Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Robert Louis Stevensons novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has been called a “perpetual masterpiece of psychological terror that sprang from the deepest crevices of Stevenson’s own subconscious -- a nightmare from which his wife awakened him” (Lombardi). The phrase Jekyll and Hyde is synonymous with mans internal war between good and evil (Auclair). Stevensons story of the kindly scientist who drinks a potion that transforms him into a stunted, evil version of himself is a story of horror, which preceded modern psychology.


Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory states that an individual’s personality is divided into three different parts the id, ego, and superego. The id consists of unethical, irrational, driving instincts for sexual gratification, aggression, and general physical and sensual pleasure. The superego represents the outer expectations forced on the personality by society and culture. The ego acts as the mediator between the impulses of the id and the superego. The ego allows the personality to cope with the inner and outer demands of its existence. The balance of these three parts determines a person’s personality (Stevenson 1). Freud’s theory explains that humans can be ruled by their hidden impulses and passions instead of their rational thoughts. The imbalance of the id, ego, and superego is reflected in the double life of Henry Jekyll.


In the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll discovers a way to separate his benevolent and malicious sides into two different individuals. While Henry Jekyll is an honest, respectable doctor Mr. Hyde is a younger but deformed man who indulges in filthy pleasures. Jekyll began experimenting in order to live a carefree lifestyle so he could fulfill his internal lusts and desires as Mr. Hyde without fear of tainting his own good name. Dr. Jekyll believes “…that man is not truly one, but two” and because of this he is able to live out his evil passions while maintaining his social stature (Stevenson 7).


Hyde’s aggressive instincts that caused him to trample a little girl and murder Sir Danvers Carew represent the id. Gradually, Hyde begins to dominate Jekyll to the point where he cannot control his transformations, and soon Jekyll feels guilty and responsible for Hyde’s actions. Jekyll represents the superego or conscious that causes guilt to enforce right and wrong. When Dr. Jekyll’s experiments fail, he is unable to separate the two different personalities. Since the ego’s function is to act as a mediator between the id and the superego its function is eliminated when Dr. Jekyll is incapable of controlling his transformations. If the ego does not exist, there is no separation between the id and the superego (Dury).


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In some cases in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the id and the superego display the same characteristics. Freud once stated, “the normal man is not only far more immoral that he believes but also far more moral than he knows,” which implies that the unconscious id has its own principles, and therefore is not separate from one’s concious (Khan). There are many instances where Jekyll’s id does not escape his superego. Hyde shows traces of his conscious when he pays the family of the trampled girl for any damages he may have cause. His reaction to his violent behavior was characteristic of a Victorian gentleman. Hyde stated, “No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene… name your figure” (Stevenson 10). He shows respect for others in society and pays off the girl’s family politely, which is uncharacteristic of a person that is controlled by the instincts of the id. Dr Jekyll displays characteristics of the id as he finds pleasure in the evil deeds of Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll stated, about his transformation,


I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. (Stevenson 8).


Dr. Jekyll has morals but he continues to allow Hyde, an individual lacking in moral and social skills, to carry out destructive acts. As Jekyll tries to control his id, the superego fails to counteract its desires and he cannot escape his self- destruction (Khan). In his final confession, Jekyll states, “My devil had long been cages, he came out roaring” (Stevenson ). In the double life of Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the id shows power over human personality. Dr. Jekyll cannot live his life resisting the unconscious desires of Hyde as well as his unacceptable behavior and evil nature. The more he wants to contain Hyde the more powerful Hyde becomes and the more he fights to emerge. Because Jekyll’s superego failed he cannot escape himself.


The personalities of Dr. Jekyll are dominated by the instincts of the id, which is always on the quest for pleasure and gratification of their needs. The id has a perception of its own, which controls the sinful behavior and feelings of Dr. Jekyll. The id can overcome the conscious thoughts and challenges the moral principles of the superego (Stevenson). In the personalities of Dr. Jekyll the ego is destroyed and cannot mediate between the id and the superego. Without the ego the concept of reality is lost and the id and superego are in direct conflict. (Stevenson). This conflict causes Dr. Jekyll to succumb to urges that leads to the destruction of his life; he can no longer control his transformations or Hyde’s actions. Instead he must surrender to the fact that Hyde is more powerful than he originally intended. Many individuals do not acknowledge signs of the id, but the id demands immediate satisfaction regardless of the circumstances and possible effects.


The personalities of the Dr. Jekyll reflect the unconscious desires and the continuous internal conflict between the id, ego, and superego. The three divisions of the mind are constantly trying to keep each other in check, for example one will neutralize its influence on behavior. Even though the superego resists the impulses of the id, it cannot hold back its demands for enjoyment. The id neutralizes and commands an individual to find out the hidden desires of the mind (Stevenson). The actions of Jekyll represent the deepest, darkest secrets of unconscious thought and how they manipulate the human mind. Henry Jekyll believes that he can create another human being to carry out his wicked urges.


The destruction of the ego affects a person’s ability to balance reason and passion. The dominance of passion over moral and social norms causes the downfall of Dr. Jekyll. Without a working conscience individuals cannot make their own decisions because they are driven by pure impulse. Humans receive more gratification from making a positive impact on society rather than living out desires that come from unconscious thought. Henry Jekyll strives to experience all the pleasures in life, but the with absence of genuine emotion and good intentions.





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