Duality in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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The search for human perfection has been a subject for a vast number of philosophical studies as well as the works of fiction. As a product of nature, humans still retain certain instincts and follow them to survive. At the same time, humans have also gradually become conscious beings, rejecting certain instinct in favor of human civilization. Such attempts, however, are far from perfection as people can give up to natural instincts and commit some of the most outrageous crimes such as robbery, rape, or murder. In his 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson demonstrates human imperfection that the society is subject to, as well as that any attempts to perfect both human nature and civilization can lead to fatal consequences.

The Duality that Cannot Be Overcame

Despite the duality of human nature being the central theme of Stevenson’s novella, it becomes evident only at the end of the story. Like in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915), the reader gradually explores the idea throughout the narrative to come to a logical, yet not exactly satisfactory realization. Both Stevenson and later Kafka pointed out that humans are far from being perfect, hence, any attempts to artificially bring any human trait to perfection can turn out lethal (Kadirova 23-24). In the case of Dr Jekyll, his attempt to separate a civilized person and a beast of nature backfired at him in the most fatal way imaginable. By attempting to remain a perfectly civilized being as Dr Jekyll and spill all his negative emotions and subtle senses and feelings as Mr Hyde eventually made Mr Hyde take the upper ground and make a criminal out of Dr Jekyll, at least in his own eyes. Here, Stevenson points out that there is no particular reason to restrain oneself for their nature from time to time with measure in order not to overwhelm oneself and other people around.

The particularity of Dr Jekyll’s focus on altering his conscious raises another important theme of alcoholism or, in fact, any other addiction in the story. Dr Jekyll does not simply assume an identity of Mr Hyde, neither he does so consciously. Near the end of novella, the process of Dr Jekyll’s transformation is explained in detail by his friend Dr Lanyon. In his final letter he gives to the protagonists of the story, lawyers John Utterson and Richard Enfield, Lanyon provides, “He put the glass to his lips, and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth” (Stephenson). The act of drinking a kind of beverage and then changing radically before one’s eyes largely reminds an act of taking a conscious-changing drug, such as morphine or alcohol, both of which were popular stimulators at the end of the 19th century when the story was written. In such a way, Stevenson likely attempted to demonstrate the harmful nature of alcohol and drugs, especially considering the vile behavior of Mr Hyde and his fatal end.

Morality is, perhaps, yet another important theme of the story. Throughout the narrative, many characters see Mr Hyde as beast-like, which implies something primal in him. He is generally seen as some kind of an animal and is, thus, suggested to be amoral. However, later episodes of Mr Hyde assaulting a young girl and then murdering Sir Danvers Carew demonstrate that he does so out of sheer pleasure of the act. This suggests that Mr Hyde is rather immoral, i.e., with flawed morality, than he is amoral, or lacking morality at all (Stevenson). Here, Stevenson points out that rather than attempting to separate their evil side from them, people should accept and fight it.


Despite being relatively short, Robert Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde manages to raise a multiplicity of philosophical and societal issues. While being largely based on the theme of the duality of human nature, many elements of the narrative suggest many additional social themes, such as addictions and morality. Stevenson points out that the duality of human nature must be accepted, and that evil must be fought rather than altered or separated from a person whatsoever. Doing so might only make the situation worse as it happened for Dr Jekyll who by the end of the story died both morally and physically.

Works Cited

Kadirova, Nargiza. "Parallelism In Transformation Motives of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde By Stevenson And The Metamorphosis By Kafka". International Journal on Integrated Education, vol 2, no. 6, 2019, pp. 23-27. Research Parks Publishing, https://doi.org/10.31149/ijie.v2i6.191.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". Project Gutenberg, 2021, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/43/43-h/43-h.htm.

June 14, 2022
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