Short Story Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by RL Stephenson

Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame. 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. In this case, I was driven to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life which lies at the roof of religion, and is one of the most plentiful springs of distress. Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering.

R.L. Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I’m not sure why I had this original opinion of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I always thought it had more to do with schizophrenia or physical illness that resulted in letting loose something dreadful upon the world. Maybe its because of movies such as Mary Reilly or the Looney Tunes parodies. Or maybe I just never viewed the stories correctly. But reading Stevenson’s book, I realized just how much it had to do with man’s dual nature directly. In reading this, I was truly shocked at how much Dr. Jekyll knew in pursuing his experiments. He rationally realized that he had two irreconcilable halves to him. He had his respected public persona, the doctor of science that pursued medicines to help people; that truly wanted to help the general population. He wanted to be genuinely respected by the public: this desire and his morals were probably what viewed his second self in such a negative light. His second self was viewed with dismay, but he knew it to still be a part of who he was. He didn’t want to deny himself entirely, and so proceeded with the dangerous experiment that allowed his second self to surface. Of course, it ends in his own destruction, as do so many stories written about giving ourselves over to our desires.

Like the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I have two distinct views of this story. The first pertains to our view of religion as a set of rules and regulations that tell us we cannot enjoy life. At a certain point, denying yourself leads to a complete setback in your character. Its like some people who diet by denying themselves carbohydrates. They’ve been good for so long, they decide they’ve earned a reward, and purchase a box of, say, Triscuits. Before they know it, they’ve already eaten the entire box in one sitting, and are on their way to buying another one. When it comes to following the rules, we can only do so much under our own will-power, before we want to just give in to the internal desires that scream at us to do whatever it is they’re suggesting. The strange thing is, as I’m reading the ending, picturing Mr. Hyde slowly getting stronger and surfacing without any medical aid, I have the distinct impression that I’ve read something along those lines before. And then it hits me. Romans 7:14-15: We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. We all have this dual nature that seems to battle itself within us. Our spiritual and moral selves that know what we ought to do, while our selfish nature battles to satisfy us here and now. It is a battle that has raged on for as long as mankind has existed.

This leads me to my second view. If we all had the opportunity to become someone else and hide our selfishness from other eyes, would be do it? Or would it end up destroying us? I believe it would destroy us. But I also believe it happens all the time. Gay people will say they were tired of hiding who they really were from others when they come out and tell people their sexual preferences. In Christian settings, people speak about it all the time referring to Sunday morning Christians. These are the people who show up acting all pious on Sunday mornings, participate by doing the appropriate actions in the correct places, then leave church, cut someone off driving, and act like any other person who puts no faith in a God they profess to serve. They believe they can have their cake and eat it too: they can serve their desires during the week, and then give God one morning out of seven.

The thing is, shouldn’t this all be about love? If we love God, we’ll serve Him. If we trust God, we’ll know that denying ourselves now will lead to bigger and better things later. I used to think that we’re falling more and more into an instant gratification society, but it seems that its been that way for some time now. Instant gratification is nothing new in this world, it’s just taken on more forms than it used to. And in case you’re wondering, I’m not condemning anybody of this before I point my fingers at myself. I’m blogging. I’m creating a personal website for a portfolio. And both are instantly available for everyone to read, and respond to instantly. Lord, I only hope and pray I can be more patient, and put more thought into what I do. Because I don’t want to be the woman who leads a false life of hypocrisy. I want to lead a true life serving God with all that I am, matching my desires with His.

By the way, though it wasn’t written as I expected, and was much shorter than I thought, I really enjoyed the story.