Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a classic mystery story and quite captivating
to audiences of all ages on the drama aspects alone. In fact Stevenson first wrote the
story (after recalling a dream he had) with only the intentions of writing such an
entertaining tale. Yet at the suggestion of his wife, he decided to revamp the mystery to
comment on the dual nature of man and of society in general.
The hypocrisy of Victorian values is one such indictment
of society Stevenson makes. All around England, Stevenson saw that although on the outside
most noblemen seemed to be fine and upstanding citizens, inside they hid dark secrets.
Many critics even suspect that Jekyll and Hyde was a self-admission by Stevenson of his
own dark nature.
Although often Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
seems to be a light-hearted tale of mystery and intrigue, Stevenson takes great pains to
show that the evil Mr. Hyde is very deadly. There is certainly nothing comical about the
trampling of the little girl on the street corner or the brutal slaying of the M.P.
Jekylls dark side even causes death indirectly. Dr. Lanyon quickly keels over after
witnessing the transformation from the good Jekyll to the evil Hyde. Here, Stevenson
ventures to say that whenever anyone has the ability to see the evil side of man in its
purest form, he will most certainly die of morbid fascination.
At first Satans net of evil seems
fun and jocund. Dr. Jekyll admits this to Utterson in his letter, saying, "It seemed
natural and human. In my eyes it bore a livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more
express and single, than the imperfect and divided countenance I had been hitherto
accustomed to call mine." Stevenson, using the dialogue of Jekyll, goes on to say
that all people are a composite of both good and evil. He asserts, "...all human
beings...are commingled out of good and evil." Here, Stevenson is leaving the narrow
scope of his fictional tale, and indeed indicting all of society.
Yet Stevensons story doesnt
have a happy ending. Indeed Satans dominance over the body of Dr. Jekyll eventually
takes its toll. Jekyll is able to admit that after a few months of experimenting with
Hyde, eventually the little mans demands became increasingly extreme, seeking more
and more power. Soon Jekyll has no control over Hyde, who appears by himself whenever
Jekyll dozes off to sleep. He admits, "I was slowly losing hold of my original and
better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse." Finally Hyde
causes Jekyll to commit the ultimate act of self-destruction: suicide. In short, Stevenson
is trying to say that if one gives evil an inch, it will take a mile.