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Duality of human nature in R. L.

Stevensons The Strange Case of


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevensons novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one
of his most known and most appreciated works. It belongs to the horror fiction genre which
often sends a message about the problems of society and traits of humanity through allegory.
The thesis of this paper is the duality of Dr Jekylls nature and the consequent extremeness of
his actions as a result of suppressing his desires.
Dr. Henry Jekyll is a man who lives in the Victorian era in which ones reputation is
greatly valued. It is one of the most important aspects of life and is in a way the basis of ones
success and prosperity. It is not surprising that Jekyll wants to preserve his repute at all costs.
He is a respectable scientist who accordingly loves to work, explore, and expand his horizons.
His problem is his desire to enjoy life in ways which are deemed by other people as wicked.
Even bigger problem is that he is ashamed of it more than he should be. This leads him to an
excessive awareness of his good and his bad side. He is aware of his dual nature and mans
dual nature in general. This is obvious in his following words: With every day, and from both
sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that
truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man
is not truly one, but truly two (Stevenson 70).
He wants to solve these problems by dividing himself completely. Scientific
knowledge is a powerful weapon for a man who is desperate enough to risk everything and
willing to try anything to solve his problems. Hence he finds a way to live in both ways, as a
prominent scientist and a good man, and as a bad man who does whatever he wants. Latter is
Edward Hyde who comes to life when he drinks a chemical potion which he himself makes.
He describes the rationalisation of his actions very vividly: If each, I told myself, could be
housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust
might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and
the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in

which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of
this extraneous evil (Stevenson 71). Making of this potion is a result of combined selfishness
of both sides of his character. As a scientist he wants to make a large discovery and as an evil
man he wants to be free.
Since Jekyll literally transforms into Hyde there are some significant differences in
their physical features. They can be seen as a metaphorical reflection of the features of their
behaviour. On one hand, Jekyll is completely and essentially a good, well-mannered man so
he is tall and robust, pleasing to the eye. Hyde, on the other hand, is short and very repulsive
to anyone who sees him. As Mr. Enfield, the man who is first to describe him in the novella,
says: Well, sir, he was like the rest of us; every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that
Sawbones turn sick and white with desire to kill him (Stevenson 8), prisoner being Hyde
after he does a terrible thing. He steps over a little girl and walks away. He does much worse.
He beats an old man to death with a stick. Over time he gains more power and becomes
stronger than Jekyll. The transformations become harder and Jekyll is struggling.
This is a way of portraying the situations in real life and the weakness of the character
that lies in every single human being. It is much easier to give in to the bad side and indulge
in all the pleasures of life, good ones and wicked ones. A person has to put a lot of effort in
becoming good and it is truly hard, especially in these days when it is not appreciated enough.
It is a constant struggle between the subjective and the objective perception of what is morally
acceptable and what is not. It can be seen from philosophical, psychological, ethical and many
more points of views. Bottom line is that the society is a whole and every single person
participates in that whole. It should be every persons duty to at least try to be a kind and good
person who is responsible for every action of his/her. Dr. Jekyll awfully failed because even
though part of him is good, he tries to avoid his faults and responsibilities by becoming a
completely different person.