The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The novelette is told from a variety of points of view and focuses on the search for the connection between the saintly Jekyll and the demon Hyde and concludes with the doctor’s written confession of the experiments that ultimately render him permanently transformed into the Hyde figure. In his confession Jekyll admits that Hyde has taken over as his true nature and that he allows himself to be transformed. It is only after he discovers that he is unable to reassert control over the experiment, even though he is using ever stronger drugs, that he shuts himself in the laboratory and commits suicide by taking a lethal dose of poison.
More than a stock tale of science gone wrong, this work contains a serious discussion of the duality of human nature with the uncomfortable and inescapable conclusion that evil is not only more powerful than good but also more attractive. In the Hyde personality Jekyll is provided a welcome escape from the oppressive respectability of his life.
Stevenson attacks the rather heavy-handed morality and religious principles of the late Victorian world and charges that repression of natural urges can result in monstrosities as grotesque as those perpetrated by Hyde. Jekyll’s need for freedom from conventionality is strong enough that he is seduced into not only experimenting with drugs but also into willingly succumbing to Hyde’s persona. It is a disturbing tale which indicts the notion of progress through science while revealing a pre-Freudian glimpse of the beasts which hide within the human psyche.
Eigner, Edwin M. Robert Louis Stevenson and Romantic Tradition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1966. Relates The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the tradition of the nineteenth century prose romance. As evidence, Eigner considers the novella’s narrative structure, the theme of pursuit, and the struggle of the hero against self.
Geduld, Harry M., ed. The Definitive “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” Companion. New York: Garland, 1983. An anthology offering a wide spectrum of approaches from commentary to parodies and sequels. Appendices list the main editions; recordings; staged, filmed, and televised versions; and published and unpublished adaptions.
Jefford, Andrew. “Dr. Jekyll and Professor Nabokov: Reading a Reading.” In Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Andrew Noble. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Evaluates the main points of writer and teacher Vladimir Nabokov’s eccentric reading of the work. Provides a brief summary of Nabokov’s lecture.
Maixner, Paul, ed. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” In Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981. This selection of opinions from Stevenson’s contemporaries, while often superficial and out of date, is of historical interest. Includes a rejoinder by Stevenson to his critics.
Swearingen, Roger G. The Prose Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson: A Guide. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980. Supplies details regarding publication and Stevenson’s sources of inspiration. Draws on letters, memoirs, and interviews to discuss the circumstances surrounding the writing of the work.