inally, Hyde, the personification of Jekyll’s purely evil
inally, the novel’s mysteries are solved. From a first hand account, we learn the details of Henry Jekyll’s research, the reasoning behind his experimentation, and the details of how Hyde began to take over his life. The shift from third person to first person perspective is quite powerful, and leaves few questions remaining.
The reader is able to piece together Utterson’s perspective with Jekyll’s behavior, and everything becomes clear. In his letter, Jekyll highlights one of the main themes of the novel, the dual nature of man. It is this concept that caused him to pursue his disastrous experiments that led to his downfall. Hyde, the personification of Jekyll’s purely evil characteristics, revels in the freedom of an anonymous existence. Although he successfully distills his evil side, Jekyll still remains a combination of good and evil. Thus, when transforming back and forth, his evil side grows stronger and more powerful after years of repression, and is able to take over completely.
In this way, Jekyll’s experiments are the opposite of what he hoped. Interestingly, as is repeatedly mentioned throughout the novel, Hyde is a small man often called dwarfish, while Jekyll is a man of large stature. Thus, the reader is left to assume that Jekyll’s evil side is much weaker and less developed than his good side. However, appearances can be deceiving. In fact, Hyde’s strength far out powers Jekyll’s. In his letter, Jekyll clearly states that he felt no guilt about Hyde’s actions, as “Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde, but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience. It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty.
” To the reader, this explanation seems ridiculous, because Hyde is in fact part of Jekyll, and a being that Jekyll created. Therefore, clearly Jekyll is responsible for the man’s actions. In the struggle between Jekyll and Hyde, Stevenson explores the struggle of the human conscience, between good and evil, noble and despicable.
Jekyll, who gives in to his evil impulses becomes a prisoner and victim of his own creation. Thus, Stevenson seems to suggest that a noble, pure life is far better than one of discreet immorality. However, Stevenson also portrays the seemingly purely noble men in the novel, Utterson and Lanyon, as weak.
Lanyon dies after the shock of Jekyll’s transformation, and Utterson repeatedly refuses to accept the truth or pursue the novel’s central mystery. Although apparently critical of both worldviews, Stevenson seems to ultimately claim that the noble life is more admirable, as Utterson lives while Jekyll/Hyde dies. Although this final chapter reveals the details of Jekyll’s work, there are questions left unanswered. Stevenson never specifically explains Jekyll’s sordid behavior or immoral vices. Rather, he refers to this side of Jekyll’s life quite vaguely. This lack of information is the final silence within the book, following a pattern established from the very beginning. Has Jekyll/Hyde been involved in immoral sexual acts, or even homosexual behavior? It is unclear.
The young girl running through the street at three in the morning makes a slight allusion to child prostitution, which ran rampant at the time. Moreover, the lack of female characters in the novel or female influence in any of the men’s lives leaves the possibility of homosexual behavior open as well. However, despite all the clues and insinuations the novel might make, the reader never knows the details of Jekyll/Hyde’s immoral depravity. Some critics suggest that this final lack of explanation once again depicts the oppressive nature of Victorian society. Others claim it demonstrates the conflict between the rational logic of the written word and indescribable pure evil.
Or, perhaps leaving these details unexplained gives their sense of evil greater power, as the unknown is more disturbing than the known. Stevenson’s main message appears to be that the lure of darkness and evil exists in the mind of every man, and all that differentiates good people from evil people is one’s ability to control indulgence. Although we all have evil within us, Stevenson suggests it is best to keep our “Hyde’s” under lock and key, rather than let them roam freely.