One might question the extent to which Dr. Jekyll andMr. Hyde are in fact a single character. Until the end of the novel,the two personas seem nothing alike—the well-liked, respectabledoctor and the hideous, depraved Hyde are almost opposite in typeand personality. Stevenson uses this marked contrast to make hispoint: every human being contains opposite forces within him orher, an alter ego that hides behind one"s polite facade. Correspondingly,to understand fully the significance of either Jekyll or Hyde, wemust ultimately consider the two as constituting one single character.Indeed, taken alone, neither is a very interesting personality;it is the nature of their interrelationship that gives the novelits power.

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Despite the seeming diametric opposition between Dr. Jekylland Mr. Hyde, their relationship in fact involves a complicateddynamic. While it is true that Jekyll largely appears as moral anddecent, engaging in charity work and enjoying a reputation as acourteous and genial man, he in fact never fully embodies virtuein the way that Hyde embodies evil. Although Jekyll undertakes hisexperiments with the intent of purifying his good side from hisbad and vice versa, he ends up separating the bad alone, while leavinghis former self, his Jekyll-self, as mixed as before. Jekyll succeedsin liberating his darker side, freeing it from the bonds of conscience,yet as Jekyll he never liberates himself from this darkness.

Jekyll"s partial success in his endeavors warrants muchanalysis. Jekyll himself ascribes his lopsided results to his stateof mind when first taking the potion. He says that he was motivatedby dark urges such as ambition and pride when he first drank theliquid and that these allowed for the emergence of Hyde. He seemsto imply that, had he entered the experiment with pure motives,an angelic being would have emerged. However, one must considerthe subsequent events in the novel before acquitting Jekyll of anyblame. For, once released, Hyde gradually comes to dominate bothpersonas, until Jekyll takes Hyde’s shape more often than his own.Indeed, by the very end of the novel, Jekyll himself no longer existsand only Hyde remains. Hyde seems to possess a force more powerfulthan Jekyll originally believed. The fact that Hyde, rather thansome beatific creature, emerged from Jekyll’s experiments seemsmore than a chance event, subject to an arbitrary state of mind.Rather, Jekyll’s drinking of the potion seems almost to have affordedHyde the opportunity to assert himself. It is as if Hyde, but nocomparable virtuous essence, was lying in wait.

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This dominance of Hyde—first as a latent force withinJekyll, then as a tyrannical external force subverting Jekyll—holdsvarious implications for our understanding of human nature. We beginto wonder whether any aspect of human nature in fact stands as a counterto an individual’s Hyde-like side. We may recall that Hyde is describedas resembling a “troglodyte,” or a primitive creature; perhaps Hydeis actually the original, authentic nature of man, which has beenrepressed but not destroyed by the accumulated weight of civilization,conscience, and societal norms. Perhaps man doesn’t have two naturesbut rather a single, primitive, amoral one that remains just barelyconstrained by the bonds of civilization. Moreover, the novel suggeststhat once those bonds are broken, it becomes impossible to reestablishthem; the genie cannot be put back into the bottle, and eventuallyHyde will permanently replace Jekyll—as he finally does. Even inVictorian England—which considered itself the height of Westerncivilization—Stevenson suggests that the dark, instinctual sideof man remains strong enough to devour anyone who, like Jekyll,proves foolish enough to unleash it.


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