Andre Gide once said “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity. ” In Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Dr. Jekyll is not a moral, decent man and helpless victim as portrayed, but a true hypocrite. The novel focuses on the supposed conflict between the forces of Good and Evil within the human soul. Dr. Jekyll theorizes that “man is not truly one, but truly two,” and he imagines the human soul as the battleground for an “angel” and a “fiend,” each competing for dominance (Stevenson,48-49). Despite their dramatic opposition, Dr. Jekyll’s deceitful nature, his amazement at the results of the potion, his addiction to the potion, his ignorance of signs that he was losing control and, his final acceptance of the evil makes him just as vile as Mr. Hyde. While it is true that Dr. Jekyll largely appears as moral and decent person, active in charity work and enjoying a reputation as a courteous and good-natured man, he in fact is a deceitful man. Although Dr. Jekyll creates his potion on the belief of separating and purifying the Good and Evil elements within his own soul, he succeeds in only purifying the dark side, Mr. Hyde.
If the human soul is truly half good and evil, as Dr. Jekyll theorized, there should have automatically been a purification of both good and evil with his soul. Without the manifestation of an angelic counterpart, it demonstrates Dr. Jekyll’s intent to deceive the public to his darker, more violent nature. If the righteous side of the human soul was to be purified with the creation of his potion, there must first be some sort of foundation for the forces of good to arise. In Dr. Jekyll’s situation, there was never a modicum of virtue or honor in his soul for the potion to purify.
In his letter to Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll quotes, “Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and with an almost sense of shame” (Stevenson,. 48). Like many other common men, Dr. Jekyll had a past filled with many regrets. As other men, Dr. Jekyll wanted to avoid the consequences and temptation of his past sins and impersonate a more virtuous nature. As result of his deceitful living, there was never a reason for Good to rise within Dr. Jekyll’s soul, allowing only evil to manifest.
After exhaustive research on the divided human soul, Dr. Jekyll believed he found a chemical solution that might serve his purpose. Buying a great amount of ingredients, he drank the potion with the knowledge he was risking his life, but was blinded by the confidence of a great discovery. After enduring terrible pain, Dr. Jekyll quoted, “I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine” (Stevenson, 50).
Upon looking into a mirror after his first transformation, Dr. Jekyll-turned-Mr. Hyde was not afraid of his evil side; instead, he experienced “a leap of welcome. ” Accepting his results quickly, Dr. Jekyll demonstrated he was not afraid of the pure Evil now arisen from his soul. This should have been Dr. Jekyll’s first warning that something was terribly wrong with his experiment and his own soul. However, he quotes, “. . . Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most shared in the most sensitive apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the pleasures and adventures of Hyde” (Stevenson, 55).
Dr. Jekyll only thought he was becoming too old to act upon his sincere nature, and Mr. Hyde was a younger man, the perfect solution to achieve his darkest wishes. Transforming himself into Hyde became a welcoming experience for Dr. Jekyll’s buried evil desires. With his new found power, Dr. Jekyll was now free to pursue his dark pleasures as he wished. If Dr. Jekyll was truly a virtuous man as he portrayed in public, he would have been disgusted by his new form and discontinue further use of the potion. But instead, the potion allowed a gateway to be opened for him to do the pure evil he long desired and marveled.
Because of his sinful desires, Dr. Jekyll allowed Mr. Hyde to grow stronger and stronger, and led to the ultimate eclipsing of Dr. Jekyll. It was not only his creation of the potion that made Dr. Jekyll vile and monstrous, but rather his sudden addiction. It was not until after several months of taking the potion that Dr. Jekyll found cause of concern for his addiction. While asleep one night, he unknowingly transformed into Mr. Hyde without the help of the potion and awoke in the body of his darker half.
This incident convinced Dr. Jekyll that he must stop with his transformations or risk becoming trapped in Mr. Hyde’s form forever. But when Dr. Jekyll initially intended giving up his evil ways and live a life of virtue, he did not remain true to his determination. The doctor quotes, “I made this choice perhaps with some unconscious reservation, for I neither gave up the house in Soho, nor destroyed the clothes of Edward Hyde, which still lay ready in my cabinet” (Stevenson,. 46). Dr. Jekyll only managed to set himself up for ultimate failure. This shows that Dr. Jekyll never truly wanted to let go of his new evil power. After only two short months, Dr. Jekyll quotes, “. . .
I began to be tortured with throes and longings, as of Hyde struggling after freedom; and at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught” (Stevenson,56). After a feeble attempt to return to his old life, Dr. Jekyll could not resist the temptations of Evil. Dr. Jekyll did not put enough, if any, willpower into giving up his new found strength, despite knowing the evil he had created. Dr. Jekyll had sunken too far into a pit of evil born of his own creation. Many signs indicated the Evil was going extremely out of control within Dr Jekyll’s soul.
Even with these warning signs constantly shown to him, Dr. Jekyll remained ignorant of the danger. Even with the shocking incident that happened in his sleep, Dr. Jekyll continued to comment his crimes, knowing the dangers of the ever growing evil in his soul. The doctor quotes “. . . I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse” (Stevenson,55). When it became obvious that he was losing control over his own soul, Dr. Jekyll still managed to enjoy his sinful desires.
Dr. Jekyll’s first pleasure upon becoming Mr. Hyde seems that, no matter how horrible the crimes Mr. Hyde commits, Dr. Jekyll never feels guilty enough to restrain himself from making the transformation again as soon as he feels the urge. The doctor quotes “Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde; but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience. It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty” (Stevenson, 53). But Dr. Jekyll’s statements are just a ridiculous effort at self-justification, for it was Dr. Jekyll, who brings Mr. Hyde into creation and allowed him to remain, clearly know he expresses pure evil. Mr. Jekyll bears responsibility for Mr. Hyde’s actions. Indeed, his willingness to convince himself otherwise suggests the darker side of himself has the upper hand, even when he is Dr. Jekyll and not Mr. Hyde.
Even with the surprising crimes of his darker side, and his attempt to justify himself, Dr. Jekyll truly does not want stop, despite knowing how destructive and powerful Mr. Hyde is becoming. It was not until the murder of Sir Carew, a member of the English Parliament, did Dr. Jekyll realize the extent of his own capacity for evil. Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow. . . ” (Stevenson, 56). Until this point Dr. Jekyll viewed his dark side for nothing more than an opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the dark side. The mindlessly vicious nature of this darker side comes clear with this violent crime. Dr. Jekyll becomes extremely violent at random, with no apparent motive, and with little concern for his own safety, as his willingness to beat a man to death in the middle of a public street demonstrates.
After this dramatic realization, Dr. Jekyll abruptly went into a decline and was forced into seclusion. Dr. Jekyll finally surrenders and accepts the evil he had creates in his last, desperate hours, when his own twisted soul grows beyond control. While in his seclusion, Dr. Jekyll realizes there is no salvation for him, and quotes “It is useless, and the time awfully fails me . . . no one has ever suffered such torments . . . but a certain callousness of soul, a certain acquiescence of despair; and my punishment might have gone on for years, but for the last calamity which has now fallen, and which has severed me from my own face and nature” (Stevenson, pg. 1).
With no hope of salvation, Dr. Jekyll anticipates the fast approach of the moment when he will become Mr. Hyde permanently without fear. In his final moments, Dr. Jekyll quotes, “… I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end” (Stevenson, 62). Dr. Jekyll theorized a conflict between the forces of Good and Evil within every human soul, that “man is not truly one, but truly two” (Stevenson, 48-49) and creates a potion on the belief of separating and purifying the Good and Evil elements within his own soul, but only succeeds in only purifying the dark side, Mr. Hyde. Through his deceitful nature, his amazement at the results of the potion, his addiction to the potion, his ignorance of signs that he was losing control and, his final acceptance of the evil makes Dr. Jekyll a true hypocrite.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ed. Katherine Linehan. New York: Norton, 2003. Print.