December 15, 2020

#08-023: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

1895 double exposure of Jekyll and Hyde
Jekyll transforms into Hyde

Note: The story of Jekyll and Hyde has gripped the public since its first publication around a century-and-a-half ago. Jekyll's theory that one man could be capable of great evil and great good has given many people food for thought.

Get Ready: Do you think you could give up your life to save another person? Do you think you could kill someone (for the wrong reasons)?

Few stories have plumbed the depths of human psychology like Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

It is told from the point-of-view of a lawyer named Utterson, who is disturbed when one of his clients, the respectable Dr. Henry Jekyll, leaves his estate to the disreputable Edward Hyde. The lawyer believes that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll, and will eventually murder him.

Hyde kills a kind old man, and Jekyll covers for him. Another long-time friend of Jekyll's, Dr. Lanyon, dies around this time, and leaves a letter for Utterson, not to be opened until after Jekyll's death. Utterson intuits that this has something to do with Hyde, but cannot imagine what.

One day Utterson and a friend see Jekyll in his laboratory window, grimacing as though he were in horror or pain. Jekyll suddenly closes the window and withdraws into the house, and the two men walk on.

Not long afterward Utterson is visited by Jekyll's manservant, Poole, who reports that the doctor has locked himself in his lab and sent Poole out on errands to try to buy a strange drug. Poole believes that Jekyll is dead, and that Hyde is occupying his laboratory.

Utterson and Poole go to the house and break into the lab with an ax. Entering, they discover Hyde, who has drunk poison just as they broke in. He is dead.

They cannot find Jekyll's body--until Utterson reads the letter Dr. Lanyon had left. It says Lanyon had seen "Hyde" take a drug and transform into Jekyll before his eyes! The shock of this caused Lanyon's death.

Enclosed is Jekyll's confession: he had been living a double life, as genteel Dr. Jekyll and evil Mr. Hyde, freed from Jekyll's control through the use of a drug. This proved Jekyll's theory that all people have two personalities, capable of the highest and the lowest acts of humanity. So complete was the contrast that the freeing of Hyde had even caused him to look different!

One morning Jekyll awoke to discover that Hyde had completely taken over his personality; no drug could reverse the lust to do evil. At last, with his strength and his chemicals exhausted, Jekyll, as Hyde, killed himself in despair.

Incidentally, Stevenson himself said the doctor's name is pronounced JEE-kul, not JECK-ul, as most of us pronounce it. Thus, if you reverse the order of the names, "Hyde and JEE-kul" suggests "hide and seek"--an apt description of Hyde's behavior!


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. blackmailing
  2. disreputable
  3. errands
  4. genteel
  5. grimacing
  6. intuits
  7. lust
  8. plumbed
  9. point-of-view
  10. respectable

  1. contorting one's face
  2. examined closely to understand
  3. of good social standing
  4. intense appetite
  5. refined; civilized
  6. extorting money
  7. short trips for a specific purpose
  8. knows by insight
  9. of bad reputation
  10. the position of a story's narrator

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 15, 2020

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. f; 2. i; 3. g; 4. e; 5. a; 6. h; 7. d; 8. b; 9. j; 10. c