“I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.”
We all have a dual nature within. A more animalistic, instinctive, ferocious, irrational part; gift of our ancestors, of our evolution. It is a trained part, more docile, rational, civilized; skill of progress and self-proclaimed social-animal.
Usually the two parties coexist peacefully, and depending on the needs one or the other prevails. Always moderate. Always interconnected.
It happens sometimes, however, that due to the mysterious effects of our human chemistry, of occasions, of chance, one of the two comes to the surface more than the other. Overpoweringly it looks out and invades the other without any limitation.
If what we call “the good side” takes control, we meet those upright people, dedicated to volunteering, martyrdom, sacrifice.
If it is the “bad side” that prevails, here we are dealing with sociopaths, serial killers, violent ones.
“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”
But is it really that simple?
Is the good / bad distinction really that clear?
And does a good action make a person a good one?
And a bad act, does it inevitably make that individual evil?
I disagree. I think that even in the kindest of human beings there is an ounce of badness and that even in the most dangerous of villains, there is a hint of goodness.
Isolate the brutal part, extinguish it. An exciting idea. But required? We all agree that violence is never the answer to any question or problem, but without a little bit of “beast”, wouldn’t we be fated to extinction?
And vice versa, without love for each other, compassion, would we be intended to extinguish ourselves like the Dinosaurs?
Equilibrium is the key.
Robert Luis Stevenson, wrote in my opinion, one of the most wonderful works on this subject. The dualism of the main characters is so intense, almost scientific, that it is both exciting and aseptic at the same time. An oxymoron in prose. The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is unquestionably a masterpiece of the horror genre, cared for in the smallest detail, qualified by a dynamic exposure, but at the same time capable of attracting the reader to itself. The whole story is infused with an atmosphere full of anxiety and agitation.
“Some day…after I am dead, you may perhaps come to learn the right and wrong of this. I cannot tell you.”
The name Jekyll highlights the phrase I Kill (je is the French word for I) and describes the effort that the doctor makes to isolate his malignant disposition; Hyde instead immediately makes us think of hide, hidden. The evil part is hidden, it cannot, it must not be shown to the rest of society. It is repressed and perhaps that is why it becomes so powerful once released. Stevenson has created a character in constant conflict with himself, ready to break the chains of correctness that have always kept him tied to a lifestyle that is measured and inadequate to give true satisfaction to his deepest aspirations.
This novel opens up a strong debate even after more than a hundred years. The author’s reflections on the plurality of man are still current.
Jekyll knows what atrocious suffering Hyde is causing and yet he can’t blame him at all, he does not feel guilty.
This is, in my opinion, the best part of the book, which differs a lot with all the television, film and theatrical versions that have made it, in which the Doctor at one point tries to quell the dark side, he is ashamed of it, he fights it.
In the original story there is much more internal conflict, because after all Hyde is Jekyll. It’s the part that has held off for years. It is none other than him. And Jekyll knows it.
He also knows that the only way to stop him is to put an end to his own existence, and the final aura of mystery about the choice is absolutely brilliant.
“I have been made to learn that the doom and burden of our life is bound forever on man’s shoulders; and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful pressure.”
Equilibrium is the key.
But how do we find it? Polite behaviors and necessary limitations are imposed on us. At the same time, we are asked to be strong, independent.
Good and bad MUST coexist. But how?
I believe this is the question that arises during the reading of the novel, but not only that, I think it is the question that arises throughout life.
When we are faced with an important choice, when instinct tells us to do one way and rationality pushes us in the opposite direction.
We are Dr Jekyll and we are Mr Hyde (without the murders, hopefully!). We like being both, maybe it even consoles us.
But it is a dualism that is not accepted. Society needs precise labels. It’s no good that a man can be a banker by day and a drag queen by night. It is not acceptable for a woman to be an elementary teacher and a BDSM addict.
Cannot be done.
Why do we have to choose whether to be Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?
Why not to find the right balance?
Wouldn’t that be the only real way not to go crazy?
I don’t know. But I think everyone has to read this novel to realize how much of that hidden part they really want to get out.