Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 10

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 10 of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Chapter 10 : Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case | Summary

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Summary

Dr. Jekyll narrates this final chapter by way of a letter explaining what he did and why. It starts with a brief biographical sketch in which he admits that he has led a dishonest life, acting one way in public and another in private. His scientific studies align with this personal reality, showing him that the individual is not just one person but two. Jekyll then sets out to split these two identities. Through research Jekyll formulates a drug that creates a second body and face with its own half of the original personality. He puts off testing the potion for a long time because he knows he is risking his life to use it. Eventually, however, he tries it and finds it to be agonizingly painful. But it works. It leaves him feeling "younger, lighter," and "happier in body." As Edward Hyde, Jekyll is free to be "tenfold more wicked" than he has been in his original combined self. Hyde is smaller than Jekyll because he has not exercised this part of his personality to the same degree. Therefore, the body is not as developed. As he examines the evil face of Hyde for the first time, Jekyll realizes that his intention has determined the result of his experiment. If he has followed good intentions, the drug would have changed him for the better.

Jekyll embraces the reality of having a second self. He tells his servants that Hyde has access to the house, and he revises his will in Hyde's favor. He then begins to enjoy being Hyde. In this persona, he starts with "undignified" pleasures and moves on to "monstrous" ones. About two months before the Carew murder, something disturbing happens: he falls asleep as Jekyll but awakens as Hyde. This marks a shift in general balance. Early on, the challenge had been to "throw off" Jekyll's body, but now Hyde seems to be the more natural state. Jekyll explains that he and Hyde share a memory, so he has full knowledge of Hyde's activities. But all other faculties and emotions are unevenly shared.

Jekyll then puts Hyde aside for two months. When he lets him emerge again, his passions are more intense. That's when he murders Carew. Once everyone is looking for Hyde, Jekyll uses that threat to keep Hyde contained, and the ploy works for a while. Jekyll tries to make up for his past sins with good deeds, but Jekyll's drug has ruined his balance, and he eventually changes to Hyde while he is conscious and in public and without using the drug at all. At this point Jekyll's fear changes. He used to be afraid of being executed for murdering Carew, but now he is afraid of living as Hyde.

Fearing for his life, Hyde writes letters to Poole and Lanyon. He then appears at Lanyon's, where he changes back to Jekyll. Exhausted, he goes home to sleep. When he wakes up he has breakfast and then spontaneously changes to Hyde again. Hyde's power seems to grow as Jekyll weakens—and Hyde's hatred for Jekyll grows as well. He tries to make a new batch of the drug, but it doesn't work. He eventually concludes that some mysterious impurity in the original batch is what has allowed it to work its transformation. Jekyll takes the last of his original batch to give him some control for a time, but he ends his letter unsure what will happen.

Analysis

This chapter is an extended denouement. It comes after the climax (or the double climax of Jekyll's death and Hyde's transformation), which in many cases would mean readers get a brief wrap up followed by an explanation that carries or creates very little tension. This chapter serves those functions—it wraps up the story and explains all previously mysterious events—but it carries much more weight than most final explanations.

Some of this is due to the sheer number of plot-related mysteries Stevenson has managed to keep suspended throughout the course of the story. More of it, though, is due to how Jekyll's explanation continues to draw readers more deeply into a consideration of the novella's core themes. The chapter's opening line underscores the role of class in this novella: all of this was possible because Jekyll was born "to a large fortune." That gives him the money and freedom to implement his scientific investigations and indulge his darker passions.

The next key point is that Jekyll casts his investigations as a kind of honesty. Surely everyone has dark desires they indulge in private, and yet they still want to be respected in public. But Jekyll insists on a kind of elevated honesty, one that results in a kind of ethical purity. He's not willing to lead this divided life. At the same time, this reveals a striking twist to Jekyll's character. He's driven to his investigations because he feels his shame more intensely than most people: it is the depth and intensity of his emotions that spur him on.

He also casts himself as a scientific visionary. Other people might speculate on what a person's true nature is, but Henry Jekyll knows. Jekyll has discovered, he says, true human nature. A person has a divided self: "man is not truly one, but two." However, while Jekyll's explicit discussion of the theme of divided self that defines this book is essential to it, his comments do not simplify the narrative. In fact they complicate it. In the very first paragraph, Jekyll admits he was "committed to a profound duplicity of life." This duplicity, in which he is already committed to a double life before he begins his research, is profoundly anti-scientific. A scientist who sets out to confirm a position he or she already holds is likely to produce bad science. As forthright as it seems, Jekyll's discussion of his split self is also dishonest in many ways. He says he is not a hypocrite because he feels both sides of his nature earnestly. However, that's not the definition of a hypocrisy. Jekyll engages in immoral actions but lets only his ethical face be seen in public. In that sense he is a hypocrite. He's just subtler about it than some. At times he misdirects readers, referring to the two sides of his intelligence, "the moral and the intellectual." If those were the two sides at war in Henry Jekyll, this would be a very different book. The two sides at war are the acceptable public side, which includes both the moral and intellectual side of Jekyll, and the dark, hidden side: the violent, sexual, and passionate side.

In Chapter 2 Utterson noted that there was something "troglodytic" about Edward Hyde. In this final chapter Henry Jekyll markedly complicates this developmental perspective. On the one hand, Hyde could be seen as an evolutionary advance. Before Hyde all who had lived were a blend of good and evil. Hyde, though, is pure—albeit pure evil. However, as Jekyll notes, Hyde is "smaller, slighter, and younger" than Jekyll. Tagging him as "younger" makes it seem that what society calls evil is just the natural passion of youth, and that ethics comes with maturity. In this, Hyde seems like a living version of the Freudian id, the portion of the human self forever driven by primal passions.

At the same time he claims an unprecedented intellectual breakthrough, Jekyll claims a kind of modesty, acknowledging that others might go further and find a multitude of selves in each person. Because Stevenson has Jekyll emphasize his own honesty and humility early in his explanation, it colors the rest of the chapter. Readers want to believe Jekyll. However, if they reflect on whether they should trust him or not, the answer is no, definitely not. By his own account, the potion Jekyll invents changes his body, face, ethical character, and mental function. The only thing Jekyll shares with Hyde is a memory. By the time he writes this account, Jekyll is by his own admission no longer in control. He's trapped in Hyde's identity. As evidence of this, he can't make a new batch of his tincture. He says it must be because of an unknown imperfection in the original materials, one he can't reproduce. But, again, can he be trusted? As breathtaking as the entire story of a man splitting himself in two is, readers should also be left with a pervasive sense of uneasiness: can they trust what they are reading?

This lack of a final answer is common in Gothic literature and relates to the sense of the uncanny generated by Hyde. Gothic literature expresses the shadow side of 19th century scientific progress. This progress gave England factories, railroads, and an expanding economy. It also removed or weakened sources of social stability and psychological certainty, as when Darwin's theory of evolution undercut humanity's claim to special status. In the end one of the defining characteristics of Gothic literature is doubt. This is created through using, as Stevenson does here, narratives within narratives, incomplete narratives, and, in the case of this final chapter, unreliable narratives. The reader must ultimately decide whom to trust ... and if he or she has a self as splintered as Jekyll's.

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