Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

BRIEF SYNOPSIS

Henry Jekyll is a scientist with a thirst for knowledge. One evening, he visits with a man by the name of Sir George Carew in his manor. Carew criticizes Dr. Jekyll for being so engrossed in his science that he fails to embrace the softer side of human sensuality. He successfully convinces Jekyll to attend a dancing hall, where Jekyll becomes fascinated by one of the female dancers (Gina) ability to act out the two differing sides of human nature. Jekyll decided to attempt to physically separate these two sides in his laboratory, creating a formula that is indeed successful at separating the evil, malicious, and diabolically selfish side of his being (Mr. Hyde) from the altruistic, giving, and warm side. However, trouble arises when “Mr. Hyde” begins to dominate Dr. Jekyll.

ANALYSIS

In this film, we see a connection to Freudian concepts and ideas, specifically in the realm of the unconscious. Mr. Hyde is a culmination of the unconscious and inherently evil impulses of Dr. Jekyll that come to the surface as a result of the potion he drinks. Furthermore, the subject of  duality of man is breached in this film, in that Dr. Jekyll becomes two different people as a result of his scientific experiments. He is either the psychopathic Mr. Hyde of the sane Dr. Jekyll. “Jekyll and Hyde embraces the notion of duality in man and the presence of unconscious impulses. Inspired by an extraordinary dream, Stevenson’s fictional story reveals his psychic conflicts as well as his curiosity concerning the duality of man as a universal experience. So, too, does Freud (1900) reveal his innermost psychic conflicts along with a systematic study of man’s duality in his “novel,” The Interpretation of Dreams” (D’amato, 2005, p. 92).

“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (Stevenson, 1978), along with a multitude of nineteenth-century gothic and detective stories and autobiographies, made a significant contribution to the intellectual climate in which Freud (1900) would write The Interpretation of Dreams (Thomas, 1990). Various English writers…were working through to a literary and cultural understanding of intrapsychic processes that Freud would extrapolate from, develop, refine, and eventually define as the unconscious. Such authors were making use of the dream in fiction as a vehicle for reckoning with unconscious conflicts; indeed, from the dawn of civilization writers and philosophers have used dream material as a portal to exploring human motivation and the possible existence of an internal life” (D’amato, 2005, p. 95).

Split Personality

“Ever since Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his memorable story of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  laymen have been interested  in the problem of dual personalities” (anonymous, 1933, p. 279). This idea of the split personality in Jekyll and Hyde is a very close representation of multiple personality disorder that would be later classified as a real disorder. The film explores abnormal behaviors that would later be categorized and placed in the DSM. A split personality had been postulated before the film or book were written, and thus likely had an impact on the contents.

Test Tube

Furthermore, it is important to notice the specific fears prevalent in the film. Clearly, new scientific discoveries were gaining hype in the 1920s (conditioning, behaviorism, evolutionary theories), threatening the field of religion. Dr. Jekyll was, like Darwin and Watson, a scientist with a thirst for knowledge, and in his quest ended up manipulating nature and creation. As a result, he turns into a terrifying and evil man. This alludes to the horrifying results too much scientific introspection yields, and what might happen should creation be assigned away merely to test tubes and evolution.

Mentally ill patient

Another fear emphasized in the film is a fear of becoming mentally ill. Dr. Jekyll, a completely ordinary man, takes a potion that transforms him into a deluded and psychologically disturbed man. “Frayling considers that The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde marks a  turning point on  ‘the map of horror’ as, instead of  writing of  demons  and  devils  outside  the  person,  it  allows  the  possibility that  the  demons  and  devils  may  come  from  within” (Smith, 2000, p. 326). Thus, the mentally ill patient  (Mr. Hyde) highlights the devil within.  Instead of an evil force acting upon him, he himself becomes this evil force by becoming mentally ill and deluded. In this way, the film stereotypes and exaggerates the behaviors of what a deluded person might be, and subliminally conditions a person to fear becoming mentally ill.

<– BACK TO FILMS

Leave a Reply