The Roaring Beast
In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde “the other” of the archetypal quest is very significant. In many quest stories, “the other” is a different person from the hero who tries to deflect the noble efforts of the hero. In Dr. Jekyll’s case, his “other” is his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. Jekyll explained, “This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil; and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil” (68-69). Mr. Hyde consists of all of Jekyll’s desires, passions, and vices; and therefore, is purely evil without a hint of goodness or humanity.
Man’s duality is intriguing to Jekyll, and therefore; he wants to explore it. He does so by living through both sides of himselfhis moral side as well as his evil side, his natural man. Jekyll says, “It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man” (65). By exploring both sides of man’s duality, he ruins his moral side while his evil side runs rampant. “All things therefore seemed to point to this; that I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse” (74). By giving into Hyde, Jekyll could not continue to live. His moral side suffocates because he lends too much air to his immoral side.
Jekyll believes there is no harm in transforming in order to delve in evil acts. Jekyll believes that Hyde’s actions will not affect him because technically they are two different people. Jekyll’s overconfidence in his own power over Hyde is his downfall. Jekyll declares, “the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde. I give you my hand upon that” (20). Jekyll is firm in his belief of his own strength over Hyde. “The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed” (68). Jekyll doesn’t realize that Hyde is growing stronger with each release into the dark night.
Hyde is often thought of as Jekyll’s exact opposite. This is not the case. Jekyll is mostly good with a little bit of evil inside of him. Hyde, on the other hand, is pure evil. He does not have a shred of decency or humanity in him. Hyde does not feel sorrow or guilt. He only feels longing to fulfill his desires and passions. For example, Hyde feels no guilt for running down a small child. He only makes amends because he is caught and his conscienceless freedom is challenged.
Even Hyde’s physical appearance was an extreme of Jekyll. “Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile” (15). Hyde’s evil nature can not be hidden. It was almost like his soul was on the outside for the world to see. Hyde had a “haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders” (27).
The transformation into Hyde is never pleasant until Jekyll loses himself in order to feel the supposed freedom of not having a conscience. “The most racking pangs succeeded; a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death” (67). Even though the transformation into Hyde is painful, Jekyll believes it is worth it because he finally gets to lounge in his long desired vices.
In Jekyll’s past, he was concerned with how others perceived him. He was thought of as a moral and upright man. Once he gives in, even a little bit, to Hyde, he can not go back to his seemingly moral life. Jekyll says, “My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring” (75). Jekyll feeds his “devil” enough to keep him alive. Because Jekyll refuses to starve his “devil”, it waits. Once he feeds his “devil” with long desired vices, Hyde can’t be stopped. And soon, Jekyll has no control over his transformation to Hyde. He became Hyde faster than he expects.
Full credit is not given to Hyde’s strength until Jekyll cannot retreat from what he has created and become. As clich as it seems, it is no less true: Jekyll has passed the point of no return. In the afterword of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jerome Charyn states, “Hyde is too forceful a character, too complex to be imprisoned inside a crude case of split personalities. He won’t be part of anybody’s little circus, even though Jekyll tires to reduce him into an easy formula of everything that is foul in his own nature” (85). Hyde is given too much power over Jekyll; any power is too much power for Hyde. Hyde refuses to be restrained by a fickle “twin”. Hyde does not appreciate being under someone else’s thumb of control. So, Hyde breaks loose and enjoys his freedom while destroying Jekyll in the process.
Jekyll is constantly concerned about Hyde, but Hyde couldn’t care less about Jekyll. “Jekyllnow with the most sensitive apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in pleasure and adventures of Hyde; but Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll” (74). Jekyll shared the excitement of Hyde’s acts, but not once did Hyde receive a sense of accomplishment from Jekyll’s seemingly good nature. “Jekyll had more than a father’s interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference” (74).
Even though Jekyll was battling for control over Hyde, he still had great concern for Hyde. “I have really a very great interest in poor HydeBut I do sincerely take a great, a very great interest in that young man” (21). It is often the case that moral people care about what immoral people do, but immoral people couldn’t care less about what the moral people do.
Hyde affects Jekyll differently than Jekyll expects. Because of the fact that Jekyll keeps Hyde slightly alive to insure that he can resort back to his vices if he chooses, Hyde gets stronger with each non-resisted temptation. Slowly Hyde gained power over Jekyll. It happened so slowly that Jekyll did not realize what was happening until it was too late. Keeping Hyde alive was Jekyll’s great downfall.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: Random House, 1981.