"If he be Mr. Hyde... I shall be Mr. Seek."

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-Review “Henry Jekyll’s Statement of the Case.”  Is Jekyll a reliable narrator?

I’m not sure if I am playing the devil’s advocate here, but I do not think that Jekyll is a reliable narrator. I personally think that it is hard to talk about Dr. Jekyll without talking about Mr. Hyde, since their duality brings them together as one in the same; each persona is a reflection of the other, so therefore both sides of the story have to be taken into consideration.

While the story is told from Utterson’s point of view, we do get to hear a great deal of Jekyll’s thoughts, opinions, and dying wishes on the matter.  We get to peak at documents, such as his will, read letters, and also hear his statement of the case.  But what bothers me the most is that we don’t get to hear Hyde’s thoughts.  I find it strange that everything is told from the perspective of Jekyll when it is Hyde that is going on this murderous rampage. Think me mad, but I feel that the transformation to Hyde would bring about a stronger, more emotional need to connect with the reader in terms of understanding where this evil, primitive being is coming from.  Also, as a scientist, regardless of whether or not he could control when he morphed, I would think that he would be curious to try to experiment and understand his other self, and make some type of record or do experiments on personality change, stream of consciousness, etc. So basically, how can Jekyll be a reliable narrator when we aren’t fully getting his complete opinion, because he is leaving out half of the story, by leaving out half of himself?

To go a little deeper into this, I wanted to mention the Afterword in the copy of the book that I have.  Jerome Charyn made a very interesting point about “Who is Hyde?”  He quotes, “Hyde is too forceful a character, too complex to be imprisoned inside a crude case of split personalities.  He won’t be part of anybody’s little circus, even though Jekyll tries to reduce him into an easy formula of everything that is foul din his own nature: ‘I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements [good and evil].  If each , I told myself could be housed in separate identities, life would  be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path.’”

I brought this quotation up because I think it proves how much Hyde is a part of Jekyll; in fact, I would be willing to say that I think that Hyde, in a sense takes, up more of him than his better side does.  Hyde is the ever present incubus of Jekyll’s dreams, thus making him a stronger character in my opinion.  In fact, I think that if we heard Hyde’s thoughts on the case, that he might be more reliable than Jekyll was.  Now mind you, I’m not treating them as two separate people, but rather as two separate personas, or states of mind.  You can’t get a full story without the other’s thoughts on the matter.  I think that had not Robert Louis Stevenson been sick when it was writing this (not to mention relating himself with the essence of Mr. Hyde) that he could have went more in depth with the character and perhaps given notations about the Hyde in general (thoughts, opinions, etc.) But at the same time, I’m not sure if the story would have gone over as well if there wasn’t that added mystery to the character. Nonetheless, I stand by what I said in the beginning: with just Jekyll’s account, is unreliable.

2 Comments

Marcus Christian said:

I agree with your wholeheartedly. Jekyll cannot be the one telling his story. And because of his unreliablility, we may never really know the truth. I think it is completely possible that Jekyll left something out of the tale, something so horrid that he could not even admit it. On the other hand, because Jekyll is an "upstanding citizen" in his present day society, would it be too much to say he is reliable just because of his status?
I know we look at this from a different point of view, but think about if you were told this by a doctor you completely trusted, would you believe it?

Stephanie Wytovich said:

Excellent point. A lot of emphasis is put on status and where you are on the social totem pole, so at this point in time, he very well could be seen as reliable. I am not saying that I am changing my opinion about the story in general, but the flip side to the argument is probable indeed.

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