The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll

By: Michael Ashworth

Thesis - There is no Hyde

Because evil can still exist inside those who are perceived to be good , Robert Louis Stevenson's dark yet insightful novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reveals that people like Jekyll--who most imagine is a noble man--can have a darkness inside of them that isn't as separate from the good as we think. Hyde is not a separate person from Jekyll, and unlike what we see in pop culture, Jekyll knew exactly what he was doing as Hyde. There is no Hyde, just Henry Jekyll in a disguise.

Jekyll's Repression of the outcast

"I would still be merrily disposed at time; and my pleasures were (to say the least) undignified, and I was not only well known and highly considered, but growing towards the elderly man..."

Before reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I assumed that the story was black and white in morality. Jekyll was good and kind, while Hyde was his evil counterpart. After digging into the story however, I discovered that Jekyll wasn't so good to begin with. He felt confined by a society who saw his inner desires as shameful. Jekyll would be true outcast of society if he was not hiding his dark thoughts. This brought about the creation of Hyde, who was the tool he needed to commit the sins he wanted to without ruining his credibility and life. As Hyde, Jekyll could do the dark things he wanted to do but never could.

"Men before have hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter. I was the first who ever did so for his pleasures."

Jekyll wasn't like the others who committed crimes to gain something out of it, he committed crimes because he wanted to. This quote is what made me realize that Jekyll was no better than Hyde in morality, and in fact might be considered even more evil. While Hyde seemingly had no remorse, Jekyll knew what he desired to do and got addicted to the sin.

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.

Jekyll saw Hyde as his own freedom. He goes on in this paragraph to talk about how simply he was able to shed Hyde and become Jekyll once more, therefore freeing himself from his own consequences. This was Hyde's purpose all along, to act as a disguise for Jekyll sin. Hyde allowed Jekyll to hide from the world.

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.

As Hyde, Jekyll did some pretty bad things, even going so far as to kill a man. Despite Jekyll's dark thoughts and desires, I doubt he would ever kill someone on his own. Hyde amplifies his lust for violence, and that is evident in this quote. While Jekyll is undignified in his mind, becoming Hyde eventually turns him into a flat out monster.

Everything must come to an end

"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."

This quote offers something about Jekyll's character itself. He pins everything he does on Hyde, despite being Hyde. Instead of taking responsibility he places the blame elsewhere, exposing his hypocrisy. These are his own thoughts about who he is, revealing that at this point, he legitimately believes himself innocent of the crimes he commits. He is transitioning away from loving to become Hyde and starting to resent the transformation.

"If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also"

"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."

"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."

As Jekyll became Hyde again and again, there was a shift over time. Hyde was supposed to allow him to do the things he wanted without repercussions, but the darkness and evil inside Jekyll grew with each use of his drug. Those desires that he, for so long, tried to suppress grew with Hyde and eventually grew stronger than Jekyll himself. Jekyll used Hyde to feed his lust for sin, but he did not realize, until it was too late, that by doing that, he was tearing down the boundaries he had set up for himself in shame. The novel ends with Jekyll's suicide, which ended up truly exposing how ashamed of himself he was. Hyde was an exaggerated version of the true Jekyll, and seeing who he was without restraint drove him to kill himself.

Wrapping up dr. jekyll's dilema

Hyde was the result of Jekyll's attempt to live without having to hide his wants and desires. Society would certainly label him as an outcast if he did not keep up his reputation as an upstanding individual. Pop culture misinterprets this often, comparing characters like the Incredible Hulk to the infamous duo, despite the characters having many great differences. In my opinion, one of the best comparison of Jekyll and Hyde can be found in the television show Dexter. Dexter Morgan is an average person living a normal life on the outside, but deals with a dark blood lust on the inside. Much like Jekyll, Dexter has to hide who he is during the day in order to keep up his reputation, but at night he goes out in search of those who he can kill. His "dark passenger" is a perfect representation of Hyde, with both alternate personas being an exaggerated version of their true selves. Stevenson's novel dives deep into the human mind and explores what people would do to hide their inner selves if they conflicted with normal society. Jekyll was an outcast, but he refused to let anyone seem him as such. Bottling his inner desires up ended up amplifying them and thus brought along Jekyll's downfall.