Analysis of the Double in Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2006
20 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. A general definition

3. Alternating personality: A definition

4. Character analysis of Jekyll and Hyde

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is regarded as one of the most famous of all stories relating to doubles. The term Doppelgänger, coined by Jean-Paul Richter in 1796, was hallowed by the Romantic Movement and became particularly popular in the 19th century caused by social upheavals and the consequences of the industrial revolution (cf. Fernandez Bravo 1992:343, 366). Beside the Doppelgänger motif, Stevenson’s writing reflects to a great degree the circumstances of the Victorian age. On the one hand, the 1880s were the time of the development of sciences and psychology. On the other hand, the life was influenced by the established religion raising morality to the highest norm and demanding repression of desires and sexuality. Resulting from this, “a split within the self” was realized not only by authors but by the whole society (op. cit.:365). Consequently, the “Freudian concept of the split personality appeared in literature before the actual theory itself was proposed” (ibid.). Doppelgänger as well as split personalities became a common motif and were “used to explore issues of identity, sexuality and morality” (Bell 1992:176). According to Stevenson’s wife, one of the most important influences was “another strange case of ‘multiple personality’” by which Stevenson was “deeply impressed” (Showalter 2000:190). While he was writing Jekyll and Hyde, the author read in the Archives de Neurologie, a French journal on sub-consciousness, the case of Louis V., who was a male hysteric that “underwent a startling metamorphosis” beginning in his adolescence (ibid., cf. ibid.). All these facts in addition to Stevenson’s „passionate aim ‘to find a body, a vehicle for that strong sense of man’s double being’ which he had felt as a student in Edinburgh when he dreamed of leading ‘a double life – one of the day, one of the night’“ may have been his inspirations which culminated in the writing of the novel (Stevenson quoted in op. cit.:191).

As the 19th century was the time when the Doppelgänger motif reached its peak, a variety of works dealing with this motif were written. While reading the novel, it became clear that the Doppelgänger in Jekyll and Hyde is not the prototype of a double. So the interesting question raised, what kind of double then is it?

In the first part of my paper I will give a general definition of the term as well as a definition of alternating personality. In the second part I will analyse the characters of Jekyll and Hyde in order to investigate if the Doppelgänger in Jekyll and Hyde does tie up with the general definition and if the Doppelgänger can actually be considered an alternating personality?

In my paper I will maintain the idea of the authors who interchangeably use the following terms: Doppelgänger – double, alternating personality – multiple personality, and doubling – splitting – fragmentation - alter-ego.

2. A general definition

The term Doppelgänger or double is a very complex one and contains several aspects. Consequently, I only chose definitions which are suitable for my investigation. The first meaning of the term Doppelgänger is defined in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1990:350) as “a counterpart of a person or thing; a person who looks exactly like another”. In this connection Hildenbrock (1986:19) refers to the definition of counterpart in the The Oxford English Dictionary which describes the term as “Ebenbild : “A person or thing so answering to another as to appear a duplicate or exact copy of it”. This definition is added by a further explanation which is also important: “One of two parts which fit and complete each other; a person or thing forming a natural complement to another” (ibid.). Taking the latter explanation, this could mean that the counterpart, on the one hand, could be the pendant, the “Gegenstück”, an unity which consists of two homogenous parts. On the other hand, it could also be an “Ergänzung”, a completion of two opposite parts to an integral whole (ibid., cf. ibid.). The completion is closely connected with the expression “double” respectively the German term “doppelt”. Both terms exist in several compositions which do not imply double (“zweifach”) but two-sided (“zweiseitig”), for example terms such as ambiguous (“doppeldeutig”) and double life (“Doppelleben”) (ibid., cf. ibid.).

Additionally, another meaning of the term double given by The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1964:366, 1509) is “a wraith of a living person” defined as: “A person’s double or apparition seen shortly before or after his death; ghost.” This definition demonstrates the close relation to the supernatural. The term is associated with the superstition that the occurrence of a double or a person’s meeting with it is the herald of the person’s coming death (cf. Bravo in Brunel 1992: 344).

3. Alternating personality: A definition

In literature the term Doppelgänger or double is splitted into several types. Hildenbrock (1986) distinguishes, with regard to the sorts of doubles, between parents and children, twins, similarity by chance and substitutes, alternating personality, phantom, mirror image, opposing self, and shadow. Having analyzed and taken into consideration all these kinds in Hildenbrock’s work, the description of alternating personality is close to the double in Jekyll and Hyde. After leading a double life for years, one day Jekyll creates a drug which allows him to split off the unwelcome aspects of his personality without completely giving them up. By being able to transform into Mr. Hyde whenever he wants, Jekyll can release the repressed mental impulses, which are incompatible with his conscience and his social status. His strict super – ego (“the high views that I had set before me”) does not allow him to accept the sexual impulses of his nature as a part of his personality (cf. Hildenbrock 1986:122, ibid.). For that reason, Jekyll’s scientific efforts focus on splitting off of the evil part and by this denying the responsibility for Hyde’s deeds: “It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together – that in the agonized womb of consciousness these polar twins should be continuously struggling” (ibid.). But the idea of the splitting off is doomed to fail as the protagonist not only can no longer lead his double life but also has to arrange two absolute contrary identities (cf. ibid.).

At this point it is necessary to make use of Freud’s theory about the fragmentation of the mind into id, ego, and super - ego although his concept was not known when Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde. Applied to the novel it means that Hyde is equivalent to Freud’s id. The id is the personified evil and demands the fulfilment of its desires from the ego. Dr. Jekyll is equivalent to ego and represents the real person. The ego establishes the relation of the id as well as of the super – ego to reality. The super – ego is equivalent to Henry Jekyll. It represents the conscience and the ideal of the personality. The super – ego controls and also demands perfection from the ego. The id, the outside world and the super – ego have an effect on the ego. The ego reacts to great difficulties by developing anxiety. With regard to the demands, id and super – ego do not have a relation to reality (cf. Köhler 1995:50 pp.).

Moreover, the most explicit definition of the alternating personality was made by Rogers, who uses the terms alternating and multiple personality interchangeably. According to Rogers (1970:92), whose findings are based on the Freudian theory, the multiple personality

may occur when the ego’s various object - identifications come into severe conflict with each other. […] the appearance of an alternating personality can be understood in terms of the drives which have been repressed and impulses which are defended against.

Rogers (cf. ibid.) also underlines that alternating personalities seem to possess autonomy: “Each appears to live a life of his own […].” Rogers (op. cit.:15) also found out that “the dual or multiple personality […] involves behavioral dissociation in time.

Furthermore, Selinger (cf. 1977:44), whose information also bases on Rogers (1970), states that there is a distinction between manifest and latent doubling. Concerning latent doubling we further have to distinguish between “subject doubles, which relate to conflicts within an individual, and object doubles, which relate to an individual’s incompatible attitudes toward other characters, such as the “good” father/ “bad” father dichotomy”. In addition, there is a second distinction, which is inseparably connected with the first. The first type is “doubling by division” of a subject, for example “a child who states that he is two children with different names, a good one and a bad one (or sometimes several of each), and who denies the good’s responsibilities for the bad one’s deeds” (ibid.). The other type is “doubling by multiplication”, for example there can be a number of good daughters (sons) as well as bad daughters (sons) in a novel (ibid., cf. ibid.).

Resulting from the closer look at the features of an alternating personality, the definitions undoubtedly entail facts which can be related to the double in Jekyll and Hyde as well as details which do not fit so well. On the basis of the character analysis in the second part of my paper, I will investigate to what extent the general definitions as well as the definitions of the alternating personality tie up with the double in Stevenson’s novel.

4. Character analysis of Jekyll and Hyde

Before analysing the characters, the title of the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde points out the protagonist, Dr. Jekyll, and at the same time the antagonist, Mr. Hyde. Although both are theoretically one person, I will regard them as two identities in my analysis. By beginning the story with the introduction of Mr. Utterson, who is also a main character, his importance is emphasized. Moreover, the story is told by several narrators. The majority of the chapters are told by a heterodiegetic, covert narrator. In addition, it is an internal focaliser as proper names and the 3rd person singular are used:

Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, […] (Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:9).

The character of Utterson gained its importance not only by being firstly introduced but also by having a close relationship to the protagonist as well as to the other minor characters. Stevenson intelligently arranged the narrating voice in order to keep the reader in suspense. While Utterson “is not technically the narrator, the story is told almost as though he were” (Rogers 1970:93). This is caused by the fact that Utterson largely is the focaliser whose thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and memories play an important role: “He could have wished it otherwise; never in his life had he been conscious of so sharp a wish to see and touch his fellow - creatures; for, struggle as he might, there was borne in upon his mind a crushing anticipation of calamity” (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:48). Above all, Utterson’s important position in the novel is emphasized by being the character who investigates (“‘If he be Mr Hyde,’ he had thought, ‘I shall be Mr Seek’”) and finally reveals the mystery of Dr. Jekyll respectively Mr. Hyde (op. cit.:21).

Firstly, I will analyse Jekyll as he can be regarded as father figure in the Jekyll – Hyde relation. He is the father who creates Hyde, the son. The name Jekyll is not quite a telling name but it is a synonym for the good side of nature up to now. Jekyll, a chemist, is characterized by a heterodiegetic narrator whose position is outside the story and who has an omniscient point of view. For that reason, the narrator is a reliable one.


Excerpt out of 20 pages


Analysis of the Double in Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
Technical University of Chemnitz
Hauptseminar: 19th-Century Horror: Frankenstein, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde
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ISBN (Book)
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"An extraordinary clever and useful application of Doppelgänger-theme. Clearly an indepedent mind is at work that has gained various insight in the course of the work., Conclusion: a commonplace conclusion to a strong paper"
Analysis, Double, Stevenson, Strange, Case, Jekyll, Hyde, Hauptseminar, Horror, Frankenstein, Dracula
Quote paper
Corinna Roth (Author), 2006, Analysis of the Double in Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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