What is Stevenson’s message about the dual nature of the human personality in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?

Throughout the novella, Robert Louis Stevenson gives the readers various different messages about the dual nature of the human personality, from the evil hidden beneath the goodness of man to the true inner id we all possess. To me, the basic message is that we are all evolved from primitive ‘ape-like’ creatures and the book metaphorically explores what would happen if we went back on the evolution timeline. This theme of duality or dichotomy permeates right through to the end of the novella. Stevenson makes clear the evil of Hyde by describing him as the morally deformed, wild and animalistic form that is within Jekyll, a respectable doctor. Stevenson portrays this evil side of Jekyll as a reversion of human nature to an ape-like creature and is saying that everybody is made up of good and evil, even the respectable classes.

In chapter 1, Mr Enfield tells us the story of the attacks and describes the characteristics of Hyde: ‘It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut’ and ‘he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point’. The use of the word ‘Juggernaut’ gives Hyde a barbaric and un-Christian character. Barbaric rituals and violence in Victorian society were feared, and the Krishna ‘Juggernaut’ links Hyde to these Indian practices. When Enfield observes the seeming deformity of Hyde, it is symbolic of Hyde being morally deformed like the Devil to whom he is also compared. All of these descriptions reinforce that Hyde is a pure form of evil, which is highlighted by him having no motive and using ‘ape-like’ fury to ‘trample’ and ‘shatter’ his victims. Both of these verbs are very forceful and give a very vivid picture of the attack, strengthening the image of the evil side of man. Such verbs as ‘hit’ or ‘knock’ could also have been used, but they are less forceful in describing the attack.

When Jekyll transforms into Hyde after a long period of time, Hyde becomes more muscular and physically larger to symbolise the growth of his evil - at first the evil within Jekyll was small and he ‘trampled’ a little girl, but now his evil has grown and he commits the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. This attack is the turning point of the novella and the storyline becomes much more serious. The evil within Hyde is so powerful that it leads to a gruesome assault which causes a watching maid to faint. On some film versions of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Sir Danvers Carew is often replaced with a woman to emphasise the victim’s vulnerability and innocence, similar to the ‘little girl’ in the first chapter:

‘All of a sudden Hyde "broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on like a madman". Then as if he had no second thought “Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth’.

The evilness of Hyde is emphasised by the innocence of the old man and the attack being motiveless.

Such violent words as “great flame” and “clubbed” stress Stevenson’s message about the evil hidden beneath the goodness of man and make the two sides of man sound very dissimilar by using these extreme words. In contrast, Dr Jekyll has been an entertaining host to his friends and has done a lot respectable charity work:

‘He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar guest and entertainer; whilst he had always been known for his charities’.

This shows the good side of Jekyll through the charity work he does and he is respectable of Victorian society.

However, Stevenson’s message about the dual nature of the human personality in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde may be interpreted in a different way. Some people might think that mankind is not made up of good and evil, but is one primitive creature, which has been transformed into a civilised being due to the nature of the society that they live in. Hence, when Mr Hyde is taken out of this civilised community the need to