How is Cain and Abel alluded to in the story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde as a whole?   

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Robert Louis Stevenson was brought up in a Scottish Presbyterian household and was steeped in Bible learning from a very early age. His Calvinist upbringing left him in good stead throughout his long, illustrious literary career, most notably in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where he uses the biblical story of Cain and Abel to develop the key theme of good versus evil.

In the first chapter, Utterson casually remarks that he inclines to "Cain's heresy." After Cain murdered his brother, Abel, God asked Cain where Abel was, to which Cain famously replied, "Am I my brother's keeper?" By this, he meant that Abel was old enough to take care of himself and do whatever he wanted with his life. When Utterson refers to Cain's heresy, he means that he studiously avoids getting involved in other people's business. However, he makes a notable exception in the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The use of this biblical allusion in the first chapter foreshadows the relationship between Dr. Jekyll and his murderous alter ego. As we have seen, Cain killed Abel, and Mr. Hyde ends up effectively killing Dr. Jekyll.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you can think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as brothers, the significance of the Cain and Abel allusion becomes easier to see.

In Stevenson's story, Dr. Jekyll is Abel and Mr. Hyde is Cain because Jekyll is the good "brother" while Hyde is the bad "brother."  In Stevenson's story, as in the Biblical account, one "brother" will kill the other.  In this case, Dr. Jekyll will commit suicide because that is his only way to kill his evil "brother" Mr. Hyde.

Another point of similarity is that, in Genesis, Cain kills Abel out of jealousy while in Stevenson's story, Hyde wants to "kill" Jekyll by taking over his body and his life.

In a sense, then, Hyde tries to be Cain and kill Abel, but this time Abel will win (sort of) and kill Cain (though he himself dies as well).


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial