The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is possibly my favourite novella, and I only made this discovery on Monday night, having realised, in something of a panic, that I was due to discuss this novella in relation to Freudian psychoanalysis, the following morning, ten am sharp. So, I did what all good students do: camped out on my bed, with a big pile of pillows, and read all eighty-two pages, feverishly, and with fear of my seminar leader deep in my heart. It took about two hours.
Anyway, I finished the novella, and came to the conclusion that I had rather enjoyed it. In fact, I’d enjoyed it so much that I thought I might well read it again, just for fun. The best element though, in my opinion, is the protagonist’s ability to be himself, and yet somebody entirely different, at the same time. In some ways, isn’t this what we’d all like to be able to do? I certainly would.
Dr. Jekyll however becomes a fantastical opposite of what he is in reality; a blood thirsty monster, subject to his own innate impulses. It can be said however that the Jekyll that is sane, and balanced, is not the true self that exists within him; instead, it is possible that he is in fact the monstrous character of Hyde, by way of the fact that he finds these impulses within what is essentially his soul, however I use this phrase with some apathy.
This can be related to the Freudian idea of the id, ego and superego, however personally, I’m not a devout follower of this school of criticism. In fairness to the wonderful Dr. Freud though, he might have managed to save us if he’d managed to keep his appointment with Hitler. His neuroses would have allowed the man a significant case study and one heck of a field day.
In a way, the idea of having multiple personalities stored inside you is completely terrifying. There is perhaps nothing so disconcerting as this idea, because according to this hypothesis, nobody is really aware of their limits, or how far they could possibly go. This is true of life however; people are never quite aware of what they can do until they choose to push the boat out and find out. People sometimes overstep themselves, and forget their limits; they do things that damage them. However the idea that we have innumerable possibilities before us is both liberating and horrifying because we can’t ever know what we could do.
Hyde however, is far less enigmatic; he is evidently capable of unrestrained evil, murder and deception. An interesting idea however is what would happen if we could all release ourselves into this world of unmitigated impulse. This idea is reflecting, in two of my favourite texts, of course; (can you guess what they are?) The Wasteland and The Picture of Dorian Grey . The latter is probably the best example however; excess, temptation, and the abandonment of restraint all seem to make rather delectable reading, at least to those who adore decadence and anarchy, like myself.
If you’re in the mood for some light horror, and an evening’s entertainment, then this is the novella for you. Especially if psychodrama tickles your taste buds.