In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story of a man with a split personality. Wanting to split the bad part of himself from the good, Jekyll develops a potion. However, when he drinks it, he is horrified to have taken the form of a monster named Edward Hyde. Luckily, he can switch between the two by drinking the potion again. Jekyll becomes almost addicted to using the potion, but one day, he goes to bed as Jekyll and wakes up as Hyde. Terrified, Jekyll stays away from the potion for a good two months, and all seems to be fine. However, Jekyll succumbs once again, and drinks the potion. From then on, Hyde would always pop out eventually, even when Jekyll didn’t drink the potion. Although many people seem to think Jekyll is the tragic victim of this book, Hyde is the true victim of all this mess.
Firstly, Hyde has no choice but to commit atrocities, which cause him to be persecuted and eventually leads to the destruction of both him and Jekyll. Hyde is created by Jekyll as a monster, a being with no conscience. Because there is no part of him that holds himself accountable for committing crimes, the nature of humanity naturally tugs him towards said crimes.
Although Hyde is the one who committed the crime, it was effectively Jekyll who “forces” Hyde to commit these crimes. As an analogy to Frankenstein, Jekyll plays the role of Frankenstein, and Hyde plays the role of Frankenstein’s monster in this book. It is quite clear in Frankenstein that the monster is the true victim, and thus in this story Hyde is the victim, because he is essentially forced by Jekyll to suffer punishment for committing crimes. In addition to this, Hyde is also not allowed to be free, as Jekyll keeps suppressing the Hyde inside of him.
If Hyde is the victim, then quite obviously Jekyll is the corresponding culprit, for many reasons. Mainly, Hyde was born from Jekyll’s own moral faults and even a glint of greed. We have already established that the very existence of Hyde is a crime committed by Jekyll, and moreover, this crime is committed on the basis of moral faults and greed; Jekyll wants to be perfect, and thus wishes to separate his bad self from his good self. It’s easy to feel sympathetic for Jekyll, seeing as moral faults and greed are an integrated part of human nature, but the pain Hyde suffers is far worse.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Longman's Green & Co., 1886. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!