I was born [writes Jekyll] to a wealthy family and, after a good education, I gained the respect of all who knew me. I seemed to be guaranteed an honorable and distinguished future. If I had any single, serious flaw, it was that I was perhaps inclined to be a bit too spirited. Other people admired my light-hearted good nature, but personally, I was annoyed by it. I preferred to present an unchanging seriousness to the public. For that reason, I willfully decided to conceal all my pleasures. Now, years later, I realize that my life has been an admirable one, but it has certainly been a fraudulent one. No one but me knows my true nature. All these years, the public has seen only a veneer of my real self. No one could guess what degrading things I have done secretly, things which I must say in all honesty, I enjoyed very much. And yet I do not consider myself a hypocrite, for man has a dual nature. The professional, respectable side of my character is as much a part of me as is the side that has enjoyed to the fullest my secret “irregularities.”
Because I knew, first-hand, about my own — and man’s — dual nature, my medical studies began to increasingly focus on the origins and dimensions of this phenomenon of duality. This investigation, of course, bordered on the mystical and the transcendental, but only these disciplines could help me better understand myself and the duality of all human beings.
What I hoped to do, eventually, was to separate these two sides of a person’s character. I reasoned with myself that if I could do this, then I could eradicate the unhappiness that exists in the “darker self,” the self that so often makes life seem unbearable. I saw my quest as humanistic, for if I achieved my goal, man might walk more securely “on the upward path” and no longer be exposed to the disgrace of evil.
To me, the curse of mankind seemed to be that man should have two separate natures within himself, forces which were continually struggling with one another. Thus, I began to speculate that our so-called “solid” body might not be so solid, after all. If one could find the physical or psychic membrane that bound our duality, it would be possible to sever it. But because I attempted to rid man of “the bad seed” that resides in him, I find now to my sorrow that such a task is impossible. My discovery remains incomplete. I feel now that man is doomed to lead a life which will always be a life of burden.
However, I tell myself, I tried to remove that burden, and I was able to discover a drug that could extract the “lower elements” of myself. Moreover, I was able to look upon this “self” and see that it, while ignoble, was a part of myself, therefore “natural.”
I want you to know that I did nothing rashly. I attempted my experiment only after much consideration, for I knew that I was risking death by using so potent a drug as I had devised. But it was my extreme scientific curiosity that tempted me to try and reach into the unknown and shatter the theory that man was indivisible. I was sure that human beings had at least two distinct entities — a good self and an evil self. My task was to use my body for my experiment and try to extract my “evil” self.
I well remember the night I took the potion. I had bought a large quantity of a particular salt that I knew would be the key catalyst; I mixed it with the other ingredients and watched them boil and smoke and then, summoning up all the courage I had, I drank the potion. It began working almost immediately: A grinding tore at my bones, I was racked with deadly nausea, and when my mind cleared, I felt strangely younger, lighter, and happier. I felt newborn, and, above all, absolutely free! I had no conscience. I was evil and wicked with no constraints.
I stretched my hands out in joy and was suddenly aware that not only had I changed inwardly, but that I had changed physically. I had become stunted. Desperately, I sought a mirror and dashed from the laboratory, ran across the courtyard and into my bedroom, where there was a mirror. There, for the first time, I saw my evil side, Edward Hyde, sickly and deformed, despite the fact that I seemingly felt younger and happier. I realized, of course, that my “professional” self had been rigorously trained. This “side” of myself which I now saw had been kept secret for many, many years in the dark cellar of my soul. No wonder it looked sickly and less developed. Studying Hyde’s face in the mirror, I was horrified to recall the aura of “goodness” that continually emanated from Jekyll’s face, whereas evil positively colored the entire countenance of Edward Hyde. Yet I was not entirely repelled by what I saw, for this was me, or at least a part of me. What I saw in the mirror seemed natural and human.
I did not linger at the mirror. I had to complete my experiment. Therefore, I rushed to my laboratory, prepared the potion again, and regained the self known to the world as Henry Jekyll, a dual-natured man, wholly unlike the one-dimensional, wholly evil man whom I had been only moments earlier. It occurred to me then that the evil within me was, or might be, stronger than the good, but I dismissed the thought. After all, my potion was neutral. Had I wished to release my pure, wholly saint-like qualities, I could have. But I chose, instead, to extract the evil side of my nature and I had, in the process, given birth to the wholly evil Edward Hyde.
My discovery, though, was dangerous because now, I was growing old. I liked feeling young and free. Thus, I was increasingly tempted to drink the potion and drop the dull body of the aging Dr. Jekyll and become, instead, the lithe, young Edward Hyde. In fact, I liked Hyde so much that I furnished a house and hired a discreet but unscrupulous housekeeper for him. Then I announced to my servants that Mr. Hyde was to have free liberty and power in my house. It was a queer, perverse sort of joy to call at my own home in the body of Hyde and watch the reactions of the servants. My next task was to make Hyde my beneficiary in case anything should happen, accidentally, to Jekyll during one of the experiments.
Hyde was a rare luxury. Other men had to hire professional villains to carry out their crimes and also risk a bad conscience afterward, in addition to blackmail. I was safe. Edward Hyde could enjoy all my wicked pleasures and execute all of my angry, vengeful, irrational wishes — and he would be free from shame, for he was free from conscience. He was truly evil. I, Jekyll, however, did have a sense of objectivity, and often I was awed at the utter depravity of Hyde. Yet even if I was aghast at Hyde’s sensual debauchery, his acts were beyond all “natural” laws, as was I. Thus, my conscience relaxed. It was Hyde, not I, who was guilty. Jekyll’s good qualities remained fresh and intact each morning after Hyde had spent an entire night in drunken, bestial orgies of lust and violence. And then, finally, my own conscience — that is, Jekyll’s — did not merely “relax”; it slept.
I will not go into the details of Hyde’s depravity, except to mention that one night he accidentally ran headlong into a child, and the mishap drew a crowd. Coincidentally, Utterson, among the people who gathered was a kinsman of yours. For the first time, I feared for my life, and in order to pacify the child’s family, I had no alternative but to open the door to the dissecting room, go inside, and write a check on Jekyll’s account. Later, I prudently set up a separate checking account for Hyde and had him use a backhand script when necessary. I thought that I had taken sufficient precautions to furnish safety for Hyde, but some two months before Sir Danvers Carew was murdered, a terrifying thing occurred. I awoke and realized that I was not Jekyll. I thought that I had gone to bed in my own body in my own room, but I could not be sure, for I realized that I had awakened in the small, misshapen body of Hyde.
I rushed to the mirror in absolute terror. It was Hyde whom I saw. Somehow, during the night, my body chemistry had reversed itself, and the evil Hyde had taken possession of me. I had no alternative but to dash through the courtyard and the corridors and see one of my servants look in wonder at Hyde’s appearance in my house at such an early hour.
Ten minutes later, I was Jekyll again. I made a pretense of eating breakfast, but I was not hungry. I feared that I was losing the power to choose when I wished to change myself into Hyde. Hyde was now making that decision. Accordingly, it became necessary for me to double, then triple, the dosage of the drug in order to keep Hyde in check. And not knowing what side effects the drug might have, I knew that I was risking death. But I had no choice. I had to control Hyde. My “better” self was losing not only the power to return to its former self, but I realized that I, Jekyll, was losing the will to do so. Soon I was faced with a dilemma. Which person did I want to be ? The free, conscience-less Hyde? Or the “good,” suppressed Doctor Jekyll? If I remained Jekyll forever, I could never more enjoy the depravities that Hyde gorged himself on. I would be, once more, a good man, but I would be a sterile shell of a man, constantly fighting the fires of temptation because I had tasted — and reveled in — sin, with no remorse or shame.
Rationally, I chose to remain Jekyll, and I said farewell, I thought, to the secret pleasures of the free soul, Edward Hyde. But my decision wasn’t one of total commitment. I didn’t do away with Hyde’s apartment or his clothes — despite the fact that for two months, I led an exemplary life. Then, without warning one day, I was tortured with throbbing knots of lust and depravity. Hyde was struggling to be released. And in a moment of weakness, I gave him his freedom. I drank the potion and once more, Edward Hyde was freed. He had been caged for so long that he came out roaring, and one of his first acts was to savagely murder Sir Danvers Carew.
When I was able to transform myself once more into Jekyll, I broke Hyde’s key to the dissecting room and stamped it under my heel. I was finished with Hyde. Yet one day while I was in Regent’s Park enjoying the sun, I began to feel my body change of its own will. I became Hyde. The only solution was to flee to a hotel and write a letter to Lanyon and one to Poole in order to obtain the ingredients for the potion so that I could become Jekyll once more.
I was able to accomplish this, but Lanyon of course was horrified to see Hyde change into the body of Jekyll before his eyes. Yet his horror did not match my own horror later, for Hyde increasingly began to take possession of me. If I slept or dozed, I awoke as Hyde and I was doomed. I was no longer able to control Hyde.
Today, Hyde still controls me. And he despises me. He fears the gallows and so he must dash back into Jekyll’s body for safety, but he does so resentfully, and he takes out his raging hate by scribbling blasphemies in the margins of my books. He even destroyed the portrait of my father. But how can I kill Hyde? He loves his freedom so. I no longer have the old powders for the potion. Poole has been unable to obtain any that are effective. Whatever I used originally must have had an unknown impurity that allowed me to release Hyde. Thus, I now must end my narrative — as Jekyll. Yet if while writing this, Hyde surfaces, he will tear it to pieces. Hopefully, I can finish and save it for you, Utterson, so that you can begin to understand my strange history. Will Hyde die on the gallows? I no longer have the power to control or foresee either my own destiny or Hyde’s. This is truly my hour of death!
In Chapter 8, Henry Jekyll referred to his document which constitutes the entirety of Chapter 10 as “the confession of your unworthy and unhappy friend — Henry Jekyll,” yet this final Chapter refers to the
document as a “full statement.” This statement, then, gives us an account of Dr. Jekyll’s experiments and along with the preceding Chapter, it constitutes what the average person considers as the entire Jekyll/Hyde story.
In giving us his background, Jekyll constantly emphasizes the excellence of his background which commands the respect of all; his honorable conduct is exemplary to the world, when contrasted with the “blazon irregularities” which he hid with a morbid sense of shame. Thus, early in Jekyll’s life, he recognized a “profound duplicity of life so profound a double dealer.” He also recognized early “that man is not truly one, but truly two,” and then he acknowledged “the thorough and primitive duality of man.” Also, very early, he saw the need to hide the shameful part of himself from the world, and the necessity to try and separate the two selves.
Note here that many critics are not content to interpret the novel as a conflict between good (Jekyll) and evil (Hyde), but, instead, the novel points out, according to them, that evil (represented by Hyde) is only a small portion of man, a portion represented by Hyde’s diminutive and dwarfish size. Certainly, Dr. Jekyll implies this when he theorizes that “man will be ultimately known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous, and independent denizens” — that is, evil and good and many other qualities will ultimately be found to make up the entire man. However, Jekyll and his experiments can only prove at the present moment that man’s existence has two parts — one good and one evil. Jekyll’s experiment, which Lanyon found so horrifying, was an attempt to separate the two components, and when he discovered the correct formula and drank it, Jekyll was approaching a robust fifty years of age; yet after his transformation into Edward Hyde, he felt younger, lighter, and more sensual. He knew from the beginning that he was “tenfold more wicked [and] evil.”
As often noted in the above commentaries, after the transformation to Hyde, Jekyll “had lost in stature.” He was much smaller as “the evil side of [his] nature . . . was less robust and less developed than the good.” This observation obviously contradicts the critics who see Jekyll/Hyde as being 1/2 good and 1/2 evil. Hyde, therefore, as the evil part of man, is less than the total man, but he is nevertheless an important part of the total man. This is represented in the scene when Hyde looks in the mirror and sees himself as “natural and human”: He was “conscious of no repugnance, rather a leap of welcome.” This is, of course, because Jekyll sees Hyde as a part of himself. And yet, from Chapter 1 onward, everyone who encounters Hyde is utterly horrified and repulsed by his pure evil. Ultimately, Jekyll himself will come to look upon Hyde as his “errant son” who must be punished.
As Hyde, then, all sorts of pleasures were indulged in. It is never mentioned what the exact nature of all the secret, depraved, disreputable acts was, but most people (perhaps because of the movie versions of this novel) consider these “vulgar” acts to have something to do with sex. In the minds of the late Victorians (late nineteenth century), evil and sex were synonymous, and certainly to such a highly respectable and eminent man as Dr. Jekyll, it would have been extremely disgraceful if he were to have been discovered in some sort of illicit sex. Of course, we know that, as Hyde, he did murder Sir Danvers without provocation, but no other crimes were ever attributed to him; after the murder, however, all sorts of tales surfaced concerning his disreputable life and his vile actions. Therefore, since he was never charged with any other specific crime, most readers do assume that his vileness, vulgarity, and villainy were associated with sexual matters — matters which a dignified and respectable scientist could not be associated with, but activities which he, as Jekyll, had pursued in his early youth and now could once more enjoy in the person of Hyde, while the respectable Jekyll remained perfectly safe from detection.
Even after the murder of Sir Danvers, and Jekyll vows to give up the “liberty, the comparative youth, the light step, leaping impulses, and secret pleasures that I had enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde,” the extreme enjoyment he receives as Hyde is ultimately why Jekyll cannot put Hyde aside. Jekyll thoroughly enjoys, vicariously, the multifarious, decadent activities performed by his double.
Thus, Jekyll’s enjoyment of Hyde’s activities allows Hyde to grow in stature, and of the two men, Hyde is slowly gaining the ascendancy over Jekyll. The mere fact that Jekyll never gave up the house in Soho (rented for Hyde) nor destroyed Hyde’s clothes is proof to us that the vow he made to Utterson in Chapter 5, after the murder of Sir Danvers (“I swear to God I will never set eyes on him again. I bind my honor to you that I am done with him”), was indeed a hypocritical or empty vow. Even though Jekyll did try for two months to lead a “life of such severity,” the Hyde in Jekyll was constantly struggling for release. Repressed for so long, when Hyde emerged, he “came out roaring.” Jekyll now has to contend with his “lust of evil,” with the “damned horrors of the evenings,” and with”the ugly face of iniquity” which stared into his soul. Hyde is not to be denied because, secretly, Jekyll still desires his presence and his activities. But he also knows that if he lets “Hyde peep out an instant . . . the hands of all men would be raised to take and slay him.” Therefore, Hyde is trapped by his own evil ways and is confined to the laboratory.
However, when Jekyll is sitting peacefully one day in Regent’s Park, in broad daylight, he feels all of the symptoms of Hyde emerging without the aid of the chemical potion. Hyde appears because Jekyll, who has so long tried to deny and suppress him, subconsciously desires that he appear again. But the appearance must be concealed, and so Jekyll/Hyde — by now, it is difficult to separate the two — conceive of a plan to get their revenge on Dr. Lanyon, who has so often ridiculed Dr. Jekyll and has refused to even contemplate the possibility of an evil side of his nature existing. Thus, the elaborate scheme involving Lanyon — the letter written by Hyde, but in Jekyll’s handwriting — allows Jekyll/Hyde to achieve their revenge against Dr. Lanyon.
From this point on, until Utterson and Poole break down the door, Jekyll/Hyde have an even stranger relationship with each other. Jekyll hates Hyde for the ascendancy that Hyde has over him, and Hyde hates Jekyll both because of Jekyll’s hatred, but more importantly because Hyde knows that Jekyll can destroy him (Hyde) by committing suicide as Jekyll. The final irony is that Jekyll is the one who commits suicide (the evil Hyde, of course, would never do this), but during the act of Jekyll’s dying, Hyde regains the ascendancy so that Utterson and Poole find not the body of Jekyll, but that of Hyde.