“Yes, I preferred the elderly and discontented doctor, surrounded by friends and cherishing honest hopes; and bade a resolute farewell to the liberty, the comparative youth, the light step, leaping pulses and secret pleasures, that I had enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde. I made this choice perhaps with some unconscious reservation, for I neither gave up the house in Soho, nor destroyed the clothes of Edward Hyde, which still lay ready in my cabinet. For two months, however, I was true to my determination; for two months, I led a life of such severity as I had never before attained to, and enjoyed the compensation of an approving conscience. But time began at last to obliterate the freshness of my alarm…I began to be tortured by longings…and at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught.” (83, 84)
In the final pages of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde we read Jekyll’s written confession. It describes Jekyll’s degeneration as personal choice gives way to compulsion. We know that Mr Hyde does truly terrible things: he tramples a little girl and murders an old man, at the least. There are other “undignified” pleasures in which Mr Hyde indulges, but we aren’t told what those are. The above quote describes the deep conflict in Jekyll: he is torn between his distinguished and respectable self and his longing for the “freedom” he experiences as Hyde. As Hyde he “felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill race in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself…to be tenfold more wicked…and that thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine…”(78) It is odd to me that, here, wickedness is associated with lightness and a more embodied sense of being—true and vibrant aliveness. We have learned that a mainstream Victorian view of criminality involved being a less evolved human. It seems that to be refined and evolved (upper class) was necessarily repressive and separative (even deadening), which could be a reason why Jekyll was tempted as he was.
The idea that one can simultaneously “do’’ evil while being deeply connected to one’s own body and aliveness seems to be at odds; to me, one would exclude the other. Would not it be more likely that a sense of separation and dissociation, a type of deadening, would accompany the ability to perpetrate evil?
Stevenson Robert Louis, and Martin A Danahay. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Broadview Press, 2015, p. 78, 83, 84