When you think monster, the first one that probably comes to mind is Frankenstein’s monster. But if you are asked to think of monsters & men (not the band), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will take the centre stage. I recently read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde penned by Robert Louis Stevenson and bless me soul, although it was shorter and sweeter than the typical classic novel, it gave me the freakin goosebumps. While Frankenstein’s monster represents man’s struggle with mortality, Jekyll and Hyde represent man’s struggle with his own humanity.
You “LOOK” Hyde-ous
As a dedicated book lover I took to watching two J & H movie versions after finishing the book, to pay further tribute to the story (yes I get a wee-bit obsessed). What I noticed was both movies portrayed Jekyll and Hyde using split personality representations. Jekyll and Hyde look like twins although their manner alters between good and evil.
But its not really like that!!!!While the story represents the fight between two sides of the human nature, it also clearly indicates that Dr. Jekyll invented a serum that transformed him physically into a different form altogether. More like:
Which means when Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde, there were really noticeable physical changes. Think Snow White Evil Queen turning into the ugly hag. She looked different even though it was her. Something similar happens to Jekyll. So The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) was more accurate in depicting the man and the monster. Although according to the original story, Hyde is smaller and meanish. More Petter Pettygrewish than Hulkish.
Dr. Jekyll specifically mentions that his ability to slip into the skin of Hyde is what allows him to commit his acts of evil and that slipping back into his own form again lets Hyde get away with all evil, including murder undetected, defeating everyone’s efforts to catch Hyde. Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer who is narrating the story has come face to face with Hyde and his definition of Hyde’s appearance marks the fact that Jekyll and Hyde look nothing like each other. Jekyll is also well aware of what he doing when he dons the form of Hyde, so schizophrenia or a split personality disorder is ruled out. Period.
Will you love me, even with my dark side?
Let’s face it! We have all entertained the idea of giving in to our dark sides atleast once in our lives. Whether we act on it or not is a different matter. Dr. Jekyll merely takes this idea to a new level. Like us he observed that man is actually divided into two selves-the moral self and the evil self. However it was his observation that because these two selves co-existed, man could never fully be the person he was because one self was always more dominant than the other. He was not content with the fact that we faced an internal struggle every day of our lives. Hence he wanted to make a serum that would divide both selves allowing you to fully be one or the other, giving you the option of changing from one to the other through the serum. Being either totally good or totally bad, without having one nature controlling the other. Bad move Jeks.
Why would he do something that absurd you ask?? Besides giving us the plot for a very good novel you say? Basically Jeks was a respected figure in society so he wanted to enjoy the dark life without losing his respect. This is why he makes the serum alter his appearance. At first, he enjoys the horrendous acts he commits as Hyde. He marvels at being able to get away with the crudest of actions without being judged (because Hyde doesn’t care whether he’s being judged but Jekyll does) and he marvels at his sense of new-found freedom. Through Hyde, Jekyll enjoys an outlet he would never have in a conservative society because his circle and Hyde’s circle never cross paths. Until Hyde gets away with murder that is, and begins to dominate the transformations.
Once Jekyll finds out that he can’t control the transformations or his evil self, Jekyll commits suicide. Utterson finds the body of Hyde suggesting that the evil self had taken over and was probably attempting to save himself from the fate that Jekyll had bestowed on both of them. Jekyll in his final hours probably realised that there’s a reason why the two sides of our nature are meant to struggle. It is only through struggle that we face the option of choice-to either exercise our good nature or our bad nature. The existence of our conscience is our barometer, it lets us make choices but allows us to keep in mind what is right and what is wrong. So if we go too dark, we still have the chance to make amends if we listen to our conscience. Separating two sides of our nature means leaving one side without a conscience, which is what gives birth to a monster. When Jekyll separated his human nature using the serum, his conscience sided with his moral form leaving his evil form unchecked. Hyde by nature was evil, he did not have a conscience so he didn’t really have the choice of being good because he had no idea of what goodness entailed. While this is what Jekyll wanted- a side unrestrained by a conscience- he probably wasn’t counting on the depths of evil one could sink to, without restraint. Our conscience keeps the balance between our good and evil nature. In giving in to his darkest desires Jekyll realizes that the more evil he became, the more good he really wanted to be. So in the aftermath of the serum, while the struggle between good and evil wasn’t so much internal (as in within Jekyll) it manifested itself as a more external problem (physical form of Hyde which was untamed). Jekyll realized that irrespective of whether our two natures co-exist or exist separately, they still continue to be a part of us making the struggle between our two selves far from over.
Struggle is good, to struggle is be human
And Being Human is better than Being Hyde.