Set in the Victorian era, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde highlights behavioral expectations and the societal definitions attached to good and evil. It delivers insightful messages for the readers and beautifully posits the duality of human nature and the need to display measured behavior to be acceptable within a society; keeping the id under constant control. The character himself is torn between the ego and the alter ego as he acknowledges the duplicity of man and states that “I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I labored in the eye of the day” (Stevenson). This statement indicates the character’s innate desire to find his true self – a struggle which we all go through as we strive to keep the evil at bay and carry out our lives in a manner that would ensure respectability within the society.
The readers further learn and relate to how human beings’ carry within them a need for absolution from their sins as the guilt becomes over-powering. In the story when Hyde’s actions escalate to committing a murder, Jekyll goes into seclusion to prevent his alter ego from causing further harm and at the end as a last resort commits suicide. Stevenson’s story illustrates the overpowering nature of evil as the character initially transformed at his will but later lost control of his true self and transitioned permanently. This transformation into Hyde is also characterized as utter freedom by Stevenson. With this, the writer forces the readers to face the ugly truth that if unrestrained, the inescapable animalistic side not only prevails rather it overpowers the goodness. Therefore, we maintain our public personas and strive to repress the evil. The prevalent theme of the story is the duplicity of human nature and it comes full circle with Jekyll’s insistence that “man is not truly one, but truly two” (Stevenson).
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London: New English Library, 1974.