the understanding that whatever it must be, it has to have something to do with Mr. Hyde. There has only been one sighting of Mr. Hyde at this point and both characters are able to come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with this man. Secrecy may not be coming from Jekyll at this exact point in the novella because the characters other than Jekyll are developing, but with the encountering of Mr. Hyde, just the small description of him causes a sense of mystery and secrecy like there is most definitely something more to this character that both the reader and the characters are unaware of at this moment.
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2. "But Lanyon's face changed, and he help up a trembling hand. "I wish to see or hear no more of Dr. Jekyll," he said in a loud, unsteady voice. "I am quite done with that person; and I beg that you will spare me any allusion to one whom I regard as dead." (Stevenson 39-40)

Commentary

At this point, right before this quote by Dr. Lanyon was uttered, Jekyll was becoming more outgoing like he used to be. He would dine with his friends and spend time outside again like he used to before he became confined to his home and basically lived as a hermit. Now, Jekyll randomly begins to shut out his friends again and they has no access to seeing him or talking with him. This then causes Lanyon to get extremely angry at the whole ordeal because why would he just go back to being confined when he was out and about with his friends for a span of two whole months? This confuses Lanyon and he becomes severely irritated. Here, there is some slight dramatic irony going on because the reader understands that with the disappearance of Jekyll, that means there will soon be an appearance of Hyde. If Jekyll was not so secretive with his duplicity and his alter-ego, he would not be irritating his friends and he would not be confined to solitude because there would be assistance right there for him. This secrecy leads Jekyll deeper and deeper into a situation which is already difficult to deal with. Below is a picture of Doctor Lanyon.
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3. "You must suffer me to go my own dark way. I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name. If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also. I could not think that this earth contained a place for sufferings and terrors so unmanning." (Stevenson 40)

Commentary

Doctor Jekyll is now admitting blatantly of his problem to his friends, but rather than being open and discussing the exact problem which he is faced with, he just tells them there's a severe problem which he cannot discuss. This strengthens the nature of his secret because he has made it obvious to his friends that he believes there is nothing they can do to help him even when that is completely false and they could always help him out with anything. They have been friends for years, but rather than asking for help, he is in denial that they are capable of helping him. yes, there is a necessity to secrecy especially when not telling someone something will actually benefit their case, but here, there is not beneficiary in this secrecy besides Hyde, who is thriving on the secrecy and becoming stronger as Jekyll becomes weaker. By not admitting to the wrongdoing that has occurred and the evil that is inside him, he is letting the evil grow more influential, making fixing the situation much more difficult in the future.
4. "Lanyon, my life, my honour, my reason, are all at your mercy; if you fail me to-night, I am lost. You might suppose, after this preface, that I am going to ask you for something dishonourable to grant. Judge for yourself. " (Stevenson 58)

Commentary

This is the beginning of Doctor Lanyon's Narrative and here, rather than bashing Jekyll as he did earlier in the novella, he is being asked by Jekyll to basically save his life. Again, though Jekyll is admitting to him having a severe problem that may very well lead to his ultimate demise, he is also unwilling to discuss this exact problem, AGAIN. but, because of this, the plot and the theme of the novella is thickened and strengthened. This internal evil is completely capable of controlling someone if they are unwilling to ask for assistance or discuss this problem in whole. Jekyll is being controlled by Hyde, Jekyll basically has no control and Hyde is the one calling the shots. Since Jekyll let this evil incubate inside of him without having the audacity to ask for specific assistance, his life lies in the hands of someone else. Oh, and that someone else does not even know the problem which is causing this issue in the first place. Again, secrecy here is being used in an manner that helps no one except the evil, and because of this evil, all control is lost and Jekyll's live is about done.
5. "O God! I screamed, and "O God!" again and again; for there before my eyes-- pale and shaken, and a half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death-- there stood Henry Jekyll!" (Stevenson 65)

Commenary

This is where all the secrecy comes out finally, but obviously it is way too late to save Jekyll, because Hyde now has all the control. Dr. Lanyon witnesses what has been happening throughout the entirety of the book and now understands the evil that has been lurking about Jekyll for all this time, but by the expense of Lanyon's own personal sanity and the life of Henry Jekyll himself. The secrecy has taken Jekyll from a well respected, well rounded out individual, to someone who is confined to his apartment and at the mercy of his own evil. The secrecy has left Lanyon unprepared for the sight he just witnessed which will scar him for the rest of his life as he describes how his "life was shaken to it's roots" (Stevenson 66). Without the secrecy though, Stevenson would have been unable to develop a novella with the strength and power that relates to everyone about the power of secrecy, both good and bad, good and evil.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation scene
This here is the scene describing the transformation that occurs from Henry Jekyll to Edward Hyde. Just as a quick content summary, the potion Dr. Jekyll is drinking in the video was a potion which he created himself to separate the duality inside him into two separate entities. As literary critic Ferrer-Medina explains, "Dr. Henry Jekyll was already a dual character before drinking the potion. Duality defines his character." Explained earlier, Jekyll had many points in his career and life where he would go months without talking to people, then go a year with constant contact with individuals, but then randomly he would go back to isolation. Duality is just something that has been a part of Henry Jekyll's life since the beginning, and this potion just made this duality into separate entities, furthering his loss of personal control, but also furthering his fall into secrecy.
6. "I crossed the yard, wherein the constellations looked down upon me, I could have thought that their unsleeping vigilance had yet closed 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." (Stevenson 71)

Commentary

Now, the book shifts to Doctor Jekyll's own perspective of what occurs. This is the first point at which Jekyll initially encounters his alter-ego. As he writes, it may seem that him and Edward Hyde are two totally separate entities but they are actually entities which inhabit the same body, but with a couple twists in appearance and a change from good intentions to pure evil. Jekyll should have immediately seen this, at least when he interprets exactly what is currently going on and informed his closest friends of this alter-ego, but this is rather the birth place of his secrecy and this is where this innocent, well respected man, becomes a small built, ugly, non-charismatic individual that leaves a disturbing feeling in those who bask in his presence.
7. "All things before 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." (Stevenson 75-76)

Commentary

Now Jekyll has a grasp over what is happening to him. He understands that he is being taken over by the evil side to him, he is losing power to control the transformation, but he still does nothing about it. Rather than telling people, he continues to keep the information to himself and sulks. Before this point, Jekyll continued to believe that "he could rid himself of Hyde" at any time he needs to, but the entire situation has grown out of proportion and is becoming irreversible. He is being forced to his own confinement as Hyde just dominates the relationship between them, ultimately taking over Jekyll and making him into the "second and worse" entity between the two of them.
8. I shall again and forever reindue that hated personality, I know how I shall sit shuddering and weeping in my chair, or continue, with the most strained and fearstruck ecstasy of listening, to pace up and down this room (my last earthly refuge) and give ear to every sound of menace." (Stevenson 86)

Commentary

Finally, there is no going back for Jekyll as he has completely become the play toy of Edward Hyde. After allowing the evil in him to have some fun with the murder of Carew and other evil crimes, that evil inside of him began growing stronger and stronger and as he continued to bottle of the secret of this evil within him, it just continued to grow as time progressed. Secrecy, as said before, has it's ups and downs, but when the sincere severity of the situation can lead to life or death, or more like being stuck "shuddering and weeping in [a] chair" because of what has been allowed to happen. The secrecy must become no more and the secret must be told to those who have the ability to help. Stevenson used this idea because he understands how prolific secrets are and he made it very clear the power of secrets by means of Jekyll and Hyde.

This video provides some more basic information about the author and other aspect of the novella! Feel free to watch and educate yourself even more!

Top 10 Notes: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Thematic Ideas

The Outcast

Doctor Henry Jekyll was a well-known doctor in his late 50s that had many friends and peers that were close to him, but as his duplicity became more and more overpowering, people began questioning his sanity, but this was only part of what made him truly an outcast. The duplicity in himself, his own actions and the power of his alter-ego allowed for his development into the outcast. In the beginning of the novella, when Jekyll was already well aware of Hyde and was unwilling to discuss his duplicity and secrecy with anyone, he became isolated to the confinement of his apartment and would not come out to talk to anyone. Then, after a little while He came back out of his confinement because he thought he had control over Hyde and spent almost 2 whole month out and about with his peers, but then his control he had was lost and Hyde began truly taking over. The first time Jekyll attempted to split him and his alter-ego into separate entities is when he truly started becoming the outcast in his society as those who attempted to see him would not be allowed and as he slowly began losing control of his own self. Later, as the secrecy further and further pushed Jekyll into confinement, which strengthened this sense of being an outcast, the lack of help and requesting for help lead to his own demise, and he now becomes the ultimate outcast and he if basically damned to the confinement of apartment as Hyde lives his life in control.

Good Versus Evil

The thematic idea of Good Versus Evil is quite obvious throughout the entirety of the book as both good and evil are represented allegorically as two different part to the same person. The struggles between the good and the evil continue throughout the whole novella with the side that is most persistent and confident being the one that comes out on top. Jekyll had so many opportunities to spill his secret and discuss these tough things with someone that has the ability to help him. But, instead he does not show the strength to do such a thing which allows the evil to become more powerful and push out all the good left inside him, destroying Henry Jekyll and letting Edward Hyde live and prosper. Stevenson shows that good does not always win just because that would be the right thing, he shows that in a difficult battle between good and evil, the one that uses it's resources and isn't afraid to be open and receive help from those around them will end up on top. The good may control the battle, but when the good misses it's opportunities, the evil will prevail.

Duality of Man

Normally, it is not completely unheard of to find people that tend to act differently when certain things go a wry or if they slept on the wrong side of the bed, but it is a fact that many people always go in two different directions at many points in their lives or have a hard time staying consistently one way all the time. Man is naturally dual and always have been, there has always been part of someone telling them to do one thing while the other part of that same person is telling them to do the opposite. Jekyll and Hyde exhibit this sense of duality but take it to an extreme in the fact that this one person actually exists in two different entities, a completely dual individual. This idea of the duality of man is shaped through the constant changes in the same person and that consistency is usually hard to come by. Jekyll is one side, while Hyde is the total opposite.

Because Poems are FUN!

The balance of nature is quite fragile

Just between the devil and the chapel.

Being one good person is hard as well

Mostly when one part represents hell.

The good and the bad square off for the edge

The only thing between them's a small little wedge.

The wedge soon slips and the secret does too

But not before it's too late for a redo.

The evil wins here because of the lack

Of will the good had to just stay in tack.

The good would have had it with a little bit of small help

but showed fear and never asked, too embarrassed to yelp.



NEVER be afraid to ask for help, especially from those who care about you the most! THEY ARE THERE FOR YOU!

Conclusion

Secrets are a part of every day life, but in the sense of Jekyll and Hyde, sometimes taking a secret too far and holding on to it too long may lead to one's complete demise as it is far too late to change anything or fix something when the bad becomes worse and the secret has already spread to those around them. If a secret is handled properly, it will become harmless, but when a secret is handled poorly and help is truly needed, having that secret is most definitely not worth your own life.

Sources

Keen, Suzanne. "Robert Louis Stevenson: A Biography." Commonweal 122.9 (1995): 22+.Literature Resource Center. Web. 1 May 2016.


Ferrer-Medina, Patricia. "Wild humans: the culture/nature duality in Marie Darrieussecq's Pig Tales and Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The Comparatist 31 (2007): 67+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.