The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
This article accompanies our most recent episode on The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island.
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Robert Louis Stevenson was quite a character, he had bronchial trouble all his life but that didn’t stop him from travelling the world and having adventures. He was born in Edinburgh in 1850 and died in Samoa, over 15,000 kms away in 1894 at the age of 44. I found conflicting accounts surrounding his death, but regardless of the circumstances surrounding his demise, the commonly cited manner of death was a cerebral hemorrhage.
His story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was an immense success prompting people to guess at his inspiration for such an unprecedented tale. These days the story and its mechanics are so much a part of the collective consciousness that to think of it as unique and innovative seems strange. But in 1886, a time in which science was a consent source of curiousity and disquiet a tale of science giving license to acts of depravity and animalistic instinct the idea was not only timely, it was also inspiring, opening the door to many tales of its kind. It is a tale of a scientist splitting his personality in two so that he could effectively compartmentalise and quarantine those uncouth and problematic urges so that they could still be expressed, but without impacting on his status as a well-respected doctor.
The fear of the evil potential of humanity, even the seemingly good and honest doctor, is represented in Hyde. Hyde is the ID, the animal. He operates for his own gratification so that Henry Jekyll can operate according to his superego.
I don’t know Fruedian psychology that well so if I have used that wrong feel free to let me know.