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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Describe Dr. Jekyll's childhood, education, and ambition.

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Dr. Jekyll was born into a wealthy family and thus to a "large fortune." He was hard-working and enjoyed and desired the respect of intelligent and good men. He was attracted to and pursued scientific studies. However, as one of his oldest friends, Dr. Lanyon, explains to Mr. Utterson, Jekyll's scientific studies had become "too fanciful."

As Dr. Jekyll himself explains, he wanted to "dissociate" the two sides of his nature that seemed to be in constant struggle. One side pursued gaiety and merriment, and the other was interested in serious studies and moral pursuits. Because the struggle between the two parts of himself was so intense, and because he knew that many other people must have such a "dual" nature, Jekyll hoped to find a way to split the two parts from each other. He thought at first that this would be a fine and altruistic service to humanity. He, of course, did manage to "compound a drug" that split him into two selves, one good and one evil—but as we know, this does nothing but cause trouble.

The Dr. Jekyll we meet in the novel's beginning is a handsome man of about 50. He is a warm and affection person who exudes a sense of kindness and likes to entertain friends at small dinner parties he hosts. He is well off and successful. Few would expect him to be the person who turns into Mr. Hyde.

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Chapter 10, "Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case," is the chapter you want to re-read for more information as to his youth, growing up years, and ambitions.  As he grew older he began thinking about a way to get rid of the evil side of people's nature, primarily due to what he considered the "duplicity" of his own nature - the desire to be serious and well-regarded in public life, but the equal desire to be silly and impetuous in private life.  He thought that if he could get rid of the one, then he could help all people rid themselves of their bad sides:

"It was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was, and, with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man's dual nature."

Again, please do a careful re-read of Chapter 10 as this will give you the information you need to answer this question.  Good luck!

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