Playing God

 

Jekyll attempts to cheat human nature by creating a potion that separates the hidden evil in him from himself. By channeling all his suppressed evil into another being he can live without any evil desires in his regular self, or so he thought. Jekyll’s pride is shown through his want to better himself through unnatural means rather than live through the struggle of living with your evil side and learning to control it like everyone else. It is his pride that leads him to ruin his life as well as what leads him to his death.  

 

“That man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point. Others will follow, others will outstrip me on the same lines; and I hazard the guess that man will be ultimately known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous and independent denizens. I, for my part, from the nature of my life, advanced infallibly in one direction and in one direction only. It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date, even before the course of my scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle, I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements. 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, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous f*ggots were thus bound together—that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then were they dissociated? (Stevenson 43).” 

 

“That man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point.” Jekyll is right, people are nuanced, they have innate desires that are both good and bad. The question is, if everyone has innate desires that are good and bad how does one know whether they are a good or bad person? The answer lies in if you allow yourself to be ruled by your bad desires or your good desires, if you are ruled by the good desires you are a good person, if you are ruled by the bad desires you are a bad person. This idea Jekyll never takes into consideration, while of course a person will always have good and evil desires it does not mean he is split in two, like Jekyll believes. Man only has one side, himself, and it is a tug of war of whether he allows himself to be ruled by his good or bad desires. Next Jekyll writes, “I, for my part, from the nature of my life, advanced inallibly in one direction and in one direction only. It was on the moral side.” Jekyll’s pride becomes obvious here, no one who is wholly human can be moral all the time without fail, which is what he claims here. Next Jekyll says, “I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.” Jekyll is wrong, and his transformations prove it, he thinks it’s possible he could be both the good and bad sides of himself in totality. This is wrong. Jekyll’s desire to transform into Hyde originally came from him, his supposedly “good” half still gives into the desire of wanting to be the wholly bad version of himself. This shows that one cannot ever be radically one or the other since even what he thinks is his good half still desired to be Hyde and executed the plan to become him repeatedly.  Jekyll’s pride can be seen again in this part of the quote, “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, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.” Jekyll wants to live a life free of the unbearable burden that is evil, so that he can live a life in which he can be wholly good all the time. Essentially, he wants to cheat life, without evil to resist and struggle with, how can he be a good person? So much of being a good person is pushing against your evil desires, so how can he truly be wholly good with no evil in himself to fight against? In addition, what makes him think he is deserving of freedom from the the fight between good and evil within oneself? His pride has allowed him to think he can bypass a test that is necessary to decide one’s character, a test that every human ever has faced. Lastly, he says, “It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous f*ggots were thus bound together—that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then were they dissociated?” First Jekyll says, “It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous f*ggots were thus bound together—that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling.” Once more, it is not a curse that man struggles with good and evil, it is a test. It is a test that Jekyll believes he is too high and mighty for. Jekyll is not at peace with the idea that a person has two sides that are constantly struggling, he is not ready to put in the work to fight that battle and tries to cop out. Had Jekyll been a good person he would have laid down his pride and accepted evil would always been a part of him and mustered the strength to fight it. Yet instead he wanted to be perfect, no one who is only human is perfect. He could not accept his imperfect status because of his pride, and this is what led him to his demise. Jekyll essentially tried to be God.  

2 thoughts on “Playing God”

  1. I agree that Dr. Jekyll has some sort of complex issue where he desperately wants to appear perfect and save his image. His wanting to play God makes sense since it allows him to be free from judgment, and having Mr. Hyde available allows Jekyll to place all his blame on Hyde. I think that there is also a bigger theme of temptation here. Do you think that this implies that God had temptations, too, and that maybe he created others as a way to play out his temptations?

  2. I really like how you point out Jekyll’s desperation for perfectionism and how he struggles with the fight between his good and bad side. I can also view it as his failure to his deep desires against Mr. Hyde. One other work that does touch on this is the goblin market. Jekyll’s belief that he can completely eradicate his evil nature and become a purely good person matches with the sisters in “Goblin Market” who are enticed by the luscious fruits offered by the goblins. Both Jekyll and the sisters disregard the struggle of embracing and balancing their darker desires, leading to deadly outcomes.

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