Definitions

case of nerve

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. It is about a London lawyer who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the misanthropic Edward Hyde. The work is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from each other; in mainstream culture the very phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" has come to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next. This is different from multiple personality disorder where the different personalities do not necessarily differ in any moral sense. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was an immediate success and one of Stevenson's best-selling works. Stage adaptations began in Boston and London within a year of its publication and it has gone on to inspire scores of major film and stage performances.

History

Stevenson had long been interested in the idea of the duality of human nature and how to incorporate the interplay of good and evil into a story. While still a teenager, he developed a script for a play on Deacon Brodie, which he later reworked with the help of W. E. Henley and saw produced for the first time in 1882. In late 1884 he wrote the short story "Markheim," which he revised in 1885 for publication in a Christmas annual. One night in late September or early October of 1885, possibly while he was still revising "Markheim," Stevenson had a dream, and on wakening had the intuition for two or three scenes that would appear in the story. "In the small hours of one morning," says Mrs Stevenson, "I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I woke him. He said angrily, 'Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.' I had awakened him at the first transformation scene ..."

Lloyd Osbourne, Stevenson's stepson, remembers, "I don't believe that there was ever such a literary feat before as the writing of Dr. Jekyll. I remember the first reading as if it were yesterday. Louis came downstairs in a fever; read nearly half the book aloud; and then, while we were still gasping, he was away again, and busy writing. I doubt if the first draft took so long as three days".

As was the custom, Mrs. Stevenson would read the draft and offer her criticisms in the margins. Louis was confined to bed at the time from a haemorrhage; therefore she left her comments with the manuscript and Louis in the bedroom. She said that in effect the story was really an allegory, but Louis was writing it as a story. After a while Louis called her back into the bedroom and pointed to a pile of ashes: he had burnt the manuscript in fear that he would try to salvage it, and in the process forcing himself to start over from nothing, writing an allegorical story as she had suggested. Scholars debate if he really burnt his manuscript or not. Other scholars suggest her criticism was not about allegory, but about inappropriate sexual content. Whatever the case, there is no direct factual evidence for the burning of the manuscript, but it remains an integral part of the history of the novella.

Stevenson re-wrote the story again in three days. According to Osbourne, "The mere physical feat was tremendous; and instead of harming him, it roused and cheered him inexpressibly". He refined and continued to work on it for 4 to 6 weeks afterward.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was initially sold as a paperback for one shilling in the UK and one dollar in the U.S. Initially stores would not stock it until a review appeared in The Times, on 25 January 1886, giving it a favourable reception. Within the next six months close to forty thousand copies were sold. By 1901 it was estimated to have sold over 250,000 copies. Its success was probably due more to the "moral instincts of the public" than perception of its artistic merits; it was widely read by those who never otherwise read fiction, quoted in pulpit sermons and in religious papers

Plot

Richard Enfield tells a gruesome tale of assault to Mr Utterson. The tale describes a sinister figure named Mr. Hyde who tramples a young girl, disappears into a door on the street, and re-emerges to pay off her relatives with a cheque signed by a respectable gentleman. Because both Utterson and Enfield disapprove of gossip, they agree to speak no further of the matter. It happens, however, that one of Utterson’s clients and close friends, Dr. Henry Jekyll, has written a will transferring all of his property to this same Mr. Hyde. Soon, Utterson begins having dreams in which a faceless figure stalks through a nightmarish version of London.

Puzzled, the lawyer visits Jekyll and their mutual friend Dr. Hastie Lanyon to try to learn more. Lanyon reports that he no longer sees much of Jekyll, since they had a dispute over the course of Jekyll’s research, which Lanyon calls “unscientific balderdash”. Curious, Utterson stakes out a building that Hyde visits, which, it turns out, is a filthy shack attached to the back of Jekyll’s home. Encountering Hyde, Utterson is amazed by how undefinably ugly the man seems, as if deformed, though Utterson cannot say exactly how this is so. Much to Utterson’s surprise, Hyde willingly offers Utterson his address. Jekyll tells Utterson not to concern himself with the matter of Hyde.

A year passes uneventfully. One night, a servant girl witnesses Hyde beat to death without cause an old man named Sir Danvers Carew, who is a member of Parliament and a client of Utterson. The police contact Utterson who suspects Hyde as the murderer. He leads the officers to Hyde’s apartment, feeling a sense of foreboding amid the eerie weather (the morning is dark and wreathed in fog). When they arrive at the apartment, the murderer has vanished, but they find half of the murder weapon left behind a door. The weapon is a cane given to Jekyll by Utterson. Shortly thereafter, Utterson again visits Jekyll, who now claims to have ended all relations with Hyde. Jekyll shows Utterson a note, allegedly written to Jekyll by Hyde, apologizing for the trouble he has caused him and saying goodbye. That night, however, Utterson’s clerk points out that Hyde’s handwriting bears a remarkable similarity to Jekyll’s own.

For a few months, Jekyll acts especially friendly and sociable, as if a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Later, Jekyll suddenly begins to refuse visitors, and Lanyon dies of a shock he received in connection with Jekyll. Before dying, Lanyon gives Utterson a letter, with instructions that he not open it until after Jekyll’s death. Utterson goes out walking with Enfield, and they see Jekyll at a window of his laboratory; the three men begin to converse, but a look of horror comes over Jekyll’s face, and he slams the window and disappears. Soon afterward, Jekyll’s butler, Mr. Poole, visits Utterson in a state of desperation and explains that Jekyll has secluded himself in his laboratory for several weeks, and that now the voice that comes from the room sounds nothing like the doctor’s. Utterson and Poole travel to Jekyll’s house through empty, windswept, sinister streets; once there, they find the servants huddled together in fear. After arguing for a time, the two of them resolve to break into Jekyll’s laboratory. Inside, they find the body of Hyde, wearing Jekyll’s clothes and apparently dead by suicide. They find also a letter from Jekyll to Utterson promising to explain everything.

Utterson takes the document home, where first he reads Lanyon’s letter and then Jekyll's. The first reveals that Lanyon’s deterioration and eventual death were caused by the shock of seeing Mr. Hyde drink a potion and, as a result of doing so, metamorphose into Dr. Jekyll. The second letter explains that Jekyll, seeking to separate his good side from his darker impulses, discovered a way to transform himself periodically into a creature free of conscience, this being Mr. Hyde. The transformation was incomplete, however, in that it created a second, evil identity, but did not make the first identity purely good. At first, Jekyll reports, he delighted in becoming Hyde and rejoiced in the moral freedom that the creature possessed. Eventually, however, he found that he was turning into Hyde involuntarily in his sleep, even without taking the potion. At this point, Jekyll resolved to cease becoming Hyde. One night, however, the urge gripped him too strongly, and after the transformation he immediately rushed out and violently killed Sir Danvers Carew. Horrified, Jekyll tried more adamantly to stop the transformations, and for a time he proved successful by engaging in philanthropic work. At a park, he considers how good person he has become as a result of his deeds (in comparison to others), believing himself redeemed. But before he completes his line of thought, he looks down and realizes that he had suddenly once again become Mr. Hyde. This was the first time that an involuntary metamorphosis had happened while he was awake.

Far from his laboratory and hunted by the police as a murderer, Hyde needed Lanyon’s help to get his potions and become Jekyll again; when he undertook the transformation in Lanyon’s presence, the shock of the sight instigated Lanyon’s deterioration and death. Meanwhile, Jekyll returned to his home, only to find himself ever more helpless and trapped as the transformations increased in frequency and necessitated even larger doses of potion in order to reverse themselves. It was the onset of one of these spontaneous metamorphoses that caused Jekyll to slam his laboratory window shut in the middle of his conversation with Enfield and Utterson. Eventually, the potion began to run out, and Jekyll was unable to find a necessary ingredient to make more. His ability to change back from Hyde into Jekyll slowly vanished. Jekyll writes that even as he composes his letter he knows that he will soon become Hyde permanently, and he wonders if Hyde will face execution for his crimes or choose to kill himself. Jekyll notes that, in either case, the end of his letter marks the end of the life of Dr. Jekyll. With these words, both the document and the novel come to a close.

Analysis

This novel represents a concept in Western culture, that of the inner conflict of humanity's sense of good and evil . The novel has been interpreted as an examination of the duality of human nature (that good and evil exists in all) and that the failure to accept this tension (to accept the evil or shadow side) results in the evil being projected onto others, paradoxically in this argument evil is actually committed in an effort to extinguish the perceived evil that has actually been projected onto the innocent victims, this failure to accept the tension of duality is related to Christian mythology where Satan's fall from heaven is due to his refusal to accept that he is a created being (that he has a dual nature) and is not God . It has also been noted as "one of the best guidebooks of the Victorian era because of its piercing description of the fundamental dichotomy of the 19th century outward respectability and inward lust" as it had a tendency for social hypocrisy.

Various direct influences have been suggested for Stevenson's interest in the mental condition that separates the sinful from moral self. Among them are the Biblical text of Romans (7:20 "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me."); the split life in the 1780s of Edinburgh city councillor Deacon William Brodie, master craftsman by day, burglar by night; and James Hogg's novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), in which a young man falls under the spell of the devil.

Literary genres which critics have applied as a framework for interpreting the novel include religious allegory, fable, detective story, sensation fiction, science fiction, doppelgänger literature, Scottish devil tales and gothic novel.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been the influence for The Hulk, Two Face and the general superhero genre for the story's ties to a double life.

Stevenson never says exactly what Hyde takes pleasure in on his nightly forays, saying generally that it is something of an evil and lustful nature; thus it is in the context of the times, abhorrent to Victorian religious morality. Hyde may have simply been revelling in activities that were not appropriate to a man of Jekyll's stature. However scientists in the closing decades of the 19th century, within a post-Darwinian perspective, were also beginning to examine various biological influences on human morality, including drug and alcohol addiction, homosexuality, multiple personality disorder, and regressive animality.

Characters

Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde

A doctor who has covered up a secret life full of bad and cruel deeds. He feels as if he is always fighting within himself between what is good and what is evil and is pushing people dear to him far away. He is transformed into the cruel, remorseless, evil Mr. Hyde after drinking a potion of his own creation; Mr. Hyde is the evil side of Dr. Jekyll nature brought to the form. After drinking this potion he becomes a disliked, young man called Hyde. Dr. Jekyll has many friends and has a friendly personality. However, in the shoes of Hyde, he suddenly becomes mysterious and secretive.

Dr. Hastie Lanyon

A former friend of Jekyll's, who disagrees with his scientific principles, is the first person to whom Hyde's identity is revealed. Dr. Lanyon is the one who replaces the omitted Utterson in most film adaptations.

Mr. Utterson

The lawyer Gabriel John Utterson whom the narrator follows in his quest to discover the identity of Hyde. In most adaptations of the novel he is omitted and replaced by Dr. Lanyon. The way Stevenson describes Utterson suggests that he isn't 'anything special'

Poole

Dr. Jekyll's faithful butler who has worked for the doctor for almost 20 years. He calls Utterson one night when he and the other servants are convinced that someone has killed Dr. Jekyll and locked himself in the laboratory. Poole and Utterson break into the laboratory and find the dead Mr. Hyde.

Richard Enfield

Enfield's relationship to Mr. Utterson is never clearly established, but he is referred to as a distant kinsman. He is the person who mentions to the lawyer the actual personality of Jekyll's heir Mr. Hyde. Enfield witnessed Hyde walking over a little girl in the street, and he with the girl's parents and other residents force Hyde into writing a exchequer for the girl's family. Enfield discovers that the exchequer was signed by Dr. Jekyll.

Inspector Newcommen

This Scotland Yard inspector is joined by Mr. Utterson, after the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. They explore Hyde's house in Soho and discover a great amount of evidence.

Sir Danvers Carew

A kind old man and important member of the Parliament, the one to be murdered in the streets of London in a blast of rage by Mr. Hyde. In most adaptations, Sir Danvers is the father of Jekyll's fiancee, but having the same death fate. No mention of any family is in the book and there is no mention of having a daughter being engaged to the fifty year old Jekyll.

In the arts

There have been dozens of major stage and film adaptations, and countless references in popular culture. The very phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" has become shorthand to mean wild or controversial and polar behaviour. Most adaptations of the work omit the reader-identification figure of Utterson, instead telling the story from Jekyll and Hyde's viewpoint, thus eliminating the mystery aspect of the tale about who Hyde is; indeed there have been no major adaptations to date that stay close to Stevenson's original work, almost all introducing some form of romantic element.

For a complete list of derivative works see "Derivative works of Robert Louis Stevenson (by Richard Dury). There have been over 123 film versions, not including stage, radio etc. This is not an inclusive list, but includes major and notable adaptations listed in chronological order:

References

  • Richard Dury. The Robert Louis Stevenson website
  • Richard Dury, ed. (2005). The Annotated Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. ISBN 88-7544-030-1, over 80 pages of introduction material, extensive annotation notes, 40 pages of derivative works and extensive bibliography.
  • Paul M. Gahlinger, M.D., Ph.D. (2001). Illegal Drugs: A Complete Guide to their History, Chemistry, Use, and Abuse. Sagebrush Medical Guide. Pg 41. ISBN 0-9703130-1-2.
  • Kathrine Linehan, ed. (2003). Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Norton Critical Edition, contains extensive annotations, contextual essays and criticisms. ISBN 0-393-97465-0
  • Warlock was Dr Jekyll prototype BBC News
  • Borinskikh L.I. (1990c). ‘The method to reveal a character in the works of R.L.Stevenson [The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde]’/. In *** (ed.) The Problem of character in literature. Tchelyabinsk: Tchelyabinsk State University. Pp. 31-32. [in Russian, German and Hindi].

External links

Search another word or see case of nerveon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature