Student Response to Jekyll and Hyde

I found “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson an interesting read, especially from the view of our “Victorian Bodies” concept.  In an essay by Anne Stiles, she brings up the notion that Stevenson’s novella is “enigmatic” (880), leaving the occurrences open for the readers to interpret. Although Stevenson’s novella has elements of multiple personality disorder, MPD, Stiles brings in the concept of the dual brain theory, which was popular in the Victorian time.  The notion of the dual brain is an interesting concept, as it relates to human nature and the dual personalities that are found within everyone as Jekyll states,  “[M]an is not truly one, but truly two,” (Stevenson 56), showing that human nature has two split personalities within itself. In forming this concept of two different personalities, one can see how every being has a Jekyll side, good, and a Hyde side, evil;  yet people are able to not have a full division of these two sides due to control over their body and mind. The duality of the brain according to this time period related the left side with good, Jekyll, “masculinity, whiteness, logic, intelligence, humanness”,  and the right side with evil, Hyde, “ femininity, racial indeterminacy, madness, emotion, and animality.” (Stiles 884-885). As the novella progresses, it begins to portray the lack of control over the brain and body, “Yes, I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde. How was this to be explained?” (Stevenson 62), as Jekyll starts experiencing less and less control. The concept of duality with the brain shows duality of the body as well in the characters physical appearances, as Jekyll is “a large, well-made, smooth faced, mark of capacity and kindness.”(Stevenson 22) and Hyde is “the picture of disquietude.” (Stevenson 19) who is “pale and dwarfish, impression of deformity, displeasing smile-disgust, loathing and fear regarded towards him.” (Stevenson 19). The two different characters not only differ in physical appearance, but also with physical attributes such as writing, as Jekyll writes with his right hand (left brain dominated) and Hyde with his left (right brain dominated), as Victorians believed a person with left dominant traits meant a stronger right hemisphere, resulting in an evil nature (Stiles 887). The two characters differ in writing styles, and even in voice and movement,  “the steps fell lightly and oddly, it was different indeed from the heavy creaking tread of Henry Jekyll.” (Stevenson 44). This novella shows that the control that most possess over the brain and body is an unknown quantity, as much of the brain is a mystery still today. The unknowns of the brain allows the ever pressing, eerie thought that though we are in control of our brains right now, that could change in the blink of an eye.

Work Cited

Stevenson, Robert. Dr jekyll & Mr Hyde: and Other Strange Tales. England: London, 2015.           Print.

Stiles, Anne. “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain.” SEL: Studies in English Literature 46.4 (2006): 879-900. Project Muse. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.

3 thoughts on “Student Response to Jekyll and Hyde

  1. This is an interesting analysis of Victorian ideas regarding the dual brain theory and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You present in this analysis that Hyde represents the “evil” aspect of humankind. While I partially agree with you, I also believe that Hyde represents far more than simple evil. Hyde seems to also be a vessel in which Jekyll can carry out deviant behaviour such as violence and immorality. Behaviours which, by the standards of Victorian society are shameful. While Hyde may be evil, he also seems to be a representation many behaviours in which Jekyll is not allowed to engage as an upstanding Victorian gentleman.

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  2. This is an interesting analysis of Victorian ideas regarding the dual brain theory and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You present in this analysis that Hyde represents the “evil” aspect of humankind. While I partially agree with you, I also believe that Hyde represents far more than simple evil. Hyde seems to also be a vessel in which Jekyll can carry out deviant behaviour such as violence and immorality. Behaviours which, by the standards of Victorian society are shameful. While Hyde may be evil, he also seems to be a representation many behaviours in which Jekyll is not allowed to engage as an upstanding Victorian gentleman.

    I may have posted this twice because I’m not sure it went through the first time.

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  3. Your discussion of the dual brain theory and Victorian science in regards to Jekyll and Hyde is intriguing, and I particularly like your point involving the anxiety to gain control over one’s body and mind. This idea consumed the interests of Victorian scientists since they attempted to discover ways in which garnering control was possible. One area of thought involved eliminating the senses from scientific study since some considered senses to be unreliable sources of information. Marey, as we discussed in class, developed various mechanical instruments to measure internal and external bodily movements or functions without the reliance on the senses. Other scientists viewed the interpreter or the mind as the main problem, not the sense themselves.

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