The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, an 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, was an immediate success in its day. It tells of how Dr. Henry Jekyll succeeded in physically isolating the good and evil in his own persona, in an attempt to present mankind with a choice to live a life of either complete righteousness or absolute immorality without the burden and distraction of the opposing character. He envisioned a world where the just could freely walk the righteous path, protected from shameful or disgraceful actions.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a fictional story about a simple reality: that two opposing and individual personalities, good and evil, fight for dominion in every man as seen in the contradictory characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the effect of one character to the other when one is dominant, and the attraction and fear between these two distinct personalities.
Dr. Henry Jekyll, a smooth-faced refined man in his fifties, is a distinguished gentleman with a kind countenance of sincerity and capability. Mr. Edward Hyde, on the other hand, appears younger in age with a smaller build and a detestable body deformity aggravated by his repulsive disposition and malevolent nature.
The transformation from Jekyll to Hyde is accompanied by racking pains which subside into a pleasing and delightful sensation of having the innocent freedom of existing as a pure evil. Initially, Mr. Hyde appeared to be younger than Dr. Jekyll due to the fact that the evil side of Dr. Jekyll has not been as developed in his fifty years of life. However, the more he allowed himself to transform, Mr. Hyde progressively grew stronger, bigger in structure, and more dominant, while Dr. Jekyll grew more frail and weak in both body and will.
Jekyll feared the progressing monstrosity in Hyde especially after the murder of Danvers Carew, and as Hyde became more dominant, he dreaded that, in time, he would ultimately be overcome and would forever cease to exist.
His attraction to Mr. Hyde is not based solely on the darker side of his identity. As a man of science, he knows that his discovery paves the way to “a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame and power” (Stevenson 79), which, in itself, has its own appeal. Moreover, as he continued to unleash and strengthen his younger evil persona, he began to dislike his good character due to the monotonous life of study and the inevitable and unwelcome fact of old age.
It is always a rewarding experience to read stories one can relate to. This is a classic novella because it will forever be an undeniable truth that good and evil exists in every man. Following the dictates of either, results in differing outcomes. Good and evil in man is inseparable and is in constant struggle for supremacy, luring us with its own arguments and attractions; hence, the mastery of one’s self will always be man’s ultimate salvation.