illustration of a face with two separate halves, one good and one evil, located above the fumes of a potion

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson
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In the beginning of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is in control of Mr. Hyde, and at the end of the novel Mr Hyde is in control of Dr. Jekyll. How did this reversal come about?

1. Dr. Jekyll was addicted to the potion; he enjoyed being Mr. Hyde too much, and kept taking the potion. 2. The first potion was not pure, and so over time, Mr. Hyde kept getting stronger and stronger until he took over completely.

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There are two main reasons as to why Dr. Jekyll lost control of Mr. Hyde. The first is that Dr. Jekyll essentially became addicted to Mr. Hyde, in much the same way as a drug addict becomes addicted to drugs. Being Mr. Hyde gave Dr. Jekyll such a thrill, and...

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There are two main reasons as to why Dr. Jekyll lost control of Mr. Hyde. The first is that Dr. Jekyll essentially became addicted to Mr. Hyde, in much the same way as a drug addict becomes addicted to drugs. Being Mr. Hyde gave Dr. Jekyll such a thrill, and made him feel so liberated that he couldn't resist taking the potion again and again. He says, in chapter 10, that the transformation "braced and delighted (him) like wine." The more often he became Mr. Hyde, the stronger Mr. Hyde became.

In chapter 10, Dr. Jekyll remarks that when he first transformed, he was, as Mr. Hyde, "so much smaller, slighter and younger" than he was as Dr. Jekyll, and he accounts for this by explaining that the part of him which became Mr. Hyde, had, over the course of his life, "been much less exercised." In other words, because Dr. Jekyll, as a Victorian gentleman, had had to exercise his respectable public self much more often than he had had opportunity to exercise his much less respectable private self, the latter was now much smaller than the former, just like a muscle that has been exercised will be much larger than a muscle which has not. It follows then that Mr. Hyde, like a muscle, grew more and more powerful as he was exercised more and more by Dr. Jekyll's addiction, until the point where he became too powerful for Dr. Jekyll to be able to suppress.

The second reason accounting for Dr. Jekyll's loss of control over Mr. Hyde is simply that Dr. Jekyll's first potion was impure, meaning that it contained a trace of something that he was not aware of, and without which the potion lost its potency. Dr. Jekyll acknowledges this, again in chapter 10, when he says, "I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught." This is why, towards the end of the story, Dr. Jekyll, trapped in the physical form of Mr. Hyde, repeatedly sent Poole to the chemists to purchase different chemicals, hoping to discover the identity of the original impurity. By this point in the story Mr. Hyde had grown too strong for Dr. Jekyll to suppress without the aid of the potion, and so when Dr. Jekyll ran out of the potion (or, more specifically, the salt from which the potion was made) and could no longer recreate it, he lost all hope of ever wrestling control back from Mr. Hyde, so that his only remaining option was to commit suicide, and thus kill Mr. Hyde along with himself.

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Dr. Jekyll is experimenting with mind-altering drugs, and like millions of people who experiment with drugs he begins by feeling he can control them but later comes to realize that they are controlling him. This can happen to people who begin by smoking marijuana or using heroin, cocaine, or any other drug. It can also happen to people who start drinking liquor. And, tragically, it happens to millions of people who start smoking cigarettes. Dr. Jekyll is only an extreme case of drug dependency.

In he last chapter of the book, "Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case," Dr. Jekyll explains how he began his experiments out of scientific curiosity and a desire to benefit mankind and how he gradually lost control of his identity as the evil side of his nature overpowered the good side.

I do not suppose that when a drunkard reasons with himself upon his vice, he is once out of five hundred times affected by the dangers that he runs through his brutish physical insensibility; neither had I, long as I had considered my position, made enough allowance for the complete moral insensibiltiy and insensate readiness to evil, which were the leading characters of Edward Hyde.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde became a world-famous classic because it is based on a fundamental truth about human nature. There are good and evil sides to all of us, and we need to exercise common sense and self-control in order to avoid the danger of having the evil side acquire ascendency. This often happens to young people who fall under the influence of bad companions.

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