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CLASSE-IQUE MAIS TELLEMENT BON...
le 26 mai 2004
The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde was written in England and he wrote a similar tale about the double in the form of two brothers in Samour; The Master Of Ballantrae. Stevenson was very influenced by his stern father and the equally stern Calvinist tradition in Presbyterian Scotland. The Calvinist thought that sin and evil were deeply rooted in the human soul. They also believed the devil could reappeared in human form. This is clearly present in The Portray Of Hyde. The double is a firm XIXth century motive going back to the Gothic novel and can be traced in German and Russian literature. The double became very frequent in the "fin de siècle" with Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, and H.G Wells. The literary double plays out the conflicts of Christianity, the age of reason, the Enlightenment, evolution and psychology. Other terms meaning the double are doppelganger and alter ego. Novels built around the double explore the rupture between the public and the private self and between the social pressures to do good opposed to an instinctive desire to break rules. Advances in medicine in the XIXth century had made the working of the human body clear but was counter balanced by a belief in hidden mysteries of the body. Such ideas were explored by psychologists and were finally developed by Freud in his study of the ego and the id. But Stevenson had not read Freud and it would be a mistake to see the novel as a simple demonstration of Freudian theory. Stevenson work is of course not just a demonstration of the world around him. In A Humble Remonstrance he defines the idea of literature criticizing naturalism and deterministic modes of fiction. He declared that the author should: "half close his eyes against the daggle and confusion of reality». The immediate origin of Jekyll and Hyde was a dream and Stevenson called it "a bogy tale". Reading Jekyll and Hyde today we have to try to forget received ideas about the text.» To be a Jekyll and Hyde" is now a common expression in English to mean somebody changeable and heretic. The original reader would have been lost, confused and amazed by the text. The first half of the novel is like a detective story when Utterson, the respectable lawyer suspects something is wrong in his friend life and decide to get to the truth. Like a detective story; the narrative includes a murder scene: the Carew murder case, a suspect and a series of eye witnesses. Before we reach the statement, we soon guess that Jekyll is hiding the truth about his relationship with Hyde but nobody really suspects they might be the same man. It is as Utterson says on page 44: "this is a very strange tale, this is rather a wild tale". It is worth noticing how easily we accept the fetched scientific explanation behind Jekyll's metamorphosis. The secret is that he takes some powders bought at the chemist's and changes into his hideous double. He takes more powders to change back but the text is so compelling that the reader is not trouble by such fantasies. We accept that a tall aging doctor can change into a smaller younger criminal. This is because we read the text as an allegory. Hyde represents ugliness hidden in man and Jekyll represents the respectable man in society. Jekyll's quest for self division is an attempt to gratify his hidden self without loosing his public appearance. The trouble is once the hidden self has tasted freedom it can no longer accept repression. Jekyll says on page 64 : "my devil had long been caged, he came out roaring». Another reason for our fascination for the novel is the interdependence of Jekyll and Hyde. Hyde is not just Jekyll's negative; he is also part of his respectability. In this text "Je" est un autre (Rimbaud) but he's also the same. Jekyll is obsessed by his own dark reflection. He even keeps a mirror in his study to watch his own transformation. In his final statement he admits that he is wholly responsible for his dangerous other self. Like his old ancestor Dr.Frankenstein, Jekyll is a scientist who created a monster that he cannot control. And finally, the novel is compelling because of its speed. It starts with a quick Sunday walk and quickly plunges into the heart of man. The mysterious door on page 1 leads to a nightmarish story. Utterson believes he has the murderer shut up in the study and Jekyll is writings his statements quickly because he knows that Hyde is returning forever. When Poole and Utterson break down the door they find not the murderer but a dead body. Jekyll has finished writing and killed his double unless his double killed him.