In this Gothic novella, Robert Louis Stevenson combines the horrors of the human soul with a disgust for the Victorian importance of reputation. Stevenson delves into the darkest depths of humanity, and seems to discover what Sigmund Freud would not publish for another 15 years: the repression of the id, or the instinctive side of human nature, by the super-ego, or the part of us that holds on to the cultural ideals and rules we were raised with. Stevenson’s wife noted in her reading of his first draft of the novella that it read like an allegory, and indeed, it reflected the Victorian struggle of the "double self."
Allegory examples in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Jekyll and Hyde Allegory
The strange door that leads out of the backside of Dr. Jekyll’s house juts out at a strange angle. It is dark and there is no bell or knocker. The building itself looks neglected and sordid. It looks out of place in the upscale neighborhood, because it looks like it was once a place where sketchy people used to hang around.
The door itself is a means for Hyde to enter and leave the Jekyll residence unhindered. It gives Jekyll the ultimate freedom to embrace his inner evil and freedom. For people of the Victorian era, this door (and its key) represents the freedom they themselves would be able to have if they were able to don another identity. They wouldn’t have to be held accountable to anyone, and they would be able to experience the “sins” of life free from guilt.
Edward Hyde is a small man with corded, hairy hands, and an almost deformed look about his face, even without an obvious deformity. He strikes both horror and hatred into the hearts and deepest depths of people’s souls when they see him. He makes people want to murder him because he is so repulsive.
In the Victorian era, Edward Hyde is the ultimate freedom. He is able to experience the taboo, and to throw aside reputation. For modern day readers, Hyde is the id, as explained by Freud: the instinct that is always being repressed by the super-ego. Hyde is the dark side of human nature that we work every day to control, and sometimes wonder what it would be like to let loose. Jekyll’s inability to control his desire to become Hyde could reflect the struggles of addiction.
DR. HENRY JEKYLL
Dr. Jekyll is a well-respected man in London: very rich, and very brilliant. His work in the sciences for many years was heralded, until he began to delve into experiments of human transience. His desire to maintain his reputation and his fear of punishment for his deeds prompts him to try to keep Hyde under control. He enjoys the life of being a cherished friend and doctor, but ultimately, is bored by his obligations. The temptations of ultimate abandon become too great.
Dr. Jekyll is the Victorian man: well-meaning, dedicated to his work, following his obligations, well-respected in his community. He is the man that many aspire to in order to live a good life with relatively few major interruptions. However, he is also a conflicted man, who regularly struggles with the other side he knows lies within. For modern readers, he is a person we aspire to be like, but we can also empathize with his confliction of boredom.