jekyll essayWatch this thread
Like others I believed there were two characters: a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde. That is a misreading of the title. Because Dr. Jekyll believed that “man is not truly one, but truly two” I saw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as two separate people. However that is wrong. The means of change is a pharmacological process that means that every time the potion is taken Dr. Jekyll transforms himself into his negative self - but it is still Dr. Jekyll. Mr. Hyde is the other part of Dr. Jekyll.
Robert Louis Stevenson leads the reader astray in the novella. He writes a story with - essentially - a positive lead character. And for a long time I was put to sleep with that notion.
So now to your question, how does Robert Louis Stevenson present Dr. Jekyll? He does so as essentially a positive character - foolish but positive,
You really need to decide for yourself whether you believe what Dr. Jekyll says or not. That is a judgement only you can make. Professor Campbell’s presentation for the ASLS in 2018. https://asls.arts.gla.ac.uk/SchConf2018.html was the final straw I needed to see Dr. Jekyll as he really is. It made clear to me that there is no individual Mr. Hyde. When we see Mr. Hyde we are actually seeing Dr. Jekyll in another form. Because the potion can change Dr. Jekyll’s physiology confuses the reader. Nobody realises that when looking at Mr. Hyde they are also looking at Dr. Jekyll.
There were a series of statements that changed my perception of Dr. Jekyll.
1. “It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired.“ In this quote Dr. Jekyll makes clear he can do anything he wants and Mr. Hyde will always carry the blame. Mr. Hyde gives Dr. Jekyll licence to do whatever he wants to including murder
2. “To cast in my lot with Jekyll, was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and had of late begun to pamper.“ Dr. Jekyll admits that in creating Mr. Hyde he is now able to indulge in activities he has long wanted to do. Dr. Jekyll is a scientist who has 4 degree awards yet what he lusts for is the Mr. Hyde activities. Hypocrisy is one of the main themes of the novella.
3. Dr. Jekyll’s original home was “in some square somewhere” - ie he lived in plush rich London. However he decides to sell that home and live in Dr. Denman’s home and studio near Soho which he buys. A question for you. Why would a famous respected scientist sell his plush rich home to live in Soho?
4. As Professor Campbell points out Dr. Jekyll tells the reader nothing and hides everything an enquiring reader would want to know. It is one of the examples of Robert Louis Stevenson brilliance as a writer, He completely puts the reader to sleep as to the real character of Dr. Jekyll.
5. Not only is the murder of Sir Danvers Carew carried out by Dr. Jekyll - as Mr. Hyde he had visited the owner of the house in which the maid who witnessed the murder lived. “Presently her eye wandered to the other, and she was surprised to recognise in him a certain Mr. Hyde, who had once visited her master and for whom she had conceived a dislike.“ What the link is between Dr. Jekyll and the maid’s master I do not yet know.
The wonder of this novella is that Robert Louis Stevenson has written a novel in which many believe Dr. Jekyll is the hero when in fact his is the villain.