Looking at Doctor Jekyll I am interested in comments on this character study

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jamesg2
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#1
Doctor Henry Jekyll:-
As Professor Ian Campbell points out there is little that Dr Henry Jekyll says that can be relied on. Campbell I., (2018), which makes the creation of a character study much more difficult. Having to essentially exclude “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case” - because so much is unreliable or unexplained - limits the the source for positive criticism.

However there are a few positive aspects of his character. Henry Jekyll was born into money, which he built on by practising as a successful doctor. This wealth later gave Dr. Jekyll the freedom to conduct scientific research that his boyhood friend Dr. Lanyon was later to describe as “scientific balderdash.” Though the comment deeply hurt Jekyll his financial freedom allowed him to disregard the criticism and complete his project. Dr. Jekyll was an outstanding intellect, demonstrated by the fact that he was the recipient of four awards and degrees. Because he highlighted these awards in his “Full Statement” this emphasises that Dr. Jekyll was proud of his intellectual achievements. Whatever criticisms can be levelled at Dr. Jekyll, one thing is beyond dispute: it was Dr. Jekyll’s intellect that made it possible to create Mr. Hyde.

Prior to embarking on his research Dr. Jekyll describes himself during this period of his life as being “surrounded by friends and cherishing honest hopes.” It is clear that this description of Henry Jekyll has the ring of truth. This description is similar to a description by Mr. Utterson. He could see his “friend lay asleep, dreaming and smiling at his dreams.” So it is clear before the “Hyde” research, Dr. Jekyll was a happy doctor who was admired by his friends.

Dr. Jekyll wants us to believe that when he began his research it was for the benefit of humanity. In his “Full Statement” he makes clear that he considered the “duality” in man to be the “curse of mankind that these incongruous fagots were thus bound together that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then, were they dissociated?” P. 29 L. 37-29. As already stated, it is a testament to Dr. Jekyll’s intellect that he was able to partially succeed in his experiment. However to believe Dr. Jekyll’s reasons for conducting his research was for the benefit of mankind is unconvincing.

The “Real” Henry Jekyll:-
In my original set of notes I was able to argue that there was “good” in Henry Jekyll even though that“good” was compromised by the actions of Mr. Hyde. A different reading of the text highlights that the character of Dr. Jekyll is highly compromised with many important questions not addressed.

Not only was Dr. Jekyll immensely rich and and an extremely respected doctor he also lived in a plush area of London “he lives in some square or other.” P. 5 L. 1-2. Later he would purchase Dr. Denmans house and surgery where he would live throughout the narrative of the novella. The experiment to create Mr. Hyde took place in “some square or other.” and only later did Dr. Jekyll move houses.

The first question is why would such a respected and renowned doctor want to isolate and release the evil inside him. The only answer I can come up with is that deep down inside him he was always Mr. Hyde. To the outside world he may have been the respected and revered Dr. Jekyll but inside he was the vile Mr. Hyde. True Dr. Jekyll knew before he carried out the experiment that this Hyde’s character was evil “I told myself, could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust delivered from the aspirations might go his way, 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. t” P. 29 L. 33-37. However once Dr. Jekyll successfully extradited Mr. Hyde he became aware of just how evil Hyde was “Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.” P. 30 L. 41-42.

Dr. Jekyll is very clear about the relationship between himself and Mr. Hyde -they had “memory in common” P. 32 L. 41. Both know everything about the other and neither informs the reader of what they know about the other. Indeed Dr. Jekyll is very clear about this issue. “Into the details of the infamy at which I thus connived (for even now I can scarce grant that I committed it) I have no design of entering.” P. 31 L. 40-41. The parenthesis is essential - “(for even now I can scarce grant that I committed it).” Through the phrase “even now I can scarce grant that I committed it” Dr. Jekyll openly admits he was unaware such evil resided within him. Dr. Jekyll only informs one person - Dr. Lanyon - P. 28 L. 4 about all he has done and that knowledge not only hastens Dr. Lanyon’s death. but what he learns during that hour Dr. Lanyon takes to his grave.

There is much within the character of Dr. Jekyll to describe him as being a schizophrenic, however there is one detail that limits such a description. A normal schizophrenic hears and reacts to voices inside them. Indeed such a schizophrenic often blames the voices for the deeds he or she commits. The potion taken by Dr. Jekyll creates within Dr. Jekyll another physical shape. Mr. Hyde is smaller, misshapen and is younger. Unlike the schizophrenic - where the voice is hidden from view - Mr. Hyde is psychically visible. Although Dr. Jekyll comments that he was pleased with the reflection of Mr. Hyde in the mirror “when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. “ P. 30 L. 35-36 Dr. Jekyll acknowledged that was not how others saw him. “I have observed that when I wore the semblance of Edward Hyde, none could come near to me at first without a visible misgiving of the flesh.” P. 30 L. 39-40 I feel it is possible to argue that Dr. Jekyll is a schizophrenic but in his case the “voice” takes physical form.

The second question is easier to answer. Why move from “some square or other.” to Dr. Denman’s old surgery and house in Soho? Wandering around “some square or other.” as Mr. Hyde would have raised too many questions and Dr. Jekyll’s relationship with Mr. Hyde would likely have been made public sooner. In addition Dr. Denman’s house and surgery were not in plush London but in Soho: the centre for the exotic. In addition Poole - who was Dr. Jekyll’s butler while he lived at “some square or other.” P. 20 L. 22 was employed to run Denman’s house. Since the experiment had succeeded prior to the move to Denman's Poole already knew about Hyde.

We cannot ignore Dr. Jekyll’s emotions while Mr. Hyde is murdering Sir Danvers Carew - “With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror.” P. 33 L. 25-27. The most brutal of the three acts of violence in the novella, Dr. Jekyll enjoys. There is also an unanswered question about this murder. The maid who oversees the murder admits she knew Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde - not Dr. Jekyll - had visited her employer. P. 10 L. 19. We do not know who the maid’s employer is or why Mr. Hyde would visit him rather than Dr. Jekyll. But there is a relationship there that Robert Louis Stevenson does not explain.

There is a cynical and - in a sense - evil side to Dr. Jekyll. Unlike the voices heard by the schizophrenic Mr. Hyde has physical form. However unlike normal people it is possible for Mr. Hyde to vanish from sight. This creates in Dr. Jekyll and idea. Since Dr. Jekyll’s voice takes physical which can also be made invisible Dr. Jekyll sees an advantage. “It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde. And thus his conscience slumbered.” P. 31 l. 36-39. Dr. Jekyll realises that since Mr. Hyde can acquire and loose physical form then he Dr. Jekyll can commit any crime knowing he cannot be blamed. Was Dr. Jekyll aware of this before creating Mr. Hyde and if so was this another reason for the experiment.

Throughout the novella Dr. Jekyll wants the reader to see him much more positively, but it is possible to see the character of Dr. Jekyll as a much more sinister character. The reader is deceived by the person of Mr. Hyde and thus being blind to that fact that Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde and when Mr. Hyde is present so is Dr. Jekyll.
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tinyperson
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#2
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good effort
Last edited by tinyperson; 5 months ago
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