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The Dichotomy of Man

Updated on June 24, 2009

Identity Crisis

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A Strange Case....

Aptly named, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a story about the dichotomy between what one man is and what he is becoming. Dr. Henry Jekyll is a well-respected Victorian gentleman, whose conservative values are the defining attitudes of his time. In an odd series of events, he gradually becomes someone else, a Mr. Edward Hyde. The two individuals, for, indeed, they are individuals, even though they originate from the same body, are completely opposite each other. Where Jekyll is straight-laced and upstanding, Hyde is loose and sneaky. The strangeness comes not only from this event itself, but from the fact that Dr. Jekyll, the respected citizen actually seems to desire this change. The reader must dig deeper into the character of Henry Jekyll to determine why he would want this transformation. Scholars who study the work come to several conclusions. One, the most obvious, is that Jekyll is simply unhappy with who he is, because it is a repression of his true self. Another idea is that Dr. Jekyll suffered from a sort of "Male Menopause" or other "mid-life crisis", which caused him to become increasingly unhappy with himself and the exhibit behaviors completely foreign to his old self. One theory that many readers have toyed with is that Jekyll was an alcoholic or a drug addict, and this made him act in ways he normally would not. Whatever the case may be, it is certain that Dr. Jekyll purposely became Mr. Hyde, and that drastic circumstances likely led him to extreme measures to achieve peace with himself in a world where Britain is at the peak of Victorian supremacy, but individualism is at an all time low.

Dr. Jekyll is from a society in uproar. However, the turmoil is buried underneath the surface. Queen Victoria, a conservative female monarch, mourns the loss of her husband, Albert, but does not exhibit sadness. Advances in industry are being made, but behind the scenes children and impoverished citizens work in dangerous factories. Truly, Jekyll is a product of his time. He, the successful physician is a divided self. "A study in dualism: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" submits that the author is drawing a parallel between the men in the story and the idea of dualism:

"Dualism as a philosophy signifies the view that the universe contains two radically different kinds of being or substance-matter and spirit, body and mind."

This can be evidenced in ...Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by the fact that Dr. Jekyll enters through the front door, like any respectable gentleman would do, while Mr. Hyde always comes through the back door. This is a metaphor for the way not only Jekyll is psychologically, but also for the theme of the era. London was lively and modern by day, but lurking and crooked by night. While ladies and gentlemen strutted about in fine clothes, criminals and prostitutes contributed to the moral decline of society. Jekyll, then, could have certainly felt this hypocrisy in his era and in his own personality. He fit in well with the "League of Gentlemen" of his day, but was internally unhappy. Post-historically, Sigmund Freud puts his finger on another idea. The id, ego, and superego are all parts of the human mind, according to Freud. The id is the part of the mind with no social or moral precedents to adhere to, and is purely instinctual, seeking instant gratification. The ego is the conscious and rational part of the mind that does follow with social standards. The superego is Victorian society itself, which are defined by conservatism and morality. Jekyll, both mentally and, in the story, physically, struggles with the id, manifested by Hyde, while constantly trying to maintain under the pressures of his own ego and the superego of the Victorian social order.

In 2008, Paul Hata wrote an article called "Male Menopause -- The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome". In this article, Hata is informing the reader about a condition known as Andropause, which is a disorder that causes men in their forties to experience symptoms similar to Menopause. Men gradually can experience drastic mood changes, attitude changes, and loss of physical agility and energy. Although Hata is not as much commenting on ...Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as he is using it to draw a parallel, the idea that Dr. Jekyll may have been undergoing a "mid-life crisis" is not impossible. Dr. Jekyll is a well-off doctor, who has been active in his social life, and was a

"large, well-made, smooth faced man of fifty...[with] kindness";

this description leads to several conclusions which may support the idea that Dr. Jekyll was suffering from Andropause. One thing the reader can glean from this is that Dr. Jekyll was around fifty years old, and could have been afflicted by Andropause for as many as ten years. One of Jekyll's friends, Dr. Lanyon, gives further evidence to this reasoning:

"it is more than ten years since Henry Jekyll...began to go wrong, wrong in mind."

The story also mentions that Jekyll was a man with kindness. According to the article by Hata, men who are undergoing Andropause can totally change as Jekyll does

"from being once a loving and sensitive person to becoming mean and uncaring."

Dr. Jekyll describes Hyde as being "pure evil", a characteristic that would, indeed, be a drastic change in attitudes for Dr. Jekyll. Perhaps if Dr. Jekyll was troubled with Andropause he realized he had a problem and tried to rid himself of it. This urge could have led him to experiment with removing the evil from himself through medicine. His "divided self" then causes him more trouble than it solves.

The final hypothesis, and possibly the one the reader can grasp most easily, is that Dr. Jekyll was addicted to either alcohol or drugs. The reasons Jekyll could be a substance abuser also relate to the society of his day. The restrained conservative values could have possibly been overwhelming to him. Whatever the reason, it does appear that Jekyll was addicted to something, be it only something he created for himself, something he purchased, or a mixture of both. A servant of Dr. Jekyll's comments;

"Every time I brought the stuff back, there would be another paper telling me to return it, because it was not pure, and another order to a different firm. This drug is wanted bitter bad, sir, whatever for."

The obvious assumption the reader makes is that Jekyll is using drugs, and requires more of the drug over time to achieve the same result. However, Jekyll also makes a statement that reminds the reader of one an alcoholic might make upon being confronted;

"I swear to God, I will never set eyes upon him [Hyde] again. I bind my honour to you that I am done with him in this world. It is all at an end."

According to the article "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde: A Primer on Substance Dependence";

"we believe that Jekyll's disordered personality and suffering can be explained by substance dependence."

The article goes on to explain the seven criteria for diagnosis of substance dependence, of which Dr. Jekyll meets six. Altogether, the details of Jekyll's strange spiral into becoming Hyde lead the reader to the conclusion that Dr. Jekyll was addicted to something. It is also a possibility that after Jekyll creates his own "potion", which he certainly does, he finds the results painful. He may have then been wary of sharing his feelings with his friends and colleagues, and so turned to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with his feelings. In Jekyll's patriarchal society, it may have been difficult to come out about his circumstances without appearing weak. However, Jekyll does reveal his secrets first to Lanyon and then to Utterson after his death. Regardless of the exact methods Jekyll used to become Hyde, it is evident that he liked being Hyde. In his own words;

"when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself."

The language used here is also fascinating, since he refers to the image of Hyde as an "idol". This idea of a faith in crisis, where Jekyll almost worships this part of himself, is a strong theme throughout the novella.

As Jekyll says;

"To cast in my lot with Jekyll, was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and lately began to pamper."

Jekyll wants to be Hyde, but suffers from the actions of Hyde. In the end, the two persons destroy each other, as Hyde appears almost constantly, with Jekyll more and more regretting what he has done as Hyde. Jekyll then kills himself in order to also kill Hyde. Perhaps the moral of the story is that people are who they are. Hiding themselves behind facades of elegant clothing and etiquette is nothing less than hypocrisy. Maybe Jekyll is only an echo of the world around him, a place where the philosophy is to look good and keep your mouth shut. ...Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydeis, indeed, and example of pastiche literature. What at first appears to be only a horror story is actually a true rendering of the Victorian era, whose industrial and economical beauty are well surpassed by her general moral and ethical decline. Therefore, when the reader wonders why Jekyll desires to be Hyde, it becomes apparent that Jekyll is just like many Victorian gentlemen. Selfhood is sacrificed in favor of traditional values, while values are lost in the slums of humanity. Whether Jekyll was just unhappy with his state of being, or had some form of Andropause, or was addicted to some substance, the truth remains that Jekyll becomes Hyde, and, at the end, neither man triumphs.


Altschuler, Eric Lewin and Daniel Wright. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A Primer on Substance Dependence" March 2000: 484. 15 April 2009 <>

Hata, Paul. "Male Menopause - The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome" Aug. 2008: 1-2. 15 April 2009 <>

Singh, Shubh M., and Subho Chakrabarti. "A study in dualism: The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" Indian J Psychiatry2008: 221-3. 15 April 2009 <;year=2008;volume=50;issue=3;spage=221;epage=223;aulast=Singh>


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