The world as we know it is constantly moving and changing; events occur that can affect people’s lives even if they are thousands of miles away. Whether or not these happenings are good or evil can shape one’s mindset and outlook on the actions they take themselves. Both have distinct strengths and weaknesses; however, the real question one must ask is which side of the spectrum is more capable of influencing humanity. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson, a wealthy and well-respected doctor by the name of Henry Jekyll, who believes that man is not one but two separate people, constructs a potion which unearths his inner evil (Mr. Edward Hyde), and in the end is engulfed by the strength of his malevolent persona. Although good is a preferred in society, the power of evil has more ability to spread over a larger scale and influence the minds of many; it is omnipresent, inevitable, and extremely easy to surrender to.
As much as people would like to conceal their impure intentions and corrupt ways of life, somehow they are revealed and it is impossible to resist what truly lies inside. What classifies a person as either good or evil depends on what side of their soul they decide to let be in control. Once the bad side takes over it takes an immense amount of effort to get the good back. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is consumed by the evil that lies within him. When Jekyll first consumes the potion he feels elated. Edward Hyde provides an alternate life for Jekyll. He is liberated of all cares and expectations.
Nearing the end of the book, the reader gets a close look inside Jekyll’s mind and what was occurring when he switched between himself and Hyde. He tells about the early stages of his experiment: “I felt younger, lighter, happier in body… 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” (Stevenson 67). Throughout his life, Henry has always been a man of respect. He is known to have integrity and good ethics. When he rids of his burdens and gives into the side of himself that does whatever it wants, he is rejuvenated. It’s as if he is given two paths, and the easier one to take is the one with “do not cross” tape across it.
The temptation lingers over Jekyll to constantly transform into the devilish version of him. He is aware of the wrongness of the situation because Hyde is a danger to the community, but the feeling of being free is an addiction to him. It takes restraint to hold Hyde inside, and in the end it becomes impossible because he overpowers any will to salvage the morality of Jekyll. It is further explained that the switch between personalities was not caused by the drug, but by a choice that was made.
Jekyll explains in his confessions, “The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prison-house of my disposition…my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion; and the thing that was projected was Edward Hyde” (Stevenson 67). It is said that evil is inside of everyone just as much as good is, and depending on what one faces one may be more present than the other.
The potion was just a key which opened the lock that held Jekyll’s wicked spirit. The potential was always inside of him, but he needed that push to help him express it. In the real world, there are no potions that can turn one evil; however, certain events can trigger feelings or thoughts that completely go against one’s morality. It is a personal decision to act upon those thoughts, but it is particularly simple to do so, and once it is made a chain reaction occurs that becomes more frightening as it continues. That sparks one to ponder how the evil gets into a soul, and if there is anything to that can prevent the chaos it ensues.
The question of where evil comes about is one that has been argued for a long time. Some believe that it is influenced by the world surrounding them, or perhaps by personal experiences. It could be that we are exposed to the concept of it at such an early age that we are given our lives to ponder what we prefer. It is also said that depravity is laced in our genetics, passed on through generations. Whatever the case, the demons inside us can at times be inescapable. If it is true that somewhere in our destiny lies evil, it is impossible to hold back. It is a natural instinct for those who are given that gene to do horrible things, and that overpowers the choice they are given not to. In an article addressing the source of evil which discusses well-known figures such as Adolf Hitler, it is written that recent studies have shown the evidence of behavior and personality in DNA.
The author of the article believes that it is impossible to attain such tendencies through inheritance. He states, “The fact that one child may turn into a bully or become a criminal and another not remains a tantalising mystery, and one that scientists cannot possibly explain in simple terms of DNA” (Masters). Masters is suggesting that the transformation from good to bad is a complicated process that involves many elements.
It is an intriguing thought, how a mind can shift from one side to the other. The influence of evil is all around and it becomes a task to ignore what is being so aggressively thrown upon a person. One incident can have the power to spoil a pure soul. Bad behavior is directly linked to selfishness; one can convince themselves that a decision that hurts others is what is right for them.
Adolf Hitler can be used as an example of this; his greed for the perfect Germany drove him to do things which are appalling to imagine. With the article being based off of Hitler, it debates, “Vice is the easy option, whereas virtue denotes difficulty and sweat. As the great Roman philosopher and dramatist Seneca wrote: ‘Nature does not give a man virtue, the process of becoming a good man is an art.’” (Masters). Human beings are always searching for an easy way out. It can be applied to everyday life, taking an escalator rather than the stairs for example.
When faced with the decision between good and evil, one is swayed towards evil simply because it is the easier decision to make. To be good and pure is to ignore impulses for revenge or selfish acts, which give one a sense of satisfaction and are hard to resist. It is a natural instinct to be bad, and one must work hard to escape the evil of their own self. Once somebody defeats the demons that lie inside of them, it is a whole other battle to face the evil that lay in front of them in their life.
No matter where one may try to go, it is near impossible to escape the constant influence of bad people and bad things. No matter age, race, or sex, corrupt people are out there that can hurt and destroy. Evil is something that has the ability to spread like a wildfire, and affect all who crosses its path. In an ABC News article titled “‘Depraved’ Behavior in Ordinary Life” the subject of wickedness is brought into perspective with real-life situations.
It is typical to connect evil to war and politics, but one may be surprised at the small accounts of evil they may encounter on a daily basis. Michael Welner, a psychologist who studies depraved behavior, believes that evil has a broad spectrum which any person can fit inside. He states, “’The American public regardless of [geographic] state, regardless of opinion, regardless of orientation, in a variety of issues can achieve an agreement about a number of qualities of crimes that make them beyond-the-pale depraved’” (Libaw).
Welner challenges that there are standards that must be met for a person to be considered evil; however, it is fairly easy to meet the criteria. Anybody and everybody can do sinister acts; it doesn’t just apply to dictators and murderers. Looking further into the mind of an evil-doer, one may ask what makes a mind hostile. The subject is also addressed in this article, when Welner’s study is revealed to include 14 traits that can define a human as evil.
Libaw sums up Welner’s research with this statement, “The common thread is that evildoers don’t just commit bad acts. They choose to make their actions even worse by behaving sadistically and deliberately ignoring or intensifying the damage and suffering they cause” (Libaw). It is one thing to do something that is bad, and another thing to dedicate one’s life to making sure all surrounding them are in misery. Evil people have the power to ruin so many things with the blink of an eye, where it takes an army of good to defeat the power that the wicked ones hold. To make a difference for the better is much more difficult to do than destroying is. It takes too much effort and determination for any average person to accomplish.
Evil is something that is all around us; it has the strength to overcome almost everything and destroy many aspects of society, even when there are the few that attempt to maintain the good. Connections can be made extremely easily, from those one might be close to or as far away as a person they learn about in school. Evil is something that carries on throughout the years and can have lasting effects while good deeds can only stay in the spotlight for so long.
Humans have the choice to fight for good or to give into evil, and it requires inner strength of an individual to fight against the strength of evil if they wish to attain purity. If that can be achieved then it will stay and one less person will be affected; however if they fail, they may be a victim of the grasp of evil for as long as they shall live.
Libaw, Oliver. “Looking for Evil in Everyday Life.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. Masters, Brian. “Are Some People Born Evil?” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 7 Feb. 2007. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. Stevenson, Robert Louis. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: Bantam, 1981. 67-69. Print.