The Duality of Man in Literary Works and Critical
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The lifelong struggle for control and recognition of the human mind has been a popular and evolving science since the late-nineteenth-century. Many notable authors, scientists, and laymen have been fascinated with the study since then. Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the more notable authors to write about dual personalities with his short story, “Markheim,” and the novella, ”The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The latter of these two stories has inspired the study of multiple personalities more than any other work of fiction, and perhaps any work of nonfiction. According to Anne Stiles, “[Stevenson’s wife] traces her spouses’ interest in dual personality to a specific article” informs the reader of one possibility where Stevenson got the notion for the novel (879). This article, “’combined with the memories of ‘Deacon Brodie’ who was publicly a respectable person but privately a thief and rakehell, gave the germ of the idea that afterwards developed into the play, was used again in the story of ‘Markheim,’ and finally, in a hectic fever following a hemorrhage of the lungs, culminated in the dream of Jekyll and Hyde” (Alliata 2). These stories demonstrate the struggle for dominance and the codependency of each half of the dual brain of man, and the destructive nature of unnatural separation of the two personalities.
Symbolism is a powerful tool in these literary works and demonstrates many theories regarding dual brain in humans. In Jekyll and Hyde, the names of the main characters have hidden meaning. Jekyll, Hyde can be interpreted two ways: Je is French for “I”, and kill hide, or I kill. Hide. The first of these can be viewed as a result of the events, with the latter interpreted as the events. Henry Jekyll represents masculinity, wealth, intelligence, and sanity. Edward Hyde, on the other hand, is effeminate, deformed, subhuman, and primal. Dr. Jekyll is light, daytime, and handsome. Ed Hyde is vile, violent, and volatile. Stiles writes, “Jekyll represents the pinnacle of evolution, while Hyde approaches its nadir” (884). Mr. Hyde could also be viewed as a precipitate of Dr. Jekyll, a son in fact. From that perspective, it is completely understandable, knowing that Henry Jekyll has no children, and explains Jekyll’s passion to create life, in his image. Also, viewing Mr. Hyde as Henry Jekyll’s son-personality, explains the level of protection that Jekyll provides Hyde, being well aware of the atrocities Hyde has committed. In ”Markheim,” the appearance of Markheim’s conscience is likened to demonic possession.
By the use of metaphors like, “the room was filled with noiseless bustle and kept heaving like a sea,” the author uses strong symbolic gestures to define how Markheim’s psyche is interpreting the guilt that is consuming him (Stevenson 134). Stevenson wrote, “to be clear of ‘Markheim’ is like a ton’s weight off my neck” which demonstrates the effect the effect that the story had on his psyche before he wrote it (Alliata 1). During the era that Stevenson wrote these stories, late Victorian beliefs were that humans actually had two brains, the left and right hemispheres, and both were capable of sustaining life. Although this was the contemporary view, the left hemisphere was considered to be the more evolved brain, with the right hemisphere being linked to women, criminals, and other non-white-male unfortunates. This begs the chicken or the egg question, though it is widely held that “Jekyll and Hyde could have affected how some clinicians subsequently viewed their cases”(Stiles 882). That is a rarely witnessed event, in which a work of fiction affects an aspect of reality to a noticeable degree. Even today, people who have opposing personalities, or have an unpredictability about them are said to be displaying a Jekyll and Hyde complex.
The use of irony is a natural element when discussing multiple personalities, considering irony is an unexpected response or affect, which is to be expected when dealing with a person that you may or may not know. In “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the title provides irony in respect to murder being an aggressive act, and hiding being something less. Stevenson’s use of Utterson, who is a dry, skeptical, and narrow-minded character to narrate the story suffers irony itself, considering the story is quite fantastic and irrational. Also, with Dr. Lanyon being the closest person historically to Henry Jekyll, Lanyon is in the dark the longest, being the last to meet Ed Hyde. Ironically, being the last to meet Mr. Hyde, he becomes the first to learn Jekyll’s dark secret, as Hyde comes out of the closet. The title that the author gives to the doctor, “Henry Jekyll, M.D, D.C.L, LL.D, F.R.S,” gives the reader the impression that this is a very well-educated, stable, busy, and important person (Stevenson 470).
Clearly, a man with those responsibilities would have a full life, and no need to create an evil twin. This proves to be untrue, and the basis for the story. This exemplifies the old adage; you can never have too much, especially if what you have isn’t making you happy. Henry Jekyll’s desire to live unchecked is responsible for the creation of Hyde. This in turn leads to the decision to commit suicide as the only way to prevent Hyde from continuing his destructive ways. This demonstrates the ironic nature of the ego and the id. Depending on the perspective, control of the Jekyll/Hyde beast becomes subjective. If Dr. Jekyll is the dominant, left hemisphere, the outcome would have most likely been different. This shows how complicated the human mind is and how the psyche is not easily defined. Stiles writes, “[the] novella suffers from a case of split personality like that of the protagonist himself,” and can be seen subtly in how the tone changes from push to pull (Stiles 889).
Imagery is a very effective element that is integral to creating an expressive, imaginable fable, as demonstrated in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde’s home is described as being skewed, a jumble of shapes and sizes, with no clear borders. This correlates to Mr. Hyde’s ape-like physical appearance. Dr. Jekyll’s home is characterized as well-kept, stylish, and inviting, which is also how Henry Jekyll is portrayed. In The Dark Half, King uses the same methods to develop the main characters; using cars, clothes, and physical appearances to give each personality life. Thad Beaumont, writer and professor, also writes under the name George Stark, whose books are far more popular.
Though when Beaumont writes his Stark novels, he is transformed into a ”high-toned son-of-a-bitch,” drives a jet-black barracuda, and loves the use of his straight-razor, on other people (King 134). These images of the opposite halves of the same person, and how at odds they are with one another, for-warns the reader to the destructive battle for the man’s soul that is upcoming and necessary for one to survive. In Markheim, the image of the man-in-the-mirror, and the consequent conversation that ensues, demonstrates the conscience assuming control of Markheim after a planned murder. The lack of a physical description of the aberration is more descriptive than if one was offered. Also, in Jekyll and Hyde, the use of drugs, and the breakdown of the human spirit caused by it, is depicted and is another representation of the effects of multiple personalities.
The concept of the dual personality is a strange and ever-evolving idea. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we discover is left to be learned. Robert Louis Stevenson was said to be leading a double life, which explains why dualism was such a central concern for his writings. The dual brain offers a scapegoat, in Jekyll and Hyde, a voice of reason in Markheim, and a last effort to obtain life in The Dark Half. This exemplifies how different circumstances and environments affect how the characters attempt to rationalize an irrational situation. The three stories included in this essay, similar in the subject of dual personality/dual brain, had three very different conclusions. Yet all three demonstrate the destruction that occurred because of the separation of the personalities of the main characters. Though man may inherently be comprised of two halves, these stories indicate that the halves must remain whole.
Alliata, Michela Vanon. “‘Markheim’ and the Shadow of the Other.” Robert Louis Stevenson, Writer of Boundaries. Ed. Richard Ambrosini and Richard Dury. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. 299-311. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 126. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 Apr. 2010. Fraustino, Daniel V. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Anatomy of Misperception.” Arizona Quarterly 38.3(1982): 235-240. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 March 2010. King, Steven. The Dark Half. Signet, NY: 1990.
Stevenson, R.L. “Markheim.” The Complete Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson. Ed. Charles Neider. NY: De Capo Press, 1969. 443-462. Stevenson, R.L. “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The Complete Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson. Ed. Charles Neider. NY: De Capo Press, 1969. 463-538. Stiles, Anne. “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain.” SEL 1500- 1900 46.4(Autumn 2006): 879-900.Rpt. in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Vol.193. Detroit: Gale, 2008.Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 March 2010.