How Hyde, hides away

In the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, looking through the lens of how mental health was dealt with in the 19th century, Mr.Hyde’s name is apparent wordplay for the perceived danger of mental illness and how it has to be hidden from society. So far in the text, Mr. Utterson wants to stay out of the situation to protect Jekyll and conceal his condition; however, he is still very curious and begins to realize that the two men are hiding a secret. When Utterson’s clerk compares handwriting samples, he says, “There’s a rather singular resemblance; the two hands are in many points identical: only differently sloped” (Incident of the Letter). With this realization, they both suspect that there is more to Jekyll and Hyde than meets the eye, but to protect his friend’s status, he shuts the mini-investigation down with “I wouldn’t speak of this note, you know” (Incident of the Letter). Utterson has an underlying yearning to know more about Jekyll and Hyde. Still, he does not want to implicate or be associated with anyone considered abnormal by Victorian standards. As we know from other 19th-century texts, such as Lady Audley’s Secret, locking up individuals who defy social norms, such as having perceived or exaggerated mental health conditions, was commonplace, and that could be why Utterson wants to remain silent. All of these quotes further emphasize the careful choice of Hyde’s name to continually reinforce how severely stigmatized mental health was in the 19th century. In this context, the word “hide” means to conceal a secret, and Hyde himself is secretive, mysterious, and viewed as a pariah by those interacting with him. The 19th-century ideas surrounding mental health made seeking help and discussing preventive measures difficult, if not impossible. 

5 thoughts on “How Hyde, hides away”

  1. I think the idea that the name of Dr.Hyde (Hide) being intentional is a very interesting idea as the idea of the concealment of this dual personality was very prominent throughout the novel Another point that you made that stuck out to me throughout our readings of these victorian novels was the dangers of abnormality. This is a central theme in this novel as well as Dracula as the idea of foreigners or people that don’t fit into the status quo is always viewed as perilous. This is very clear with the example that you provided with Utterson as he knew something was wrong but refused to confront the situation because he did not want to be associated with such abnormal or mystical behavior. This idea continues to reinforce one of the major themes that we have seen throughout the texts in this course and that is the danger of the strange or abnormal and the importance of adhering by societal norms.

  2. I enjoyed this post. I think you picked up on a very subtle, yet important clue because mental illness is certainly hidden by most men. I believe this post connects to Rossetti’s poem, “The World”. This poem is not about any monstrous, alter-egos, but Rossetti prevails a falsehood of the beautiful landscape of the daytime. I believe this connects to Henry Jekyll’s false persona. The story and poem share a similarity by putting on a “front” to avoid the harsh realities of society which are temptation (in “The World”) and true identity (in “The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde).

  3. Dear Meredith,

    I found your analysis in this post to be thought-provoking and it introduced a new perspective for me to consider Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in. The idea that Hyde is another term for mental illness provides some great social commentary. It made me consider some of the other works that we read through this lens as well. In particular, I wonder if we could apply this to Goblin Market. Could the goblin men have been a symbol for this as well or was this a commentary for all men in general? I don’t have an answer but it is certainly a new perspective for me to keep in mind.

  4. Wow! This is so interesting. If it weren’t for this blog post I would have never even thought about the play on words with Mr. Hyde’s name. The Victorian era was a horrible time to deal with mental illness, for both genders. Men and women were expected to do their silly little NPC tasks and conform to societal norms, which can drive anyone crazy or make mental illness even worse. Attitudes towards mental illness were complex and of course there was a societal stigma. The understanding of mental illness varied on gender and I think Stevenson did a wonderful job showing how the expectations of masculinity prevented men from seeking support and expressing their emotions.

  5. Personally in media, I love it when characters are named after a particular character trait of theirs. Mr. Hyde is no exception, when there is so much stigma around mental health, it seems easier to hide it than to show it. Even in modern day with societal pressures forcing people to be more and more like machines and less like people, mental health is thrown by the wayside in favor of productivity and efficiency.

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