Duality in Human Nature: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Good versus evil is a battle that we all know very well and see quite often in movies today. However, this battle between good and evil has always been a prominent theme in storytelling and it has been portrayed in an array of ways, including in novels, movies, and plays.
Examples of this theme include: the mongoose versus the snake; Batman versus the Joker; the bullied versus the bullies; and even man versus himself.
The battle of good and evil in one man is known as the “duality of human nature” and is most notably exemplified in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. On one hand, there is the good in humanity; personified in the novel by Dr. Henry Jekyll.
Dr. Jekyll is described as a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty with something of a slyish cast, but every mark of capacity and kindness” (qtd.
in The Norton Anthology vol. E 1686.) Though Jekyll is tempted by the less than pure attributes of the city, he is an upstanding man. By day, he runs a free health clinic for the poor; and at night, the doctor works on perfecting a serum that will remove and purify all the evil in himself. Regrettably, however the serum merely turns his evil into an independent entity: Mr. Edward Hyde.
Mr. Edward Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s impure alter ego, is made out to be a hideously evil creature with no compassion or remorse.
He is the incidental embodiment of all of the repressed evils in Dr. Jekyll. The man engages in lustful acts and even killed people Hyde seems to be comfortably immoral, as opposed to amoral. He is aware of the morals and makes conscious decisions to disregard it. Edward Hyde was described as “alone in the ranks of mankind” and as “pure evil” (qtd. in The Norton Anthology vol. E 1686.) While conducting his experiments, Dr. Jekyll says “With every day and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and intellectual, I thus drew steadily to that truth by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.” To Jekyll, every soul has both good and evil in it. He paints himself and Hyde as polar opposite sides; however, they are merely two sides of the same coin. Dr. Jekyll “had a strong desire to “perfect” himself by splitting his good qualities from his bad by separating himself into two separate identities,” (123helpme.com) and get rid of the evil. Unfortunately, this did not go as planned; without Dr. Jekyll’s positive and good natured qualities, Mr. Hyde manifested into pure, unadulterated evil. Without a balance of good and evil, “Jekyll allows Hyde to grow increasingly strong, and eventually take over entirely, perhaps entirely destroying all the pure goodness Jekyll ever had” (gradesaver.com) Duality in human nature can be described as the battle of good versus evil within oneself and the skirmish between good and evil has been a prominent theme since the dawn of storytelling. Though there are countless examples of this classic struggle, there are none quite like R.L. Stevenson’s characters, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shows how the human soul has two sides and a balance with each is necessary to function morally.