After taking a look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the next inspiration for one of the most iconic of literary monsters and soon to be played by Russell Crowe in the upcoming “Monsters Universe” of films is the Robert Louis Stevenson story, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
The duality of nature has been the central theme of humanity’s existence as a species. Our minds have allowed us to rationalize what we know as reality. No longer is our only notion to fight or flight. We go further to think and to understand, not necessarily all of us but enough of us. It is because of this ability to dig deeper that has allowed our concept of nature’s duality to grow. The basic tenet of fight or flight has ever expanded all the way to the source questions of how and ultimately why. Presented as they are, we now have the first question and the final question. However, the question that resides deepest is whether or not there exists purpose in the duality. Is there an inheritance from the chain reaction that created mankind or even from the creator itself? If there is, is it then righteous or evil? If there is not, do we decide that path for ourselves? Even then, as we still search for the answer we ask even more questions: What defines the right and wrong? If one is good or bad, must one always be so? Where can a line be drawn? Can it be controlled? While Dr. Victor Frankenstein sought to answer these questions through life from death, Dr. Henry Jekyll sought to tame the beast within.
The respect commanded by Dr. Jekyll cannot be understated. A man of science, he held airs of dignity and pride with him always. Known far and wide by reputation alone, he was well respected and well looked after by those he did business with. Driven by the utmost discipline and rigor, Dr. Jekyll helped all manner of ailing soul that he could, including his own.
There is no manner of discipline in the world that can hold a person to their station should that not be their desire. Sometimes the desire is entirely unknown or suppressed. People tend to be able to lie to themselves far more easily than to others. Often it will push a person to do irrational things, things they do not even wish to do themselves; they only know that something is deeply amiss. Through this illogical haze, the visions begin to appear: A different life, a different home, different wife, children, habits, hobbies and goals. One usually never wants out forever though. The desire to go is always followed by the desire to return. However, for Dr. Jekyll, the trimmings of life were not the usual. Ever inward he turned, looking deeper and deeper. No wife and child were afforded to this life. His was discipline, science and healing others, always and lifelong.
The same could not be said of Mr. Edward Hyde. Descending upon the dark city streets of 18th century London, Hyde was a cantankerous lout. Though small in stature, he is momentous. Upon his introduction, he nearly tramples a young woman in the streets. Though able to flee, his name is found out and only one man is able to find a deeper connection, Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Utterson, who acts as the proprietor of Jekyll’s will. Shockingly, Edward Hyde is listed as the sole beneficiary. Fearing Jekyll is being blackmailed; Utterson goes to him but is vigorously assured that all is well by Mr. Hyde.
A year goes by without incident but all is rattled when it is revealed that Sir Danvers Carew, a member of British Parliament, was brutally murdered. The murderer is witnessed to be Edward Hyde, savagely having bludgeoned the MP with a cane. Attempting to corner Hyde in his own home, Utterson and a team of policeare stunned to find Henry Jekyll, Hyde’s malignant instrument being Jekyll’s own. Swearing that all business is done with Hyde and that he shall never again darken London in sin, Jekyll returns to his normal goings-on while Utterson notices that a letter written by Hyde bears remarkable resemblance to Jekyll’s hand. It is only after Jekyll once again forces himself into seclusion that the true horror is found out.
Forcing themselves into Jekyll’s laboratory after the sudden death of Dr. Hastie Lanyon, Utterson and Jekyll’s butler, Mr. Poole, find Hyde apparently dead over the desk. Reading the three missives lying about, it is revealed that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, one being the mirror version of the other. The desire had conquered the discipline. Self-indulgent and sociopathic, Jekyll had experimented in forming a concoction for quite a time that once drunk, transformed the consumer into the very antithesis of oneself, both emotionally and physically. As it began, the transformations were voluntary and forced by want. The potion would make Jekyll writhe until his form and demeanor were that of a stranger and debauchery pumped through his veins. Dr. Lanyon’s death is even revealed as a direct result of the revelation that Hyde reverted back to the form of Jekyll before his very eyes. Reading the final missive, Jekyll himself reveals that the transformations have become uncontrollable and soon he will be no more, forever replaced by the guttural visage of Edward Hyde. Ending his missive declaring his own death, Jekyll succumbs to his fate as another and leaves Hyde to either trial or suicide.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde allows us to see the questions we ask ourselves from the outside. Following one’s own moral compass solely tends to get one lost very quickly. A desire unchecked can often burn like a wildfire and take with it all that it touches. When that desire is to be another, however, no one is ever spared. All too easy and often, drugs and drink are the potions people turn to in order to experience the change, almost just to take it for a test drive at first. All habits have the chance to form addiction around it though. Incubated within that shell, even if broken, the innards are never the same. Mutated and deformed, the evil infects and as a parasite may forever overtake the host body, so Mr. Hyde will forever wait for another Dr. Jekyll to creep out of.