Edward Hyde as the 'Metaphorical Monster': Dual Personas and the 'Repressed Self' of Henry Jekyll in the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Nineteenth century Western society marked the emergence and developed of psychological studies and analyses of human beings, especially those that focus on introspection and the 'untapped' consciousness of individuals (more often associated with psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud). It is then not surprising that literature, as reflection of the lives and experiences of human society, reflected this prevalent trend in Western society. One of the most popular works of literature that emerged from this genre is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
More than a mystery and horror novel, The Strange Case is also a study of human psychology, where Stevenson explores how human beings will possibly react and behave when they are able to discover, confront, and later experience their 'unconscious' selves, where social and individual control is not exercised. This possibility is contemplated in the novel, as Dr. Jekyll 'creates' the persona of Edward Hyde from a scientific experiment, giving him the freedom to be and do whatever he wants. As Dr. Jekyll's anti-thesis, Mr. Hyde personified the non-conforming and liberal self of the doctor, which the he was not able to exercise and give attention to, since his environment (society) does not tolerate any differences from the norms established within society. In addition, the novel can also be looked at as the struggle between good and evil. Dr. Jekyll, as the 'controlled' individual and protagonist of the story, tries to suppress the bad persona of Mr. Hyde, which he found difficult to accomplish because both personas live inside one physical plane, which is Dr. Jekyll's physical body.
Given these two main themes in the novel, that is, the theme of dual personalities and struggle between good and evil, this paper seeks to answer how, in the literary sense, Mr. Hyde's character developed as a form of metaphor. Through the use of metaphor in the novel, Stevenson successfully depicts "the monster" that is Mr. Hyde, and this quality of his persona is illustrated in the main themes mentioned earlier. In using the term "monster" as reference to Dr. Jekyll's other persona, Mr. Hyde, there is reference to the seemingly 'alien' nature of Mr. Hyde, which is appropriate since he is indeed an unknown individual who does not regard human laws and practices. Other examples of these qualities of Mr. Hyde as the monster are discussed in the texts that follow, using significant passages from the novel.
As the metaphorical monster, Mr. Hyde represents the unknown self of Dr. Jekyll, who possesses qualities that contradict the gentle and conformist nature of the doctor. Thus, one manifestation of Mr. Hyde as the metaphorical monster is illustrated in Enfield's description of him as a man "with a kind of black, sneering coolness... really like Satan" (Stevenson, 1991:3). Satan is closely associated with Hell, and this comparison of 'otherness' of Mr. Hyde's character gives further basis for readers to understand and accept the fact that he is indeed a 'monster' that must be feared and loathed (at the same time) by the society.
Mr Hyde's characterization as the metaphorical monster of Dr. Jekyll is not without any basis: the doctor himself confessed to creating Mr. Hyde as an answer to his unexplored need for non-conformity and other self-aspirations in life. This psychological angle of the novel provides additional information that illustrates the thesis of this paper. As the metaphorical monster, Mr. Hyde is seen as the id part of Dr. Jekyll, the part where all of his primitive and instinctive impulses and drives are actualized and satisfied. Stevenson's creation of the characters of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is a conscious effort to illustrate the protagonist as a "... tragic figure, constantly striving to act responsibly even though he was beaten down by overwhelming flaws," a technique commonly found in the author's other literary works (Hinchcliffe, 1997:818). In the case of the novel, the reverse happens: a responsible Dr. Jekyll strives to be what his inner self wants him to be -- Mr. Hyde, an individual who has "overwhelming flaws."
However, there occurs the inevitable conflict between the conscious and primitive selves 'residing' within Dr. Jekyll's body. Further into the novel, the readers are informed that the doctor's attempt to explore and determine the "duality of man" led to Mr. Hyde's dominance over Dr. Jekyll's physical body. This point is explicit in Utterson's description of Mr. Hyde's unexplainable control over Dr. Jekyll: "It turns me cold to think of this creature stealing like a thief to Harry's bedside; poor Harry, what a weakening!" (11). It is evident that Mr. Hyde is becoming the monster that he is, exploiting his existence to steal Dr. Jekyll's physical body, thereby resulting to the doctor's difficulty to create a balance between his physical and psychological states. Dr. Jekyll's weakness in spirit and in body illustrates how he is affected by his insatiable need in satisfying his self-aspirations as he sought to create another personality and his possession of dual personalities takes its toll on his physical well-being, respectively.
Stevenson provides an overview of the resolution to the conflict between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as they struggle to take control of the former's physical body. Unfortunately, the weakening body and resoluteness of Mr. Hyde to overpower Dr. Jekyll led to the doctor's death. However, with his death came also Mr. Hyde's death, showing that no two personalities can exist simultaneously, and ultimately, the individual who is not able to control the emergence of these identities would result to the destruction of both, if not one, personalities. The author's reference to Dr. Jekyll's suicide as "self-destroyer" puts the burden of fault to the metaphorical monster, Mr. Hyde, as he was the other self who mainly caused the doctor's downfall and eventual death (33).
Another important angle that Stevenson discusses in the novel is the morality of the characters' decisions and actions, especially in the context of tapping the unknown self through the help of science. In the novel, the theme of good vs. evil is apparent, and the author tries to incorporate this issue to extend the message that exploring the unknown, especially when it concerns the nature of human beings, can lead to adverse effects, even death, as exemplified by Dr. Jekyll's experience. Good vs. evil is also seen in the seemingly contradicting views of Stevenson's moral stance and the novel's psychological angle, where "introspective psychology," or "mental philosophy based on self-observation" allowed Dr. Jekyll to experiment on himself and answer the question of whether there exists another dimension of human individuality (Vrettos, 2002:69). It is therefore the novel's objective to show that individual choice and freedom defeats itself or is curtailed when these are exercised beyond the domain comprehensible to the human mind and experience.
The morality theme contradicts the character of Mr. Hyde, the metaphorical monster. Evidently, good would not triumph against evil without the existence of evil itself; thus, in order to effectively illustrate to the readers the goodness of a behavior or attitude, it is then vital that there is also an illustration of the bad, highlighting the good. This is shown in the novel, where Dr. Jekyll confronts the problem of choosing between his own personality and Mr. Hyde's: "To cast in my lot with Jekyll was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged... To cast in with Hyde was to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow and for ever, despised and friendless" (49). This unforeseen problem is in direct contrast to Dr. Jekyll's initial assumptions when he conducted the experiment, where he assumed both…
Sources Used in Document:
Hinchcliffe, P. (1997). Encyclopedia of the Essay. London: Fitzroy Dearborn.
Stevenson, R.L. (1991). The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Vrettos, A. (2002). "Victorian Psychology." In Brantlinger, P. And W. Thesing, A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.
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