Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde · English · For Pupils

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – reading the last chapter

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So you’ve been set the task of reading the last chapter of the book – Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case to give it its full title. What do you need to look out for?Why has Stevenson left Jekyll’s story until the very end? Well, remember that his first readers wouldn’t know about the connection between Jekyll and Hyde until Lanyon’s dramatic last narrative (although how they could miss the clues I don’t know). However, even readers that know of the link have lots of questions like:

  1. Why would Jekyll want to change into Hyde?
  2. Why did he kill Carew? Trample the girl? Turn into such a demon?
  3. Why on earth would anyone want to disconnect their bad side from the good and how did he do it?

The first few pages deal with Jekyll’s reasons for his experiments – they’re quite complex so here goes with an explanation…

  1. As a young man, Jekyll accepted the faults in his personality. He has a ‘gaiety of disposition’ – on other words a thirst for the good life –  he calls his faults ‘irregularities’ which he hides with ‘a morbid sense of shame’. Remember Stevenson was writing in 1880s. Maybe if he was writing today, he would explain these ‘faults’ in more detail. As it is, we can only guess at what they are. Drug addiction? Womanising? Crime? Alcohol abuse? All the above?
  2. Why do you think he needed/wanted to ‘conceal his pleasures’ and what were these pleasures?! Again, maybe this has more to do Victorian morality – the stereotype of the Victorian is of a repressed individual, reflecting the austere image of Queen Victoria perhaps.
  3. He said he wasn’t a hypocrite: in other words he accepted that he had a good and bad side. He was a professional and therefore well respected man; and yet he also like to ‘plunge’ himself in shame. He enjoyed life in all its extremes. Problem was, they could not co-exist – he couldn’t be the good Dr Jekyll and also be a bad Dr Jekyll – what on earth would his patients think? 
  4. So what does he mean when he says that ‘man is not truly one, but truly two’? He sees the human spirit, soul, consciousness as containing these two sides.For Jekyll, this is a curse, and wouldn’t it be good, he says, if we could split the two. “If each … cold be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way … and the jut could walk steadfastly … doing the good things”.
  5. Not sure what he expected to happen though. Perhaps he felt that his bad side could go and do what he wanted and the good side would never be affected. This is a bit like the super-hero (think Batman) – a man puts on a mask and becomes someone else and no-one knows that  good Bruce Wayne is the masked vigilante. Except Jekyll wanted to put on a mask and get up to no good!
  6. In order to tackle the problem of ‘man’s’ dual nature, he decided to experiment with drugs to see if he could divide the personality. Clearly he was successful.

After this, Jekyll goes on to describe his ‘adventures’ as Hyde.

He purchases the chemicals – not knowing that it is their impurity that makes the experiment successful. So, despite all Jekyll’s scientific know-how, it is CHANCE that enables him to create Hyde. What is Stevenson saying about science here?

  1. How does he feel after he changes into Hyde for the first time? He describes his new life as something ‘indescribably new’ and ‘incredibly sweet’. Jekyll clearly relishes getting in touch with his dark side.
  2. Why was the evil side less developed than the good at first?
  3. How did Jekyll feel about Hyde? Notice Jekyll sees Hyde as ‘pure evil’.
  4. Look at the paragraph beginning ‘That night I had come to the fatal crossroads…’ What reasons does Jekyll give for Hyde turning out worse than he imagined?
  5. What did Hyde get up to do you think? What does he mean by his pleasures were ‘undignified’?
  6. Why do you think Jekyll could not contain Hyde? What is Stevenson’s message here?
  7. Why does Hyde ‘grow in stature’?
  8. Why was Jekyll reluctant to stop taking the drug? Look at the paragraph beginning ‘Between these two…’ and the following two paragraphs. Would you say that Jekyll was addicted to Hyde?
  9. How does Hyde behave when in Jekyll’s laboratory? What mischief does he get up to?

Happy reading – I’ll blog later about some of the messages that the novel contains and how it’s relevant today. Just rejoice in the language and ideas of this magnificent piece of work…

 

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