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Jekyll's Addiction to Evil

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, addiction plays a major role. It is not so much the addiction to the tincture that Jekyll mixes as much as to the addiction Jekyll has to his evil counterpart Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll’s own exploration of self, his refusal to give up Hyde, and his physical transformation are all parts of his addiction. It is Jekyll’s obsession with the other half of his personality that he cannot give up. According to this website on addiction:

Psychological addiction, as opposed to physiological addiction, is a person's need to use a drug or engage in a behavior despite the harm caused out of desire for the effects it produces, rather than to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Instead of an actual physiological dependence on a drug, such as heroin, psychological addiction usually develops out of habits that relieve symptoms of loneliness or anxiety. As the drug is indulged, it becomes associated with the release of pleasure-inducing endorphins, and a cycle is started that is similar to physiological addiction. This cycle is often very difficult to break.

It is this “cycle” that has Jekyll in its grasp. Jekyll uses the speech of an addict when he tells Utterson, “just put your good heart to rest. I will tell you one thing: the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde.” (22) Addicts are always saying that they can give up their addictions whenever they choose; this is obviously not the case. Every time he tried to detoxify, Hyde would come back stronger: “My devil had been long cage, he came out roaring.” (71) Many addicts think that they can forgo their dependency on their own, but the true nature of their addiction usually wins out.

In Jekyll’s “full statement” at the end of the story, he admits his addiction with Hyde goes deeper than the drug he used to first induce the change. He believes that there is a “duplicity of life” which his high moral standing in the community would never permit him to explore without the help of creating a second personality, which is already within him. This second personality helps to relieve him of loneliness and he discovers a perverse pleasure in the evil life that Hyde lives:

I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of the new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine. (64)

This is where Jekyll’s addiction became saturated. His vision of duality and his scientific mind made him curious enough to try and concoct a tincture that would allow him to experiment with the twin nature of good and evil, but once he discovered the pleasures of pure evil, with what he felt were no repercussions to his good name, his addiction became complete. It “delighted” him and he was “happier” with this more lascivious side of himself.

Addicts will do anything to hide who they have become and what they are doing. Hyde is first noticed by the outside world walking into Jekyll’s home through a back entrance, an entrance that “was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and disdained.” (6) Hyde is already displaying anti-social behavior. Jekyll knows that this side of his personality cannot be seen and he goes to many lengths to keep Hyde hidden from the society in which Jekyll lives. I think what many people forget is that Hyde is not truly a separate person from Jekyll, he is Jekyll. This is why Jekyll cannot easily get rid of him, and why later the tincture that Jekyll uses to transform from one form to another no longer works. Hyde begins to come out on his own, without the help of the drug; “I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde.” (68)

Along with the psychological addiction there is also a physiological addiction. Like many addicts when he began to lose control over his addiction Jekyll began to take more of his drug hoping that it would help him to regain his control, “I had been obliged on more than one occasion to double, and once, with infinite risk of death to treble the amount.” (69) The mixture that the doctor has created becomes what Jekyll believes, to be the cause and the remedy for his addiction, “..a double dose to recall me to myself; and alas! six hours after, the pangs returned, and the drug had to be re-administered.” (76) When he can no longer control Hyde he panics and tries to use the drug to keep himself at bay. So, there is a dependency on the drug, but it comes from his physical and psychological need to be Hyde. There is a pleasure he gains from the brutality of Hyde.

Addicts also have noticeable changes in their physiognomy. Most drug addicts and alcoholics, when on the drug for a length of time, become altered in appearance. The alteration is never a flattering one. They usually become thinner, paler, and develop a deformed look to their facial features. Hyde is small in stature, hairy and deformed. He is the complete opposite to the handsome physicality of Jekyll. Utterson describes him as looking, “pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation.” (18) This deformity is commented on throughout the text. I think it is the evil that others see in him that causes them to see him as deformed. There is a hideous and unnaturalness about him that they can describe in no other way.
Jekyll’s addiction with Hyde is his undoing.

He has all the signs of an addict in every aspect of his life. He hides himself away from others and is in constant denial about his involvement with Hyde. He tries desperately to convince himself and others that Hyde is a separate entity, when in fact they are the same person and a part of Jekyll gets pleasure from the depravity of Hyde. This is why it was so easy for his dual nature to take over his body without the help of the drug. The two personalities begin to mesh and Jekyll becomes fearful of what he has unleashed in himself.

Comments (1)

Wow! Good treatment of denial and addiction in the story. You share a lot of the same views as Jared does in his blog entry on this book.

It's kind of odd to say we're "addicted" to one side of ourselves, isn't it? Is this a quest for wholeness and balance (the old yin and yang principle) or is it simply narcissism?

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