English Literature
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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The Mysterious Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: An Exploration of Human Duality

Published in 1886, "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson delves into the complexities of human nature. The story follows the respected Dr Jekyll as he discovers a way to separate his good and evil personas. But as his alter ego, Mr Hyde, gains control, Jekyll's experiment takes a dark and deadly turn.

Inspired by a dream, Stevenson completed the novel in just a few weeks. It quickly became a bestseller and has since been referenced in the field of psychology as a term for "split personality". Let's take a closer look at the story and its intriguing characters.

Summary of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde"

The story opens with friends Utterson and Enfield taking their usual evening walk in London. Enfield recalls a disturbing incident involving a man named Mr Hyde, who trampled over a young girl and then disappeared before their eyes. Enfield explains how they forced Hyde to compensate the girl's family and then followed him to a mysterious door.

Intrigued, Utterson asks for a description of Mr Hyde and is horrified by Enfield's account. Later, while reading the will of his close friend Dr Jekyll, Utterson discovers that Jekyll has named Hyde as his sole beneficiary and requested that if he were to disappear, Hyde should inherit everything.

Determined to uncover the truth, Utterson visits Dr Lanyon, a former friend and colleague of Jekyll's. However, Lanyon reveals that he and Jekyll have grown apart and offers no insight into Hyde. Utterson also meets Hyde and shares Enfield's aversion towards him.

At a dinner party hosted by Jekyll, Utterson brings up the topic of the will, but Jekyll begs him to drop it. Reluctantly, Utterson agrees, but a year later, a shocking murder linked to Mr Hyde resurfaces the issue. Jekyll becomes a recluse and even Utterson is unable to visit him. Lanyon passes away, leaving behind a mysterious letter. When Utterson finally reads it, he is left with more questions than answers.

Utterson receives a note from Jekyll asking him to read Lanyon's letter and then his own confession. From these writings, the truth is revealed - Jekyll had been experimenting with splitting his personality and became addicted to the thrill of being Mr Hyde. As Hyde's hold over him grew stronger, Jekyll's supply of antidote ran low and he was unable to find a successful replacement. In the end, he chose to take his own life rather than continue living as two separate beings.

Meet the Characters of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde"

Dr Jekyll: A kind and respected doctor who becomes consumed by the idea of separating his good and evil selves.

Hyde: A disturbing and repulsive character, exuding a sense of malice that makes people wary of him.

Dr. Utterson: A lawyer and close friend of Dr. Jekyll, known for his reserved nature.

Mr. Enfield: A relative of Utterson and a more outgoing individual.

Dr. Lanyon: A colleague and former school friend of Jekyll.

The story of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" drew inspiration from author Robert Louis Stevenson's upbringing in Victorian Edinburgh. Growing up in a city where respectable individuals could lead secret lives, Stevenson was well aware of society's hidden secrets and double standards. He was particularly fascinated by the story of William Brodie, a cabinet-maker by day and a burglar by night to fund his gambling and mistresses.

In 1880, Stevenson co-wrote a play about Brodie, which likely sparked the idea for his famous novella.

The concept of duality was a popular theme among Gothic writers, including Edgar Allan Poe and E. T. A. Hoffman. Stevenson was a fan of Poe's works and admired Hoffman's writing, making him both an heir and a pioneer in the tradition of exploring the dual personality. The threads of this theme were already present in Stevenson's mind, waiting to be woven together into the captivating story we know today.

The Catalyst for "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde": Dreams and Psychology

In 1888, author Robert Louis Stevenson contemplated writing a story examining "man's double being." He even attempted one version, but ultimately deemed it unworthy of publication. It wasn't until a dream and financial pressures that Stevenson was inspired to create his infamous novella, "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde."

In his dream, Stevenson envisioned the iconic scene at the window and another where Mr Hyde transforms in front of his pursuers after taking a mysterious powder. This dream, along with the growing interest in psychology at the time, led some to speculate that the story may be an early exploration of split-personality or a study in repression.

In the novella's tenth chapter, as Jekyll describes his transformation into Hyde, he uses the word "child" twice, possibly hinting at a hidden desire to return to the freedom of childhood. The story's many theories make it all the more captivating for readers.

A Tale of Good and Evil: The Allegory of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"

Some readers see Stevenson's novella as an allegory for the battle between good and evil, or even as a representation of sobriety and addiction. This interpretation is supported by Jekyll and Hyde's use of transforming powders, which some believe symbolize the effects of alcohol and drugs on a person's behavior and personality.

During the time period in which the story was written, opium and laudanum were easily accessible, leading to widespread addiction and its consequences. Both the wealthy and those struggling with poverty fell victim to these substances, resulting in physical and financial ruin.

A similar theme of duality can be seen in Arthur Conan Doyle's short story, "The Man with the Twisted Lip," where characters live double lives and are consumed by addiction. But while alcoholism was a prevalent issue during this time, "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" gained particular attention in religious sermons, with some quoting lines from the novella in their messages. However, reducing the story to a commentary on addiction overlooks its complexity and underlying themes.

The Hypocrisy and Duality in "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"

The intrigue for many modern-day readers lies in the sensationalistic aspect of physical transformation in Stevenson's story. However, beneath the surface, lies a deeper examination of the themes of hypocrisy and duality.

In 1859, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution caused quite a stir, prompting debates and influencing the thinking of many, including Stevenson. In the novella, we can see allusions to Darwin's theory in the regressive transformation of the tall and well-built Jekyll into the small and "troglodytic" Hyde. This raises the question - if modern man can reach great heights, is it also possible for them to regress to their primal state? This idea was a nightmare for Victorian society, obsessed with maintaining respectability and suppressing their true desires.

However, Stevenson's primary focus was on the hypocrisy prevalent in Victorian society. In a letter to a friend, he wrote, "There is no harm in voluptuaries, and none in what prurient fools call 'immorality.' The harm was in Jekyll because he was a hypocrite, not because he was fond of women." Through Jekyll and Hyde, Stevenson highlights how people often hide their true intentions and desires behind a façade of respectability, ultimately leading to their downfall. This theme can also be seen in the works of other authors, such as Wilkie Collins and Oscar Wilde.

Key Takeaways from "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"

  • The novella was published in 1886 and may have been inspired by the true story of William Brodie, a cabinet-maker who led a double life as a burglar.
  • Stevenson's dream sparked the idea for the story, which he later turned into a novella.Uncovering the Meaning of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • In Stevenson's novel, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he skillfully delves into the themes of hypocrisy, duality, and the suppression of desires. It is a thought-provoking commentary on the human condition and the dangers of living a life full of deceit and hidden desires. Through this story, readers are encouraged to reflect on the masks they wear and the true nature of their innermost thoughts and feelings.
  • Fascinating Facts about The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • The story was initially published as a "shilling shocker," a sensational and inexpensive publication.
  • Its enduring popularity has resulted in numerous film, play, and TV adaptations, solidifying its position as one of the most beloved literary works of all time.
  • The term "Jekyll and Hyde" is often used to describe the psychological condition of split personality, a testament to the impact Stevenson's story has had on popular culture.
  • The inspiration for the novel came to Stevenson in a dream, where he envisioned a man struggling with conflicting sides of his personality.
  • As we immerse ourselves in the world of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, we are forced to confront the duality within ourselves and the consequences of suppressing our true selves. This timeless masterpiece continues to captivate readers, provoking discussions and exploration of the complexities of human nature.

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