Human Nature in Jekyll and Hyde

In the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the duality of human nature is one of the major themes. The question if people are born good or evil isn’t answered in the text but we are able to see how it could go both ways, and the views of the author on this subject. Stevenson is able to show his readers that humans aren’t born inherently bad or good, but somewhere in the middle. By separating the good, Dr. Jekyll, and the bad, Mr. Hyde, we are able to see that humans have both and one without the other can sometimes be overpowering.

Throughout the novel it is hard to imagine Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being the same person because of their differences. It is apparent that Mr. Hyde is full evil, but what isn’t as noticeable is that, Dr. Jekyll, who is suppose to be completely good, has these desires which can’t be fulfilled on his own. He knows that everything he feels isn’t right but inherently there is a desire to learn more, and to be curious about these things he’s been told not to do his whole life. This led to the creation of Mr. Hyde and the release of all things evil inside Dr. Jekyll.

This novel is able to explain why good people do bad things. Even the best people want to know how far they can push their boundaries and what they can get away with. The creation of Mr. Hyde was Jekyll’s way of doing this and releasing his inner demons. There is no such thing as an all-good human; Jekyll says at one point  “man is not truly one, but truly two.” Meaning that he is fully aware that there are two personalities inside of people, and he learns very quickly after successfully completing his experiment that you need the one to balance out the other.

In Dr. Jekyll’s case there is too much good, he feels responsible for all his actions and he knows exactly what is right and what is wrong. He always does the socially acceptable thing and never strays away from that. With Mr. Hyde it is the opposite, he is filled with bad and does everything wrong. He feels great joy when doing the wrong thing. Eventually the bad starts to take over and this is when Jekyll realizes how wrong his experiment was.  He becomes aware that good and bad balance each other out. Being too good isn’t always the best option, without a little bad life gets boring, which is why he wanted to create an alter ego. The same goes for being all bad, there has to be good to balance it out.

7 thoughts on “Human Nature in Jekyll and Hyde”

  1. I agree with the fact that humans are both good and bad. No one can be entirely good because as humans we make mistakes and have flaws. I’m a little confused though because you say that Dr. Jekyll is “supposed to be good” but he has desires that he wants to fulfill and then you say that he is entirely good and pure. Do you think that he is entirely good and is saint-like or do you think that he is still a mixture of good and bad?

  2. The duality of human nature is a very ambiguous subject. As we have discussed in class, most of us (including myself) would say people are selfish by nature and are never purely good. So, as you described, Dr. Jekyll creates Mr. Hyde so he can fully separate this duality. However, as Jessie asked, is he entirely good, since he separated all of his evil into another being? I would say that Dr. Jekyll, although he attempted to rid his true identity of any bad impulses, is not purely good. He created something evil, and in doing so, assumed that identity as well. Mr. Hyde is a part of Dr. Jekyll, and vice versa. So, he is responsible for all of the evil that Hyde does.

  3. Although many people have discussed in class that they believe humans are selfish by nature, I believe otherwise. I think that humans come into the world as pure beings, and can only be influenced into being egocentric and self-abosorbed. Humans are easily effected by those around them, and learn to be selfish. As far as Dr. Jekyll, I believe that he was purely good until he grew up and had desires to push the boundaries of science. In his wanting, he then created an evil side that was him, but also not. When he would transform in Mr. Hyde, it was his body, but not his personality. It was a generated one, and the separate evil that was trapped inside Dr. Jekyll.

  4. I have a slightly different view on the question of are humans inherently bad or good. I believe that humans are born with knowledge that comes from their parents and then have to gain knowledge from sensory experience as well. Depending on the way someone is raised, they can have inherently bad or good outlooks on life. Dr. Jekyll is inherently too good and therefore when he becomes Mr. Hyde, he is too bad.

  5. I thought your idea about good and evil, “one without the other can sometimes be overpowering” was interesting. I definitely agree that evil can be overpowering without good to balance it out, but is good ever “overpowering?” I feel like there’s definitely an argument to be made that it is, but in my mind the whole point of good vs. evil is that “good” usually has an end purpose of creating balance, because that’s where peace is found.

    1. I feel like good is not “overpowering” as you put it because I think that those who act “good” and do “good” are ignoring the “bad” instincts and thoughts that come by default. If we also think about Faustus, he is a character we read about who rationalizes what is good and bad, and chooses to act bad. I think he, at least his thought process, is very similar to the average human today. Capable of knowing about good and bad, but choosing to act bad/wrong in our self-interested agendas.

  6. I think that humans are inherently good. We are simply good to ourselves. Our actions are made to benefit us. How often do you do something that only has a negative effect? There are things that are hard to do, such as the classic example of letting someone go. Yes that makes one feel horrible and maybe want to sit and cry for five years but in the end isn’t it good for us to let someone go? If they aren’t able to make us happy and all that jazz, why keep them around? I hate that example, but it was easy for me to type out. For Jekyll, Hyde seemed to be an escape. There is not much, if any, insight into Hyde’s mind so I cannot say what his motives were. However, to me it seemed to me as I read the book that Hyde was a way for Jekyll to stay sane, a release for Jekyll, a way for him to keep his aggression in check.

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