The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

On 11th March 2019, I witnessed the eye-opening phenomenon of Big Brum’s theatrical production of Jekyll and Hyde, an adaptation of the original novel: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Stevenson. This dramatized adaptation of the book portrays a representation of a dream that Stevenson experienced which led to the writing of the novel (Stevenson, 2003: 218).

Jekyll and Hyde is an allegory based on the protagonist Dr. Henry Jekyll who exploits the formulation of an extremely dangerous potion, predominantly focusing on the power of evil and addiction. This inner evil is presented through the character of Mr. Hyde who is unleashed from Dr. Jekyll when he drinks the potion. Stevenson demonstrates a distinctive difference between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through their unique characteristics. Dr. Jekyll is known as a good, respected, well-educated and reputable gentleman. Whereas, Mr. Hyde is identified as an evil, murderous, and compelling creature who appears unidentified at night; all covered up and hunched over. Stevenson emphasises on the key concept of addiction through Mr. Hyde who exploits the formula of being able to develop split personalities.

Jekyll and Hyde is not the only written story to explore the ideology of split personalities. In 2016, the film Split was released, a psychological thriller, that analyses the mental disorder: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID is a rare disorder, commonly known as multiple personality disorder, in which ‘two or more distinct identities, or personality traits are present […] and take control of an individual’ (Psychology Today, 2019). In Split, the key concept of identity is excessively portrayed through a total of 23 personalities, primarily as a representation of what the victim of DID would experience. However, there is one personality yet to be exposed, who is the most dominant of all, known as ‘The Beast’ who portrays similar characteristics as Mr. Hyde.

Although, the representation of DID within Split caused a lot of criticism about the stigmatization of mental disorders, the theory behind it was to demonstrate an awareness for educational purposes. On the contrary, the creation of Mr. Hyde is not because of a mental disorder, but instead because of a failed scientific experiment. Personally, when Dr. Jekyll interferes with human nature, he is playing with God by creating a supernatural persona. This is completely unethical as Mr. Hyde has been designed similarly to the mental disorder DID, which is considered serious to individuals who have been diagnosed.

Foundational to this, Jekyll and Hyde is a realistic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s (1818) original novel, Frankenstein. Frankenstein was developed based on the story by Victor Frankenstein; a scientist who creates a monstrous, intelligent creature in an unorthodox experiment. Similar to Stevenson, the story of Frankenstein derived from a dream that Shelley experienced (Write a Writing, 2010). Although, Stevenson’s monster (Mr. Hyde) is not constructed in the same way as Frankenstein, it still materializes itself into the dark evil side of Dr. Jekyll’s personality. Both of these monsters (Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein) are extremely dangerous who oppress innocent individuals within society.

Jekyll and Hyde is a prime example of negative behaviour which could have contributed to the societal implications that individuals experience today. In my opinion, the production of Jekyll and Hyde raised awareness about the world, primarily because of the violence and crimes which are taking place daily. Although, many individuals have different beliefs and morals, I think it is important that individuals are not exposed to these dangerous ‘evil’ characters, as it can influence or inspire them to take on that persona. I think the more violence, the more crimes, and the more serial killers’ that individuals are exposed to, the more it can indoctrinate their minds into thinking that is who they want to become. In the last decade, there have been many cases of attacks, riots, bombings, and even hijackings which has resulted in the deaths of innocents. Crucial to this, it is important to consider that even if these texts appear to be fiction or dreams, there is always the potential for an individual to transform that story into reality; perhaps one that influenced Jack the Ripper two years after Jekyll and Hyde.

According to Curtis (2001), ‘the 1888 mutilation murders attributed to Jack the Ripper’ (Curtis, 2001) who remains as one of the most infamous unidentified serial killers. It has been clarified that Jack the Ripper’s targets were the lower-class women who were loitering the streets at night, specifically the prostitutes (Jack the Ripper Tour, 2012). Curtis suggests that Stevenson’s novel ‘can be read as an extended metaphor for a deeply divided city’ (Curtis, 2001: 35). In my opinion, there is an unequivocal connection between Mr. Hyde and Jack the Ripper, primarily because of the actions and behaviours they both displayed. Curtis believes that ‘serial killers are not real human beings who resemble us’ (Curtis, 2001: 8) which is ultimately a representation of ‘evil’ and the monster within. Admittedly, during Jekyll and Hyde, I was convinced that Mr. Hyde was a representation of Jack the Ripper because of the similarity of their names and mannerisms. The reason for this is that ‘Jekyll’ is similar to Jack and ‘Hyde’ is relatable in terms of hide and seek, considering Jack the Ripper was supposedly never seen or known.

The story of Jekyll and Hyde is one that has had a lot of speculation regarding its true meaning, yet I cannot justify the affects it has had on individuals within society. There are many true and fiction stories that portray a similar representation which have influenced individuals to replicate them. The key concept within Jekyll and Hyde is addiction which articulates the importance of being able to recognise the point of no return. Addiction can be identified as anything, but when the actions made are irreversible then the true consequences begin to evolve. Big Brum believes that Jekyll and Hyde provides questions for individuals to ‘make meaning of their lives and the world around them’, predominantly focusing on the power of theatre, dramatic action and to challenge new ways of thinking (Big Brum, 2019).

What does this tell us about the duality of man?

 

Words: 1024

Reference List:

Big Brum (2019) Big Brum: Theatre in Education. Available at: https://www.bigbrum.org.uk/ [Accessed 17 March 2019].

Curtis, P. L. (2001) Jack the Ripper and the London Press. London: Yale University Press.

Jack the Ripper Tour (2012) Police and Prostitution. Available at: https://www.jack-the-ripper-tour.com/generalnews/police-and-prostitution/ [Accessed 17 March 2019].

Psychology Today (2019) Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder). Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder [Accessed 17 March 2019].

Stevenson, L. R. (2003) Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Write a Writing (2010) Why did Mary Shelley write Frankenstein? Available at: http://www.writeawriting.com/write/mary-shelley-write-frankenstein/ [Accessed 17 March 2019].

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