I read a children’s version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I was about 10 years old, and it is a story that has fascinated me ever since.
Robert Louis Stevenson, of Treasure Island fame, penned the novella in 1885. Stevenson’s body of work was criticized and largely dismissed by modern writers because it was so popular (and therefore perceived to be too commonplace), but in recent years, critics have begun to appreciate him as a man of prodigious artistic talent.
That talent is never more evident than in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which features impressive character development despite being a novella, clever framing, and most importantly, an insightful investigation of the dualistic nature of man.
In the story, Dr. Jekyll is a respected and talented medical doctor who wants to live a good and pure life but is plagued by his own evil desires.
Jekyll’s problem is experienced by all of us to some degree, and is one which the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 7.18-21:
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.”
In Stevenson’s story, Jekyll recognizes the good and evil natures warring within himself, and, by means of a chemical potion, decides to separate those natures with the hope of purging himself of his evil desires and the guilt that accompanies them.
Jekyll’s potion leads to the creation of Hyde, his despicable and wholly evil alter ego, who ultimately brings about his downfall.
Continuing in Romans 7.24-25 and 8.1-2, Paul points out a different solution to the problem of sin:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
Sin is dangerous and seductive, and has the power to enslave us. No chemical potion or medical doctor can loosen the bonds of that slavery; only The Great Physician can set us free.
The 1895 photograph above pictures Richard Mansfield, an American actor who was best known for playing the dual roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.