Duality of human nature

A face split down the middle with Hyde on one side and Jekyll on the other.

Stevenson writes about the duality of human nature – the idea that every single human being has good and evil within them. Stevenson describes how there is a good and an evil side to everyone's personality, but what is important is how you behave and the decisions you make. The choices people make determine whether a person is good or not.

In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dr Jekyll is a well-respected, intelligent scientist who secretly has a dark, immoral side to his personality. This side of his personality is not active, however, he decides to activate it through his experiments. This side becomes active through the persona of Mr Hyde - a criminal man who commits cruel acts of violence against others. Through this change in Jekyll's character, Stevenson shows the duality in human nature - the idea that everyone is capable of good and evil deeds.

How is the duality of mankind shown in the novel?

In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Stevenson shows the duality of man through:

  • the character of Dr Jekyll
  • the character of Mr Hyde
  • the differences between them both
How does Stevenson show this?EvidenceAnalysis
Dr JekyllDr Jekyll is perceived as a highly influential, kind, educated and popular scientist. He is the embodiment of 'goodness.'…every mark of capacity and kindness - you could see by his looks that he cherished for Mr Utterson.This shows that Dr Jekyll was kind and everyone believed him to be so. The fact that he 'cherishes' Mr Utterson tells us that he loves his friends very much and cares about other people.
Mr HydeMr Hyde is perceived as a cruel, ugly, vicious man who commits wild acts of violence against innocent people. He is the embodiment of 'evilness'....haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders.This shows that Hyde's appearance and personality terrifies others – they always remember seeing him. The fact that his appearance is 'haunting' shows how terrifying he is.

Social and historical context

The pious nature of Victorian society meant that many people suppressed their desires and feelings. This resulted in many people questioning their 'goodness' as a human being due to the fact that religion condemned these 'evil' thoughts.

Analysing the evidence

Question

Why has Stevenson presented the theme of man's duality in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? What is he trying to suggest?

  • There isn't the binary opposite of good and evil - things are not that simple.
  • Everyone is capable of good and evil acts.
  • Going against the Victorian mindset that some people are born good or bad.