How Jekyll and Hyde Reveal Our Internal Fears Surrounding Duality
The novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 is oftentimes overlooked when discussing classic horror novels. However, the themes and symbolism throughout the story are deeply disturbing, and they force the readers to experience an internal struggle of the duality of human nature. Unlike other classic horror novels such as Frankenstein and Dracula, which have a clear villain or monster that the reader directs their unknown suppressed fears towards, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde does not, leaving the readers directing their fears towards themselves, which is what truly makes this book so terrifying and worthy of reading.
Throughout the book, Stevenson provides a rich background of symbolism regarding duality that can be seen from individual characters such as Dr. Jekyll himself, his lawyer Mr. Utterson, and even the city of London itself. Usually when discussed, the story and analysis is focused on the critique of Victorian society, however, often overlooked is the duality presented in this portrayal of London and Victorian society.
The main occurring theme throughout Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the struggle with the duality of human nature. From the horrifying dreams Mr. Utterson continually has throughout the story, to the nature of Dr. Jekyll himself, readers are flooded with suppressed fears of their own duality which is mirrored in the story. Examples of the duality in Mr. Utterson come in the form of the written language that Stevenson chooses in specific times throughout the story. For instance, Stevenson writes in a very methodical, report-like way but when Utterson is describing his dreams, Stevenson uses rich, deep writing and language to portray the duality of a Victorian gentleman.
The most terrifying aspect of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is its struggle with duality, good and evil, professional and emotional, and respectful and disgraceful. Most individuals in our current society would love to say they are not evil, and do not have the capacity to harm others, but unfortunately, human nature itself exists in a form of duality. The scariest part of this for some people is that they might consider themselves to be good people in the eyes of society, similar to Dr. Jekyll who was highly regarded in his Victorian society, but they do have the capability to become evil, given circumstances.
Stevenson hits close to home with his theme of duality and our internal struggles of good and evil with his story Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is what ultimately makes this book one of the best classic Gothic horror novels written. However, arguably the most important form of duality presented to the audience in the novel is the struggle between insanity and responsibility. Not only does Dr. Jekyll struggle with the responsibilities he has accumulated with being a scientist and a well-respected Victorian gentleman, but he must continue pretending his is an upright man when he is committing heinous acts including murder. This also allows the audience to see the internal struggle that Mr. Utterson is experiencing, with the knowledge of Dr. Jekyll’s strange company and what is happening involving him. This is reflected by Stevenson towards the audience leaving them struggling to find their own morals. Where Utterson is required to report these evil accounts regarding Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s friend and beneficiary to his will, Utterson instead keeps quiet to respect his friendship with Dr. Jekyll. This also reflects our own struggle with morality and friendship, which at times can be extremely frightening as it forces us to experience an internal struggle with our own morals and differences between right and wrong.
While Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not one of the most popular classic horror novels, it does not lack deeply frightening themes of our internal struggles between right and wrong, and how to morally solve dilemmas involving good and evil, leaving us feeling insane and deceptive towards our own beliefs. If you have not read this novel yet, consider it for your summer reading list, as it will not leave you disappointed concerning scare factor and will leave you unsettled, craving more.
Check out this clip from the 1931 “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde!”