The Conscious and Unconscious: Analysis on the Life of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde

The Conscious and Unconscious: Analysis on the Life of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde By Bernadine SyTiong March 16 2010 “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson originated from a dream that the author once had and he described it as “a fine bogy tale” when he awoke from it.

Stevenson was first inspired from the city’s low life and the bizarre characters that he came across with and that his Calvinistic upbringing and his constant fight against ill-health led him to be engrossed with death and the darker side of human nature serving as his inspiration in many of his works making him as a novelist often noted by his powers of invention and depth of psychological insight found in his work.

This novel which focuses on the split personality and the belief that evil is potentially more powerful than good has been a popular topic even up until now. Humans may often be ignorant about the fact that at times they do hear a voice inside that tells them the desires of a personality exactly the opposite of the current one.

The “Theory of Psychoanalysis” according to Sigmund Freud is that the whole psychoanalytic theory is in fact built up on the perception of the resistance exerted by the patient when we try to make him conscious of his unconscious.

Once a person lets his unconscious free even for only a matter of time, it will always desire to get out from its cell once he is closed in again and the conscious will be disturbed and often times give in to the temptation of letting the other be control of him again.

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A successful doctor born to a large fortune and well respected by his fellow men, a life seems like to be perfect yet still yearning for something. This is exactly how Dr. Henry Jekyll feels after years of failure in inventing a sort of potion.

His years of wanting to complete it only made him more anxious of desiring to have its final result and maybe finally ease his longing of something he has yet to discover. Dr. Jekyll is the best example of man in its most secret manner for man hides his true feelings which he knows can affect people’s view of him. Here we can see Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. The unconscious is manifested to us as something that holds itself in suspense in the area of the unborn. When Dr.

Jekyll had finally completed the potion and tested it on himself, an alter ego of himself came out yet this alter ego looked nothing like him for if Jekyll was a little man with a big handsome face, Edward Hyde, Jekyll’s alter ego was described as: “Pale and dwarfish; he gave an impression of deformity without any namable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky whispering and somewhat broken voice…” Everyone that met him had an impression of unknown disgust, loathing and fear towards him, very unlikely when compared to Dr. Jekyll. In this case we see that there is a split of personality and by their appearances we can already see who the bad is and the good. Though this seems surreal and impossible, it implements a person’s “splitting of the mind” and “splitting of the consciousness” which belongs to Freud’s “Several prominent 19th century about unconscious process”.

Whenever Edward Hyde is in control of the body, he has a hunger for evil like he breathes it, on the other hand when Henry Jekyll gets back to his body he seems to not remember what Hyde has done like he was asleep all the time that Hyde was in control. The first of Freud’s ideas is that, “mental activity separates into parallel streams, only one of which can be conscious at any moment. ” In other words, he described this as the splitting of the mind. Here he described that a man as such performs activities mechanically and with only half their mind on them. There really are times that people do things unconsciously even just for a second because there are times that we are somewhat under hypnosis from ourselves like times when we unconsciously stare at nothing while our hands are doing something that we do not already know. In the like, Dr. Jekyll is the person and Mr. Hyde is the hands.

In this light, we can also relate the splitting of personality which Freud describes as the parallel mental activity. He observed that when we speak, we are at the conscious state but when the unconscious one interferes, the conscious is attached to one of the two states meaning that he can be on his side or the side of his unconscious. The last chapter of the novel is entitled “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case” where in Jekyll finally admits all the bizarre things that are happening with him and the mysterious Edward Hyde. Jekyll admits that as time passes with drinking the potion, there were cases that he turns into Hyde without even drinking the potion.

He was afraid to go to sleep because every time he woke up, Hyde would possess the body although this time the mind was split into two: Jekyll’s and Hyde’s. In these characters which possess only one body, we can see the struggle for freedom. Jekyll was an old and weak man, life seemed to have gone out from him as age overpowered him and maybe that is why he wanted to find an alternative for his misery. Freedom is what each person desires, to be able to do anything you want without abiding to any rules is somehow man’s longing for each day. Most people may be content of their life but they cannot hide the fact that at times things unusual to them would come in mind and that they start to wonder what it would feel like if they had done them.

Freedom is the “absolutization of the absolute itself”. Wherefore to be absolute is to be detached from everything: relations and every presence, including itself. Aristotle may refer happiness as “The Chief” or “Ultimate Good” wherein it is the desire that is above all else, but what is the cause of happiness is it not ultimate freedom? Yet freedom is not always in terms of good because if people desire it, then they will do anything to have it. In Jean-Luc Nancy’s “The Experience of Freedom”, he states that: “Freedom spontaneously admits, of itself, a maxim of wickedness. Evil is the extreme freedom against the Absolute within the whole of beings, for freedom is the capacity for good and evil.

The good “is” the evil and the evil “is” the good. ” The desire of freedom makes people do things that are not of the ordinary but evil does not fully reveal without really having the consent of the good, meaning that the good wants to let evil out also because it knows that freedom will always require a bit of evil. Henry Jekyll admitted that he had committed to a profound duplicity of life. Henry Jekyll was in a state of emotional distress and he needed to find a resolution to it, thus he found Edward Hyde which did make him feel better at first but otherwise later. He knew that there was the evil side of him the unconscious that lets him does anything freely.

Henry Jekyll wants to become Edward Hyde, not just because Edward Hyde is the dominant one. Jekyll knew, even before his scientific discovery there was another part of him that desired for another only he experienced them in daydreams and as time passed, he had a longing to bring this feeling to life. Freud declares that desire is indestructible for it merely conveys what it maintains of an image of the past towards an ever short and limited future. But what Jekyll is yet to realize are the consequences of his decisions for once evil is let loose it will savor the freedom it has attained and when it is yet again chained, it will roar for its freedom.

Freud, according to his ideas about unconscious processes coined this as the “splitting of consciousness”, which is the second idea wherein he states that a sudden switching can occur from one parallel stream to another. Evil forms a sort of shadow kingdom in one’s mind until they become like bad spirits that take control of the body. Jekyll knew that all human beings are commingled out of good and evil, but one has a choice to resist by he chose to live in two identities until he could not control the evil side of him. One can only liberate himself from good or evil through the freedom in action by the limit of thought. Human beings are born with a will and it has the power to resist anything it wants. No one can say that he is being controlled; he does something because he wants to.

Jekyll welcomed Hyde when he first appeared because it was in Hyde that he saw a livelier image of the spirit in him and because of the new profound power that he possessed, Jekyll became a slave to Hyde. In a sense that when we let temptations get to us it will always come back for more. We give into temptations and it will always come back because it knows our weakness and it attacks it so that we can fall into its pit, this is what we call evil. Henry Jekyll had gone for quite some time without letting Hyde appear, he mingled with friends and everyone saw how much livelier he had become but this was not to last because Hyde would not allow it that he be chained forever.

Jekyll stated: “I was still cursed with my duality of purpose; and as the first edge of my penitence wore off, the lower side of me, so long indulged, so recently chained down, began to growl for license. ” Jekyll had fun being Hyde but it was when Hyde commanded for full charge that his problems arose. Edward Hyde was the pure evil of Henry Jekyll and he was wanted because of murder. Jekyll never predicted that it would come to this point that he would have a hard time becoming himself because Hyde was beginning to appear even when Jekyll did not drink the potion. Jekyll always took comfort that if anything was to go wrong in the form of Edward Hyde, he would always get away with it since he could just drink the potion and transform back into himself yet he did not know that this was not to last.

Edward Hyde had have liberty too long enough that he was growing stronger in his form while Henry Jekyll grew weaker. There was no more balance between them and Jekyll feared that Hyde would not stop until he had full control and finally put Jekyll to sleep. Jekyll was suffering from all of Hyde’s action because he has everything to lose while Hyde would not even be affected. Freud stated in his fourth idea that conscious activity is influenced by the unconscious. Jekyll was starting to share the pleasures of Hyde, he’s becoming greedy and this was He was not scared of being condemned by people but rather he was scared of being Edward Hyde. He referred Hyde as a child of hell that had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred.

But Jekyll saw something that he had never seen in his own perspective, Hyde loved life wonderfully and had it not been for his fear of death, he would have long ago ruined himself taking Jekyll with him. Jekyll saw how Hyde was so passionate at life that at times when he was decided to end his life, his pity for Hyde would always be his weakness. Hyde embraced life in a way that Jekyll never did and that is why maybe he would have thought that maybe being Hyde would finally set him free because after all, what he had long been searching is meaning to life and freedom. Though Edward Hyde’s meaning in life may be wholly cruel, Jekyll always wondered why had he never embraced life like his alter ego? What was in Hyde that made him act do freely in his nature and ignores the people and the judgment around him?

Jekyll longed to find that passion in his own identity but it was too late because Hyde was beginning to take over and trapping him inside. For if the existent can decide on ruin and on its own ruin, and if this possibility is inscribed in the very being of existence, such a decision is no less what also ruins the decision in its existential essence. “There is an authentic freedom, which decides freedom for existence and for the singular relation that is, and which decides it from the heart of an infinite non-innocence where the in-finity of being, which does not have its own essence, can always unleash itself, and in a sense has always ready been unleashed, as fury. ” Henry Jekyll decided to end his life.

Though he felt pity for Edward Hyde, he himself could not endure the pain any longer and if Hyde was too fully take over, he would have also been thrown to the gallows for his crime. Jekyll could not find any more the salt that completed his potion, making it impure meaning that any mixture he made could not anymore bring back Henry Jekyll completely. It was not only physical pain that he felt but his soul was also tearing apart. He, at first, liked being Edward Hyde but then realized that he loved being Henry Jekyll yet all was too late. He confessed everything in writing before he had finally ended a life that had two identities and he knew that ending his life will be more painful to Hyde than him because life was his passion but he had no choice, his only view of salvation for him and Hyde was death.

Stevenson’s novel may seem like a scientific fantasy that can never happen in real life but what he is trying to portray is that in human beings, there is always the conscious and the unconscious, the good and evil side of man. Because of frailties, disabilities and failures we tend to sink into an emotional distress that lets a foreign part of our mind be revealed. No matter how good a person may be, only one knows in himself the secret desires to be truly free, to act without abiding to anything or anyone. Stevenson dreamt about this novel and put it to writing in the sense that Freud has a theory of the relationship between conscious and unconscious activity in dreams which he saw as “the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind”.

We can see here that the life of Henry Jekyll can be a portrayal of the author’s life in a minor sense. Stevenson was ill-health and had a weak disposition and because of this he could not really achieve what his father wanted him to be which drives him to think to the darker side of life. Freud claimed that memories of distressing events are too painful to be admitted to consciousness and are subjected to a process of censorship and disguise by the mechanisms of “dream work”, which included the representation of familiar things or people in symbolic form. Henry Jekyll was right when he said that all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled with good and evil.

Every person has their good and bad side in them which the latter he hides in fear that people will judge him. Society dictates people’s lives, even if we do not admit it. People always care for what the public thinks of them for no one wants to be ruined in the sight of everyone because sometimes one wrong can forever be marked in one’s life. But at some point, through desire and curiosity, humans do show a side of them which is very unlikely for they want to know the taste of freedom. For freedom spontaneously admits, of itself, a maxim of wickedness and evil is as freedom, the most extreme freedom against the Absolute within the whole of beings. Who would not want a life that is free with no one to dictate what is right and wrong?

Yet when it gets too far, it no longer is freedom but is transformed to chains for being too absorbed into it brings its consequences. In the sense of Edward Hyde taking over Henry Jekyll’s body, human beings somewhat go crazy in the thought that there is no more answer than death. One can say that the master is no more spared by death than is his slave, that he will always die in the end, and that this is the limit of his freedom. The revelation of the essence of the master is manifested at the moment of terror, when it is to him that one says freedom or death, and the he has obviously only death to choose in order to have freedom. Henry Jekyll ended his life in order for him to have freedom, not Edward Hyde.

He did pity Hyde for he was such a passionate person about life but Jekyll wanted to be free also but with Hyde forever attached to him, his life was no different that being in hell. We want a happy life, one that shouts freedom but it does not mean that to be evil is the only way to be free. Humans have a choice and sometimes we take the wrong path but this serves as a lesson and we should learn to decide the better of ourselves before everything is too late. Evil can never result to ultimate happiness, it may bring contentment to our desires for a while but when it seeks payment, we suffer the consequences taking the happy and free life we thought to be real and lasting.

There is always a warning whenever we are to be swallowed by evil and temptations will always arise in its most powerful sense but all this will serve as a trial to see if we can resist the evil and take over with the goodness in us, but some are tricked into believing that giving in will fulfill all their desires but is destroyed at the end. There is a free decision that frees freedom for itself, for its finitude, for its haring, for equality, for community, for fraternity, and for their justice- singularly, singularly shared/divided, singularly withdrawn from the hatred of existence. God never made man so that He can force him to do things, but He made man with a free will having the ability to freely choose his own decisions and ways. Evil may always be tempting but we can fight it, we just have to be believe and stand strong on our faith that we can overcome it. The evil and good of man are relative to each other it’s always in our choice to choose what side.

The unconscious is a part of life in which the conscious can never take away but what it can do is not only balance it but decide on what can be the betterment in life.

Bibliography: Stevenson, Robert Louis. (1994). The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London, England: Penguin Group. Nancy, Jean-Luc. (1993). The Experience of Freedom. Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press Miller, Jacques-Alain. (1977). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan (Book XI). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Edwards, David, & Jacobs, Michael. (2003). Conscious and Unconsciousness. Berkshire, England: Open University Press. Freud, Sigmund. (1950). The Wisdom of Freud. New York, NY: Philosophical Library.

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The Conscious and Unconscious: Analysis on the Life of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

The Conscious and Unconscious: Analysis on the Life of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde
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