Life Lessons from Jekyll and Hyde

“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson has long been imprinted on the social consciousness. From this fine piece of British literature we have derived fantastic visions of respectful doctor transforming himself into a hideous alter ego by way of a strange chemical concoction of his own making. Dr. Henry Jekyll is a restrained man of noble character and upright behavior. In the opinions of others he is a man who can always be trusted to do the right thing. In fact he will not allow himself to do otherwise. Despite suffering the typical temptations of other men, Dr. Jekyll is a man who attempts to keep a firm grasp on his faculties and is able to control his primal urges.

We learn from Christian theology of the total depravity of man. The book of Psalms in the Bible states “in sin my mother conceived me…”(Psalm 51:5) teaching thus that men are born inherently wicked. Stevenson acknowledges this evil of man in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.  Dr. Jekyll is typically a helpful man who rather heal. However we can remember the scene in the novella in which his evil twin, Edward Hyde, pushes down and tramples a young girl in the street without stopping and without any hint of remorse. No doubt we have all had times in our lives in which we have wanted to do harm to someone with whom we had some differences. Perhaps there have been occasions when you have secretly wished ill luck to your adversary.

What Can We Learn from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is more than just a spooky story to tell around a campfire or on a dark rainy night by the fireplace. No, Stevenson had an end in mind. The reader is expected to gain some understanding about himself through the unfortunate story of Henry Jekyll and what happened to him. This is stated most succinctly at a point late in the book in which Henry Jekyll has made his confession in writing and is divulging all that he had done in the course of creating Mr. Hyde. He describes the fact that though he himself is a rather tall man, when he transforms into Edward Hyde he “had lost in stature.” As he considered this fact he concluded that the smallness of Mr. Hyde’s person is due to the fact that the evil and self-gratification that Hyde represented had been so long suppressed and unfed. I am reminded of any analogy to human behavior which describes two dogs. Both are of the same breed, same age, and roughly the same size. If these two beasts are placed in a small cage together which one, all things being equal, will dominate? The question is a riddle and a bit of a trick question for the answer is of course the one that you feed the most. Imagine a man who desires to do good, but by nature also wants to do evil. By “evil” I do not just mean the most heinous of crimes. Evil is a broad term. It can mean any kind of selfishness, lying, gossiping, adultery, or breaking of oaths. Now if this man I am describing has the ability to do evil or to do good, which urge will be the dominating one? Again it is the side of his nature which is most nourished. If a man is willing to give himself over to lust in such a way that he will break his marital vows and commit adultery once, chances are he will find it all the easier to do the second time and the third and the fourth.

Now Dr. Jekyll with this new power of being able to release Edward Hyde, who was pure evil, could throw off restraint at any time and perform whatever evils his heart so wished without soiling even a shred of the good name of Henry Jekyll. Over time he began to enjoy his times as Mr. Hyde because they were times of liberality and unfettered mayhem. One might describe it as throwing caution to the wind. In our lives we may reach certain points in which we have had enough of playing nice and we take on the childish attitude of wanting to do “what I want to do.” We may do so even at the expense of others.

If we learn anything from the odd story of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil alter ego Mr. Edward Hyde it is this: actions have consequences and whenever we try to subvert that very basic law of the universe, we will reap grave results not the least of which may be a loss of our own selves and who we really want to be in this life. Live your life in such a way that the Hyde within may be suppressed being made smaller and smaller in stature. While that side of human nature may never be eradicated completely in this life, the Holy Spirit provides the ability to thwart those evil leanings and to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Josh H.



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