Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Theme Analysis
The 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. Jekyll’s 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 Satan’s 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 Stevenson’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Indeed Satan’s 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 man’s 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.