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'Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde' in relation to modern drug addiction and medicine
Swimming as therapy
Whilst swimming the other day I really got into my stride (stroke), and started thinking about R L Stevenson's short Novel 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' the idea for which , he stated in a letter, had come to him one night as a vivid dream . Following the earlier example set by Coleridge in 'Kublah Khan', he immediately began transcribing this dream into the novella form which has come down to us.
If you have not read the work or seen the many films inspired by it, this is the basic plot. Dr Jekyll is well respected, about 50, working in London and having grown his practice to the extent that he has the means to have a private laboratory at his home where he experiments away to his heart's delight. Dr Jekyll is respected not just for his medical skills but for his all round amiability and high moral character. These have eased his way into the very choosy and very wealthy area of society where he believes he most deserves to be. Although he has servants living in and a few male friends, who largely tell his story for him
All seems to be going well for him, but he has a problem, a little difficulty surrounding the dual nature of his character. He wants to enjoy some quite naughty fun, fun that is totally selfish and without limitations. How can a man of conscience experience such solitary vices without the anguish of guilt which will follow? He worries that if he were to act out his desires, these might, on reflection disturb his moral equanimity,and his social standing. The reader is obliged to consider the idea that Dr Jekyll has already begun his journey into vice, since he is so aware of the dangerous nature of his, not entirely solitary, pleasures
His thoughts on the duality of mans' nature are nothing new, but his unexpected way of reconciling his disparate parts certainly is. His yearning to literally separate his opposite sides, comes in the form of a pre-ordered delivery of a usually benign chemical catalyst, which he uses in his experiments. To be brief, he prepares and imbibes this drug, which has an immediate and to Dr Jekyll, wonderful and successful result. He feels different, full of vitality and drive, able to access the darkest areas of his sensuality and act these out to the full, without any sense of remorse or humanity. Yes Dr Jekyll has found the potion which will enable him to separate and protect his problematic morally good side, from his as yet barely explored dark side. Jettisoning his good doctor persona, he is enabled to embody his dark side in the form of Mr Hyde. We are told that the drug literally brings into being an individual well on the road to psycothapy, whilst retaining the entirely different but pre-existing persona of morally good Dr Jekyll.
This duality, an obvious self delusion, is maintained by the Doctor throughout the story. Never is Dr Jekyll responsible for the increasingly vile actions of his 'friend' Mr Hyde: the catalyst drug is responsible. Meanwhile his other half, Doctor Jekyll still exists in a completely untainted form; what good fortune to have come across this marvellous, life enhancing drug, a powder that enables him to experience so much more than one individual ever could. Of course, he has complete control and can stop taking the drug at any time, or when sated, and return to his former unblemished self.
Now there is a lot more to be said about this story, and I intend to say it. But the relevance of the tale resonated very strongly with me, as a current drug user and member of this dark underclass. But that is for another day.