In 1886 R.L. Stevenson had a dream which inspired his famous story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story tells how Henry Jekyll, a successful and respected doctor, is both attracted and repulsed by the idea of evil. He knows that society will not accept his evil and his reputation will suffer. He develops a potion which helps him to transform into the evil Edward Hyde and separate his good side from his bad one. Edward Hyde is completely evil and without morals; even his deformed body seems to represent his evil personality. At first Dr Jekyll is happy with the moral freedom that he has when he becomes Mr Hyde but soon realises that it is impossible to control. Jekyll finally loses the battle and his evil side wins.

Nowadays the names Jekyll and Hyde are associated with split personalities and are seen to represent the good and evil that exist within the human personality. However, on another level Stevenson’s novel can be seen as a comment on the hypocrisy and double standards of Victorian society. On the surface it is refined and sophisticated like Dr Jekyll, but underneath it hid dark secrets and immoral actions like Hyde.

 

Illustration by ​Gianni De Conno, taken from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Reading and Training, Step 3 (B1.2)