By Judy Berman
Is there a delicate balance between lightness and darkness within each of us?
Sirius Black thought so. In the film adapted from J. K. Rowling’s book, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Black said “What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
In the buttoned-up Victorian era, author Robert Louis Stevenson taps into that duality of human nature in his novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Dr. Jekyll searches for a way to eliminate the evil that he believes exist in all of us.
But what Dr. Jekyll discovers instead is that he feels confined by his respectable behavior. As Mr. Hyde, he is able to shed his good-guy image and engage in his wild side without worrying about society’s judgment.
When we first meet Mr. Hyde, we know him only by description: a small, brute of a man. He charges down the sidewalk, knocks down a small child and doesn’t stop to see if she’s OK.
Mr. Richard Enfield talks about this incident to his friend, lawyer Mr. Gabriel Utterson, as they walk thru this same neighborhood some days later.
Enfield said he ran after the man, collared him and brought him back to the scene.
A crowd of hateful faces surrounded the man (Hyde) and demanded that he pay for his crime. They told him that they “could make his name stink from one end of London to the other.”
“There was the man in the middle, with a kind of black, sneering coolness – frightened, too. I could see that – but, carrying it off, sir, really like Satan,” Enfield said.
To avoid a scandal, Hyde entered the door of a “certain sinister block of building” – the one that Enfield and Utterson were now near – and returned with a check for a hundred pounds.
Mr. Edward Hyde’s name was on the check. But, so was Dr. Henry Jekyll’s – one of Utterson’s clients.
Back at his office, Utterson removes a file from his safe. It is Jekyll’s will, and Hyde is named the sole beneficiary. Utterson fears for his client’s life.
Utterson is unaware that a mutual friend, Mr. Lanyon, knows a great deal more about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jekyll wrote to Lanyon and insisted he visit Jekyll’s home. But, it was Hyde who greeted Lanyon.
Hyde mixed some chemicals and drank it down in one gulp. His body and features began to change before Lanyon’s eyes. Lanyon, who at one time dismissed Jekyll’s experiments as “unscientific balderdash,” now sees how wrong he was.
“O God!” I screamed, and “O God” again and again; for there before my eyes – pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death – there stood Henry Jekyll!
The sight so horrifies Lanyon that he dies shortly after this encounter.
At times, Dr. Jekyll attempts to subdue the internal beast that wants to take over. But Hyde shows up unannounced and commits unspeakable acts.
The doctor begins to avoid his friends while he searches for a chemical solution to rid himself of Hyde forever. When Hyde emerges, however, he is stronger than ever.
One moonlit night, a maid witnesses a savage attack on another man. She tells police that Hyde turned on the man and beat him with a stick. Then, Hyde fled the scene.
Police found a letter on the murder victim addressed to Utterson. Utterson identifies the man as Sir Danvers Carew, his client and a popular member of Parliament.
Utterson is alarmed when he sees the murder weapon. He gave Dr. Jekyll the cane as a gift awhile back. He suspects Hyde got it from Jekyll.
Dr. Jekyll shuts himself off from his friends and Hyde seems to have disappeared.
One night, Dr. Hyde’s butler, Mr. Poole, visits Utterson. He’s quite agitated and insists that Utterson come with him. He’s convinced that Hyde has harmed Dr. Jekyll.
When they break down the door to Dr. Jekyll’s chamber, Hyde is at the desk and he is dead. As Utterson goes thru his client’s papers, he discovers the mask that Dr. Jekyll chose to wear. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were one and the same.
Is the lure of the dark side part of human nature?
“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching” said John Wooden, an American basketball coach.
What type of horror story or scary movie do you turn to this time of year?
Main Illustration: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (by Robert Louis Stevenson) – poster – Author: Chicago – National Prtg. & Engr. Co. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/57/Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_poster.png/640px-Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_poster.png
Illustration: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Mr. Hyde running over a little girl. Illustrated by Charles Raymond Macauley (1904) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fc/Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch1.Drawing2.JPG/390px-Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch1.Drawing2.JPG
Illustration: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Dr. Jekyll by himself on a bench. Illustrated by Charles Raymond Macauley (1904) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/86/Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch10.Drawing1.jpg/383px-Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch10.Drawing1.jpg