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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an extraordinary book that explains the human nature in a fatal way; it demonstrates how a person can possess two extreme faces. It is written by a Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, which then leads us to wonder why he didn’t set the background as somewhere in Scotland but as London. However, as you get into the story you realize why he chose London. Carefully, the distinct division between the rich and poor is created as the atmosphere of this book; in fact, how the book describes London is how the real Edinburgh was in early nineteenth-century: two sided. Edinburgh was where Stevenson grew up; it is assumed that Stevenson himself lived a two faced life by jumping from one side of the city, rich to the other, poor.
Stevenson portrayed the house of Dr. Jekyll in the book based on the building that lived a surgeon called John Hunter, who surprisingly has lots of similarities with Dr. Jekyll. The building has two sides and the surgeon also had two sides. As my list goes on, you will realize how I am talking about how everything has two different faces. Therefore, the story, in an unexplainable way, is not far from real life: everyone, or in fact, every single “thing” in the world is capable of having two faces. Although the readers do not find out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the same person until the very end of the book, afterwards they realize the author had given lots of hints throughout.
Mr. Utterson is a lawyer and a long friend of Dr. Jekyll. He received a will from this friend, Jekyll which said that Jekyll is leaving all his assets to Mr. Hyde if he dies or disappears for more than 3 months. Mr. Utterson got very disturbed by this testament especially having heard about Mr. Hyde from his cousin, Mr. Enfield. The story stated Mr. Hyde had chased and trampled over a small innocent girl; Mr. Enfield described the scene as a sight ‘hellish to see.’ This will that Mr. Utterson received, perhaps, was the first hint to the readers that there is an absurd relationship between the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When they do find out this bizarre fact, the readers then wonder if that meant that Dr. Jekyll already knew that Mr. Hyde will overrule him someday, because if he did why would he had even started the experiment? The most adequate answer we can gain is that people have no limitation to wanting to know more: Dr. Jekyll risked his life to find out more about human nature. This links back to my first point about John Hunter. He was a surgeon who was keen to find out more about how people’s body worked; he paid people to illegally steal dead bodies from tomb for his dissection experiment. Interestingly, Hunter was a very nice and charitable gentleman who was praised by the public during the day for his intelligence which he had gained through the illegal experiments.
Confused Mr. Utterson visited another old friend of Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Lanyon, to ask about Mr. Hyde. However, failed to gain more information of this but instead received a comment that Dr. Jekyll was getting involved in ‘unscientific balderdash’ as Dr. Lanyon portrayed. Of course, as the readers know, this was to become a totally different creature: Mr. Hyde, the murderer. This gives no wonder why Dr. Jekyll was forging for Mr. Hyde after the crime later.
Impatient as the time passed, Mr. Utterson hunted after Mr. Hyde himself. After few days of effort, Mr. Utterson finally caught Hyde going into the backdoor of Dr. Jekyll’s building. After their interlocution, his impression of Mr. Hyde was similar to Mr. Enfield’s: ‘disgust’ and ‘savage.’ Also, as Mr. Enfield expressed, Mr. Hyde ‘gave an impression of deformity without any namable malformation.’ When Mr. Utterson knocks on Jekyll’s door which is around the corner, there is no answer.
As a finished reader, we know Dr. Jekyll cannot answer his door when he is in the form of Hyde. In this section, Dr. Jekyll shows similarities with Hunter again. Hunter had his ‘good front’ door opened to everyone the day and ‘dungeon back’ door was only open to the body stealers. Andrew Motion thinks these two doors themselves are used to represent the change – “as each opens or closes it leads characters into different parts of themselves.” For both Dr. Jekyll and John Hunter, behind the backdoor was where their ‘balderdash’ took place and no one was allowed to steal a look because they were “monsters” there.
Posterior to this date, Mr. Utterson endeavoured to find out the relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Not knowing the fact Dr. Jekyll himself is Mr. Hyde, Mr. Utterson could not understand the ease Dr. Jekyll had. However, the situation metamorphosed after the murder of Sir Danvers Carew; Dr. Jekyll felt ‘deadly sick’ by what had happened and declared to be ‘done with’ Mr. Hyde. This statement pleased Mr. Utterson who had then received the letter from Mr. Hyde through the hands of Dr. Jekyll. Glad to know Dr. Jekyll ‘have had a lesson,’ Mr. Utterson happily returned to his house where he finds out ‘Henry Jekyll forged for a murderer.’– Handwritings of Dr. Jekyll’s letter and Mr. Hyde’s were exactly the same except for the small difference in slope.
Knowing that two people are the same person we understand this but Mr. Utterson doesn’t know it at this stage. This is the point where Dr. Jekyll regrets doing the experiments and decides to leave it there. However, he soon realizes he is doing it again as if it is a drug that cannot be stopped. Why does he go on when he clearly knows that he will get hung if he gets caught as Hyde? This question can be distorted and be aimed at John Hunter. Why did he continue the experiment when he clearly knew that he will get hung if he was caught doing illegal trading of dead bodies? The answers are the same: desire to know more and possibly the thrill of not getting caught.
Two months after feeling ‘his blood run cold,’ Mr. Utterson put in efforts to forget everything about Mr. Hyde and the death of Sir Danvers. Mr. Hyde had not been around for the whole two months and Dr. Jekyll had become the previous friendly Dr. Jekyll again: ‘renewed relations with his friends’ and ‘became once more their familiar guest and entertainer.’ One slight change made from the past was that he was being overly good, religious, and charitable. It was now Dr. Lanyon who started to act madness; his words ‘I wish to see or hear no more of Dr. Jekyll,’ ‘I am quite done with that person’ brought back all the memories from two months ago: Dr. Jekyll gave the exact same line but about Mr. Hyde. The testament by Dr. Lanyon to Mr. Utterson after his death had extraordinary will on the letter which read ‘not to be opened till the death or disappearance of Dr. Henry Jekyll.’
Witnessing these words, Mr. Utterson sensed incidents from two months ago were about to be repeated. Not long after the death of Dr. Lanyon, Poole, the servant of Dr. Jekyll, pay a visit to Mr. Utterson; he was pale and frightened. Poole tells his concern – he is afraid to find out the reason why Dr. Jekyll was acting awfully weird: not coming out of the laboratory. Mr. Utterson made the trip to Dr. Jekyll’s fearing the same thing as Poole: Hyde had killed Jekyll and is in his place. When Mr. Utterson breaks into the doctor’s room, there is only a warm and ‘still twitching’ Hyde and no trace of Dr. Jekyll. A document by Dr. Jekyll found stated ‘read the narrative of Lanyon first,’ so Mr. Utterson follows the words without questions. Reading the two full letters helped the dust of these complicated stories settle into place in Mr. Utterson’s mind. The hope of separating the evil out of good from a man turned out to be a failure and only made a reasonably good man into a devil.
Although the story on its own is a fiction of a person with two faces not being able to control the bad part, there is an implied reality that everything in the world has two faces and that these two faces are found from such extraordinary places. Not only John Hunter but also Deacon Brodie and Robert Wringhim are good examples. John Hunter, as I compared with Dr. Jekyll above, was a two faced man who did goods for the society such as creating new medicines but had to commit crimes like hiring people to steal dead bodies on the backstage for his further studies on creating effective medicines. Deacon Brodie was a normal cabinet maker but this only applied when the sun was out. Because he was a cabinet-maker he was hired by the rich and was given their keys of their houses.
Either when the people were asleep or when the masters of the house were gone, he became a theft. He stole money and any valuables from these rich. It is frustrating to find out a person that you believed was turned out to be the one person that used this trust to fill his desires. However, this is what Stevenson was mentioning: a trusted person like Dr. Jekyll turned out to be doing a horrid experiment, which involved himself becoming a murderer. Also, taking from Stevenson’s own book, he cleverly created a scene where Sir Danvers Carew was killed by Mr. Hyde in a dark place of the city. Why did MP appear in such an area at that time of the night? – It seems he had dark secrets as well. Additional example is a confession of Robert Wringhim. He had two personalities: holy and murderer. It is quite hard to imagine a very religious person committing the biggest sin you can find from their religion.
All these examples and the stories bring us to a repulsive conclusion that everyone is evil deep down and so everyone is not to be trusted. Also a question such as ‘is Stevenson suggesting that we need to keep our darker side under control?’ can be asked. In fact, seeing that everyone has done something bad at least once in their life, is the idea of controlling dark side even possible? If it is impossible, is he saying we just have to accept our imperfections and do what our impulses are telling us?
According to Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species,’ human evolved from animals such as chimpanzees and monkeys. Stevenson perhaps is representing Mr. Hyde as ‘the beast in human nature’ to tell us that no one can resist the monster living underneath our kindness; everyone has their own version of Mr. Hyde in them. Taking Dr. Jekyll for instance, the darker side was impossible to control because he changed back to Mr. Hyde constantly even when he didn’t want it. Stevenson described it to be a physical change but he actually involved an implication that this happens to everyone not physically but as mentally; anytime people get a chance to fill their means, they awaken the evil side in their heart to help them.
Is it really impossible to control? It is frightening to think that this is true because it is not: having power over this side is up to the person. We won’t be able to explain how the Saints and priests can exist if it was impossible to control. Mother Teresa gave everything to the society and the poor and devoted her life to God and to his people; she was strong enough to control the devil inside her. The poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins after reading the book said ‘my Hyde is worse.’ If his worst Hyde was revealed to the world he wouldn’t be a priest. He, like Mother Teresa, consciously had been trying to push away the evil spirit within him.
Stevenson is implying that everyone has two sides by giving two faces to every character in the book and making the places he picks to have two different side and relating the city in the story, London, to a real city with two sides, Edinburgh. Also he gives the impression that the darker sides overpowers the brighter side by making that happen to Dr. Jekyll, therefore, we just have to accept this fact and wait until the darker side takes over your body; however, this is not the case. He is saying we to have to accept the imperfections of ourselves and try keeping it under control. If we cannot keep it controlled, we may meet such a death like Dr. Jekyll and Sir Carew. People who can manage it very well will be praised for it like Mother Teresa. Stevenson is stating that choosing which one we want to be is all up to us.