The term Dr Jekyll And Hyde has been used in modern times to refer to an individual with two-sided personalities. More often than not, it is used to describe someone with a pleasant personality with a rude behavior.
Although Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is first published in 1886, there are a few reflection points that we can draw in our modern world, especially a technologically driven one.
The story starts off with Mr Utterson and Mr Enfield discussing about Mr Enfield’s strange encounter of a man trampling over a little girl. This man is no other than Mr Hyde. In order to resolve the issue, Mr Hyde pays the family of the little girl with a cheque signed by Dr Jekyll. This, on top of a will by Dr Jekyll to leave his fortune to Mr Hyde, propels Mr Utterson to carry out his own investigation.
Mr Utterson is disturbed by the relationship of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde given that Dr Jekyll is a reputable scientist and gentleman in the community and that Mr Hyde has been an evil character. It is later revealed in Dr Jekyll’s self confession that Mr Hyde and Dr Jekyll are all but one, through the transformation of a portion. It is in the letters of Dr Jekyll that is revealing of how we are conducting our life.
The concept of two opposing forces are plenty, in the Chinese culture we have the concept yin and yang. In many religions, there are the concepts of a protagonist and an antagonist, namely god and devil. Good and evil are perhaps two sides of the same coin, as one cannot exist in absence of the other in most of the allegories mention here.
In Jekyll’s confession letter, he started off on the need to upkeep the standard that is expected of man of his standing.
Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life. Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame.
Driven partially by his shame, he started to explore the possibility of housing what he viewed as polar opposite, the moral man and the evil disposition in 2 separate entities. As we all know, this is how Mr Hyde is born.
As comical and as cliche as it is to have the image of an angel and a devil sitting on each side of the should, I can’t help but visualise the concept of duality of man as such. Our human psyche is complex. Kids learn to lie at a young age. Here I’m taking the simple definition that lying is bad. Reality is, it’s way more complex when it comes to the dynamic of kids and lying. Even as adults, we constantly lie, to maintain the social fabric and not out of malicious intent.
Instead of viewing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as 2 entities in us, I prefer to look at Mr Hyde as a form of addiction, undesirable behavior or socially deviated personality traits.
When Mr Hyde is first conceived out of the magical portion, he is small in stature, a stark contrast to Dr Jekyll’s built. Dr Jekyll believes that it is due to the fact that the evil side of him is not nourished and that he conducted himself in virtue way more than in the indulgence of vices.
There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine. … Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body an imprint of deformity and decay. And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. … I would still be merrily disposed at times; and as my pleasures were (to say the least) undignified, and I was not only well known and highly considered, but growing towards the elderly man, this incoherency of my life was daily growing more unwelcome. It was on this side that my new power tempted me until I fell in slavery. I had but to drink the cup, to doff at once the body of the noted professor, and to assume, like a thick cloak, that of Edward Hyde. I smiled at the notion; it seemed to me at the time to be humourous; and I made my preparations with the most studious care.
The Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke has riveting stories of how addictions developed in her clients. In one of her clients, there is a respectable scientist who is addicted to sex. He starts from home made masturbation machine. His addiction ultimately escalates to him being in a sex chat room, indulging in a form of “virtual” sex.
Even Anna Lembke, Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and expert in addiction, talks about her previous addiction to steamy vampire romance.
We could rationalise how our brain work. We could debate about the notion of good and evil. Being human means that we may never have full immunity to what we deem as vices. One of the common thread of undesirable addiction in the modern world is our usage of technology in our hyperconnected world. Mindless consumerism being another top contender. For a smaller subset of people, the availability of drugs open another cans of worm for addictive behavior.
In the case of Dr Jekyll, the ability to conduct his vices as someone who is disassociated with his identity of Dr Jekyll appeals to him. He deems it as a profitable thing to be able to live through Mr Hyde’s depravity. In a similar fashion, the anonymity of the internet create fractured personas, sometimes undesirable and inconsiderate personas.
After living this dual life, Dr Jekyll starts to lose control of the balance between his virtuous and evil part. He is started to wake up as Mr Hyde. In order to preserve his ability of staying as Dr Jekyll, he stays away from transforming into Mr Hyde for two months and increases his activities as a virtuous doctor.
Despite his propensity towards being the elderly and discontented doctor, leading the secret life of Mr Hyde still attracts him. After suppressing the evil part of him for two months, the evil part of him returned with a vengeance. At the height of his depravity, Mr Hyde committed murder. He also noticed that Mr Hyde has gained in stature.
Yes, I preferred the elderly and discontented doctor, surrounded by friends and cherishing honest hopes; and bade a resolute farewell to the liberty, the comparative youth, the light step, leaping impulses and secret pleasures, that I had enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde. I made this choice perhaps with some unconscious reservation, for I neither gave up the house in Soho, nor destroyed the clothes of Edward Hyde, which still lay ready in my cabinet. For two months, however, I was true to my determination; for two months, I led a life of such severity as I had never before attained to, and enjoyed the compensations of an approving conscience. But time began at last to obliterate the freshness of my alarm; the praises of conscience began to grow into a thing of course; I began to be tortured with throes and longings, as of Hyde struggling after freedom; and at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught.I do not suppose that, when a drunkard reasons with himself upon his vice, he is once out of five hundred times affected by the dangers that he runs through his brutish, physical insensibility; neither had I, long as I had considered my position, made enough allowance for the complete moral insensibility and insensate readiness to evil, which were the leading characters of Edward Hyde. Yet it was by these that I was punished. My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring. I was conscious, even when I took the draught, of a more unbridled, a more furious propensity to ill. It must have been this, I suppose, that stirred in my soul that tempest of impatience with which I listened to the civilities of my unhappy victim; I declare, at least, before God, no man morally sane could have been guilty of that crime upon so pitiful a provocation; and that I struck in no more reasonable spirit than that in which a sick child may break a plaything. But I had voluntarily stripped myself of all those balancing instincts by which even the worst of us continues to walk with some degree of steadiness among temptations; and in my case, to be tempted, however slightly, was to fall.
The addictive nature of vices is well-documented, and the modern world offers an array of temptations that can lead individuals down a path of self-destruction. From the constant lure of social media notifications to the instant gratification of online shopping, these behaviors can escalate from harmless activities to all-consuming habits. Even the most virtuous among us may find it challenging to resist the siren call of these technological vices. Over time, our addiction might snowball out of control.
Dr. Jekyll's transformation into Mr. Hyde illustrates how easily the line between good and evil can blur when one's moral compass is compromised. This moral deterioration is not exclusive to fictional characters; it's a phenomenon observed in real-life individuals grappling with addiction. The rush of pleasure that comes from indulging in vices, despite knowing their detrimental effects, mirrors the internal struggle depicted in the novella.
As we navigate this complex world, striking a balance between our virtuous and darker tendencies becomes crucial. Recognizing the potential for addiction, whether to technology, substances, or unhealthy behaviors, empowers us to take control of our lives before the Mr. Hyde within us gains the upper hand. Like Dr. Jekyll, we must confront the consequences of our actions and acknowledge our vulnerabilities.
By learning from the lessons of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we can better understand the multifaceted nature of human behavior. We can recognize that even the most respectable and virtuous individuals are not immune to the allure of vice and darkness. By acknowledging this inherent duality, we become better equipped to resist the destructive forces that threaten to consume us.
In the end, the legacy of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" lives on as a timeless exploration of human nature, morality, and the eternal struggle between good and evil within us all. In a world where our choices are often driven by immediate gratification and the pressures of modern life, the story's message serves as a reminder that understanding our own duality is key to maintaining our humanity in the face of temptation.
As we journey through the intricacies of life in a technologically advanced era, let us strive to find the equilibrium that eluded Dr. Jekyll. Through self-awareness, introspection, and a conscious effort to overcome our addictive tendencies, we can ensure that our virtuous selves prevail over the darker forces that seek to control us.
In "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," Robert Louis Stevenson crafted a tale that transcends its time and remains a thought-provoking examination of the human condition. The parallels between the struggles faced by the characters in the novella and the challenges of our modern world are undeniable. The battle between our virtuous and darker sides, the seductive allure of addiction, and the erosion of self-control are themes that continue to resonate today.
As we continue to navigate the intricate web of our own dual natures, may we heed the cautionary tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By acknowledging our vulnerabilities, striving for self-awareness, and seeking a harmonious balance between our virtuous and darker inclinations, we can navigate the complexities of modern life with a greater sense of agency and purpose. Just as Dr. Jekyll's story stands as a testament to the eternal struggle within us, our own choices and actions shape the narratives of our lives, ultimately defining the legacy we leave behind.