Is the novel a pretty clear case of split personality?
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde wears its Christian morality very prominently on its shoulders. Its message is blatant and clear: humankind has two very distinct sides to its personality, one of God-fearing goodness and one of temptation and evil. A true split personality, a schizophrenic, would have two different personalities, with minimal interactions between the two. Like an angry priest at a lecturn, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tells us that the “evil side” is as much a part as the “good side.” And as a result, we must supplicate and constantly beg forgiveness. The one-dimensional Hyde is not a separate personality, he is an enhancement of a side of Jekyll. And Jekyll’s final note testifies to his faith in this interpretation of simple contradictions in personality as Bible-forged absolutes.
“I was driven to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life, which lies at the root of religion.”
Now certain in his religious convictions, Jekyll informs us that he recognises the truth of this evilness within himself. The novella is as convinced of its rightness as the doctor is, and thus carries its message like a blustering, hammering tract.
“How I…came forth an angel instead of a fiend…it was neither diabolical nor divine…old Henry Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformations…I had already learned to despair.”
Hyde as murderer is made clear. He is defined indeed by the author repeatedly as “evil,” the reader again is left in no doubt. However, before the murders start happening, we already know of the absolute nature of Hyde’s characters through the use of an especially out-of-date plot contrivance. We know Hyde is evil simply because of his appearance. When Jekyll reveals his “evil side,” he literally metamorphises. The meaninglessness of the statement “looks evil,” which returns repeatedly in the text, does not occur to the nineteenth century mind, and we are led to believe that, simply because Hyde is a hunchback, he is evil.
“He gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation…the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent.”
Even Jekyll’s own butler is beset with this image-as-evil, as if the only worthwhile people are those born without deformity. “That thing was not my master and there’s the truth…My master is a tall, fine build of a man, and this was more of a dwarf.”
The two mindsets seem to contradict: humankind is judged by god and born with evil in them, and yet evil is also a separate thing, a physical extra cancer. But perhaps that is precisely the point, given the onset of temptation, the cancer can grow within us, as Christian morality would have it.
Stevenson, despite the declamatory absolutism of his message, allows an alternative to sneak through. And a libertarian reading of the text is quite possible, partly because of turns of phrase that Stevenson let slip through his tract. In this reading, Hyde is not evil by definition alone, and is much more valuable part of Jekyll’s make-up. The reader is supposed to believe that everything Hyde does is evil, and in a Christian sense, drinking alcohol and going to parties is immoral. However, on closely reading of the descriptions of Hyde, outside of the context of his criminal acts of murder, one finds a person struggling to free himself from the bonds of a forced lifestyle, someone not content to simply be the same as everyone else, someone not content to hold himself back. Hyde hates Jekyll and hates his lifestyle, which is, of course, since they are one and the same, Jekyll hates Jekyll, and feels the chafing bonds of the constrained life.
“There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new…I felt…happier in body…I…could strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty.”
One can thus re-read the “hard law of life, which lies at the root of religion,” as a plea for help. But this subtle reading is far too much for Stevenson, who rails against the evils of intemperance, whilst simultaneously rebelling against them, who make Hyde a murderer simply because Christian morals demand that drinking and partying are the same kind of “evil” as killing someone.
The moral reading of the book relates a mix of two contradictory states of mind, but nonetheless unites them on a judgemental reading of humanity. It is a complex reading and, although there are two natures, it is not “simply split personality.” In the libertarian reading of the text, the multifaceted nature of human thought is embraced and made into a positive. Real human thought is much more complicated than that. For a moment, Jekyll and Stevenson see this: “It seemed natural and human.”
Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, (2011) edition released online, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/42/pg42-images.html
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Dr Lanyon is an important character in Stevenson's novel because, like Dr Jekyll, he is a scientist and doctor, so he makes an interesting point of comparison and contrast. He is also the only character to actually witness the transformation of Hyde/Jekyll. His account of this is very interesting to the reader. Stevenson saves Lanyon's account until the penultimate chapter, where it dramatically solves most of the mystery about the character of Mr Hyde. (1 [1: Opening paragraph briefly but clearly focuses upon a) the importance of Lanyon and b) the author's presentation. ])
Dr Lanyon first appears in Chapter 2 when Utterson goes to consult him about the strange will of their friend Dr Jekyll. He is described as a "hearty, healthy" gentleman with a warm manner of welcoming his friend that is based on "genuine feeling". (2 [2: Quotation shows evidence of the first bullet point in the question - what Lanyon is like. ]) This emphasis on his good qualities and his genuine friendship is important. (3 [3: Point. ]) It makes us trust him and believe his judgement may be right when he says that, because Jekyll "began to go wrong", he has seen little of him during the last ten years. In fact, he becomes uncharacteristically agitated and talks angrily of Jekyll's ideas as "scientific balderdash". This raises our level of interest in what Dr Jekyll might be involved in. (4 [4: Comment. ])
Utterson (5 [5: Paragraph focuses on two different characters' reactions to Lanyon - clear focus on the second bullet point. ]) is clearly very friendly with Lanyon, and likes him. Because Utterson appears in the novel much more frequently than the doctor, and is also a steady, reliable, caring man, we tend to trust Lanyon even more. Stevenson makes him appear a model of reliable good sense and decent friendship. Dr Jekyll also tells Utterson that Lanyon is "a good fellow... an excellent fellow". But he adds, "a hide-bound pedant for all that; an ignorant blatant pedant", and scorns Lanyon's disagreement with "what he called my scientific heresies". (6 [6: Quotation provides evidence. ]) This again raises our interest in what Jekyll is up to, because his attitudes toward Lanyon are wildly contradictory. (7 [7: Comment. ])
Up to this point in the novel, Stevenson has made me like and trust Dr Lanyon. He is possibly a bit stuffy (but only possibly - can Jekyll's judgement be trusted?), but his heart is in the right place. In Chapter 6 (Remarkable Incident of Dr Lanyon), however, Stevenson creates a shocking change in Lanyon. When Utterson visits him, he finds a man "with his death warrant written legibly on his face". As a reader, I (8 [8: Use of "me" and "I" shows evidence of personal response, which the third bullet point asks for. ]) am concerned to find out why. But even though there are hints of a dreadful confrontation between him and Jekyll, a horrific mystery hangs over the cause. The previously cheerful scientist and doctor lives in dread, feels he will soon die, and refuses to talk to Utterson about their former friend, Jekyll. His words "if you cannot keep clear of this accursed topic, then in God's name, go" show the author's skill (9 [9: Comments directly on how Stevenson makes you respond to Lanyon, which the third bullet point asks for. ]) in making the reader fascinated by the mystery.
Lanyon is important to the novel (10 [10: Focuses clearly on the fourth bullet point - the examiner can easily follow the structure of your essay. ]) because of the dramatic mystery surrounding what he has seen. It excites the reader and draws us in. He is also important because, as a scientist and doctor, his disagreement with Jekyll's "wrong in the head" (11 [11: Brief quotation. ]) ideas shows us that Jekyll is thinking and working outside of normal science. Jekyll is "breaking the rules", an important theme in the novel which would be far less apparent without the character of Lanyon. (12 [12: Refers to a theme of the novel. ]) In the penultimate chapter, Lanyon's account of what he has witnessed raises the ending of the novel to a fever pitch of horror. Finally, in Lanyon's terrified language, we learn that Hyde is Jekyll and that Lanyon witnessed the transformation - this is why he is important in Stevenson's novel. (13 [13: Focused conclusion returns us to the title. ])