A Study in Dualism: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Singh, Shubh; Chakrabarti, Subho | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, July-September 2008 | Go to article overview

A Study in Dualism: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Singh, Shubh, Chakrabarti, Subho, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Shubh. Singh, Subho. Chakrabarti

R. L. Stevenson's novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a prominent example of Victorian fiction. The names Jekyll and Hyde have become synonymous with multiple personality disorder. This article seeks to examine the novel from the view point of dualism as a system of philosophy and as a religious framework and also from the view point of Freud's structural theory of the mind.

Dualism

Dualism derives from the Latin word duo , meaning two. Simply put, dualism can be understood as a thought that facts about the world in general or of a particular class cannot be explained except by supposing ultimately the existence of two different, often opposite, and irreducible principles. Dualism is most often discussed in context of the systems of religion and philosophy.[sup] [1]

The purpose of this paper is to examine Robert Stevenson's famous novel, " The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde "[sup] [2] from the view point of the above mentioned systems and to discuss the novel from a psychological perspective.

The Author and the Novel

Robert Balfour Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet. Born in 1850, he was a qualified advocate but earned his living as a writer. He was chronically afflicted with tuberculosis, and dabbled with various psychotropic drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, and opium. He is well known for his dark and sinister tales like Markheim, Thrawn Janet, and racy adventure novels such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped . Successful and famous, he died at a young age in 1894. Interestingly enough, Stevenson later claimed that the plot of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was revealed to him in a dream.[sup] [3]

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde deals with a Dr. Henry Jekyll who is widely respected, successful, and possesses a brilliant intellect but is only too aware of the duplicity of the life that he leads, and of the evil that resides within him. Dr. Jekyll covertly provides utterance to the evil in his soul by various unspeakable acts, but is afraid of doing so openly because of the fear of social criticism. In the course of his experiments, he succeeds in producing a concoction that enables him to free this evil in him from the control of his good self, thus giving rise to Edward Hyde. Edward Hyde is pure evil and amoral. Not only is his psyche different from Dr. Jekyll but also his body is grotesque and deformed. Thus, Dr. Jekyll thinks that he can receive the pleasure that both parts of his being crave without each being encumbered by the demands of the other. However, Mr. Hyde evokes feelings of dread and abhorrence in Dr. Jekyll's friends who beseech him to give up his "friendship" with this Edward Hyde. Edward Hyde gradually becomes ever more powerful than his 'good' counterpart and ultimately leads Dr. Jekyll to his doom. "Jekyll and Hyde" as an eponymous term has become a synonym for multiple personality in scientific[sup] [4] and lay literature[sup] [5] and the novel has also been considered a case demonstration of substance dependence.[sup] [6]

Dualism, Religion, and the Novel

A religion that is dualistic admits not only that the universe comprises good and evil, or light and darkness, but also that though these are eternally opposed they are coeternal, coexistent, and equipotent.[sup] [7] This is an important distinction from nondualistic, monistic religions where evil comes about as an accident during creation of the Universe or as a result of powerful beings that can be good or bad as per what serves them or injures them and not because they are evil for the sake of being evil. Here, the good and the evil are often derived from the same source or from one another, much like the Pandavas and Kauravas in the Mahabharata . Zoroastrianism is often cited as an example of a dualistic religion where the concentration of all that is good is around Ahura Mazda, and all that is evil around Ahra Mainyu . …

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