“Man is not Truly One but Truly Two”

Dr Jekyll had always strived to conform to the dominant values of his time. Highly respectable with a charitable disposition, he enjoys a reputation as a courteous and genial man, however, he very soon understands that the sparkling facade that he exhibits in society does not correspond to his real nature, or better, natures. “Man is not truly one , but truly two“, Dr Jekyll says , a “double being“, then, whose most secret side is more prudent to have it concealed from the eyes of the many, but at the same time it is also so dangerously attractive. Whether we call it “evil side” or “id” as Freud would define it, what’s so fascinating in the exploration of this dark, emotional world?

According to the Freudian tripartite division of the psyche, the “id” is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories. That part of our psyche prevails when we are children, as we haven’t fully developed a moral conscience yet, according to the values imparted by parents or society, what Freud calls the “superego”. This development, which occurs around the age 3-5, is called the phallic age of the psychosexual development. How does it all this work, then? Well, the “superego” controls the “id” ‘s impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression, for example and persuades the “ego” to turn to moralistic goals, to behave properly and to seek for perfection. Otherwise, the controlling power of the superego would take the form of conscience, thus making arouse a sense of guilt for not having being able to conform to what family and society expect from you, for not being that ideal self that you ought to become in order to be proudly integrated in the system.

So, the “id” is the instinct, whatever is forbidden and therefore evil, that is why it is so appealing, in particular to seemingly strait-laced Dr Jekyll, who would like to enjoy the drives he so painfully tries to repress. A potion will do the trick and give him the chance to tell us readers, what it feels like to fully experience that secret side of our self, to be finally the Mr Hyde each of us conceals. Well, the answer we’ll be shockingly simple: happy.

He is happy, as for the first time he we’ll be able to feel ” something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet“. Without the moral laces of the superego he feels even “younger, lighter, happier in body” like a child and in his mind “a current of disordered sensual images” runs” like a mill-race in (his) fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul”. Dr Jekyll, now Mr Hyde, is fully aware that this new self is “ more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to (his) original evil“, but there is no room for a moral condemnation here, but rather, the only thought of it is as inebriating as wine.

Having struggled all his life to improve his good side, this Mr Hyde appears to be shorter and smaller than Dr Jekyll and conforming to the canons which connote evil, he is ugly and deformed. However, when he looks upon that “ugly idol “in the mirror, he feels no repugnance but rather “a leap of welcome”. He recognizes that as his real, natural self, better than “the imperfect and divided countenance” of Dr Jekyll and even if Mr Hyde is repulsive at the eyes of other people, he doesn’t care. Why should he? After all, he finds himself now above the moral ties of the Victorian society and can enjoy freely the darkness of his soul.


21 thoughts on ““Man is not Truly One but Truly Two”

  1. Fantastic recap of this story, and the duality that exists in all of us. From a psychological perspective, I love how you tied Hyde into the Freudian “id.” This is one of my favorite Stevenson stories, and I think a good lesson in finding ways to balance our good sides with our darker impulses.

  2. Fascinating explanation of a story that was so puzzling and rather frightening as a child..- this strangely being a book that was given to chlldren, like so many classics, Dickens et al…. but we never get to the integration of the character,( Jung) and only see the divided self in this story…

    • Thanks Valerie. The fact that there is no integration of the character is the great noveltly of this work, but above all, describing this darker side ( Hyde) as the only one who can fully enjoy life smahes in a feel swoop all the Victorian moral vision of the world.

  3. Though it’s been a long time since I read either novel I always felt that Stevenson’s work had an interesting counterpart in Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, exploring similar issues but in a different format.

    I’m not totally sold on Freudian explanations but there is certainly something intriguing not only in the desires to be freed from moral constraints but also the idea that moral degradation has its visible aspect in ugliness and deformity.

    This last prejudice is longstanding in our human history but has sadly resulted in far too many injustices against the innocent.

    • I think that the association ugly=evil, beautiful=good belongs to our universal archetype. It is inherited and ,hence, very dangerous for the reasons you mentioned and very unlikely to be uprooted soon.

  4. Good point, prof! And a deep insight on the Jekyll/Hyde duality aswell. I am sure anyone at some point of his/her life has experienced that feeling of freedom (which in most cases comes with that happiness you mentioned) in doing something forbidden, breaking the rules and not feel guilty about it. In the novel, this “welcoming” of one’s true nature is only related to the evil side, as Jekyll embraces it to become Mr. Hyde. It surely goes straight to the point: there IS evil in the heart of men, no matter how much morality tries to hyde it (pun intended). But is that really it? I have found that, getting rid of all morals, one can be truly happy and free pursuing the highest of all goals: Love.

  5. Pingback: “Man is not Truly One butTruly Two” — e-Tinkerbell | paddypicasso

  6. so many tidbits to soak up here and my mind was wandering about some of the Victorian chokes…
    and nice post with this being my favorite line:

    ” something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet“.

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