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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Student Question

What is Dr. Jekyll's stated ambition in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Quick answer:

Jekyll's stated ambition is to be able to separate his good and evil natures into two separate identities: one for the good, and one for the bad.

Expert Answers

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In the final chapter of the novel, which contains Henry Jekyll's full confession, he admits that he "concealed his pleasures" from the public, creating a public persona, separate from his private identity, that resulted in a "profound duplicity of life." He comes to recognize that human nature is composed of two parts rather than just one, and yet both sides of human nature—the good and the bad—are equally real and representative of a person; both are equally true. It pains him to recognize that he will always feel divided, because he is "radically both" of his two selves. So, he begins to dream about the possibility of separating these two distinct elements of his being.

If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.

In other words, then, he dreams of being able to separate the two sides of a person—such as himself—into two distinct identities and persons. This way, the bad parts of the self could be distilled into one being which could then leave and go do whatever he wants by himself, and the good half could be relieved of constantly having to control, suppress, or conceal the aspirations of the bad half. The good identity will not have to endure the disgrace that would otherwise be brought upon him by the opposite nature.

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