Here is a paper I wrote on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde about addiction and its tyrannical nature:
Many unsuspecting window shoppers find themselves wooed by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and are soon sitting in the shop, sipping a latte. Are they placating a need, or simply having a treat? In the literary classic, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, published in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson inadvertently portrays addiction throughout his story. Dr. Jekyll’s life exemplifies the tyrannical nature of addiction, which often leads to destruction.
The dangerous nature of dictatorial addiction results from a lack of self-control, giving in to an addiction repetitively to the point where it controls a person. This is not the single enjoyment of something good, but, the overpowering need to partake, like Jekyll. Although, one might claim there is such a thing as a good addiction, more correctly, it is a good habit, whereas addiction has a negative effect. “I began to spy a danger that… the balance of my nature might be permanently overthrown …” (68)
Jekyll displays his despotic addiction in the window incident during the rising action of the story. While Jekyll was conversing with Utterson and
Enfield, suddenly, “… the smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair…” (40) Within seconds, Hyde’s tyrannical nature took over, not only destroying his conversation by slamming the window, but ruining the good relationship with his shaken friends. In today’s culture, addiction can become a top priority for a person, pushing out friends, and having dire consequences, just like Jekyll.
The overpowering theme of this classic is also illustrated when Jekyll throws aside Hyde, determining to lead a life without him. For two months, Jekyll remained clothed and in his right mind. “He entertains, devotes himself to charity, and is highly sociable.” (Nelson) But, he neither destroyed the potion, nor the remnants of Hyde. If an individual wants to overcome an addiction, he must destroy anything that would tempt him to return to its undesirable path. Jekyll knew that for his situation, “…to be tempted, however slightly, was to fall.” (69) But, the temptation was too strong, and his self-control too weak. “… at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught.” (69) Tyrannical Hyde had been caged for too long, “… and he came out roaring.” (69) James Roberts noted, “Edward Hyde began appearing whenever he wanted to…,” forcing Jekyll to stay secluded. Jekyll’s Goliath grew to be uncontrollable. Although, “Stevenson suggests that once one gives free rein to their evil tendencies, there is no going back,” (Sauder) this is not true. While a person lives, it is never too late for God’s saving grace, if the person is ready to repent, and wants help to overcome his problem.
Domineering addiction for Jekyll ceases in the climax of the story, when Hyde commits suicide, destroying Jekyll’s life and reputation by the exposure of his dual personality. Here, “Stevenson stresses the importance of reputation in Victorian England…” (Nelson) Utterson delayed involving the authorities in an attempt to save face. Jekyll’s reputation and scientific life was shattered, his dream to discover a purely good self lost forever, and his science lab lay in ruin. With Jekyll’s destruction, everything else went with him. This scenario can be applied in today’s culture. An individual’s addiction, whether alcohol, drugs, etc., if they let it overcome them, it will most certainly end in destruction. Everything one ever worked for could splinter to pieces because of the addiction.
Robert Louis Stevenson is warning today’s culture through Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, exposing the tyrannical nature of addiction, and how it often leads to destruction. Although Stevenson didn’t live the values that he preached, his writing still has an impact. Be challenged to catch and smother addiction before its hold is too strong and powerful enough to be irresistible. When that wonderful aroma woos those unsuspecting window shoppers into the coffee shop, they will simply be treating themselves to a delicious latte, because they have learned from Jekyll’s mistakes, and haven’t chosen his unfortunate path. They can sip with content, and give no second thought to it. There is no monster in its shadow.
Word Count: 694
Nelson, Brittany. GradeSaver: ClassicNote: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Study Guide. Gradesaver. 2007. 9 March 2007 <http://www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/jekyll/section3.html>
Roberts, James L. CliffsNotes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Character Analysis: Dr. Henry (Harry) Jekyll. 2007. 9 Mar 2007 <http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/id-88,pageNum-27.html>.
Sauder, Diane. PinkMonkey: Free Study Guide of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Overall Analyses: Literary Criticism. PinkMonkey.com. 2000. 8 March 2007. <http://pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmJekyll36.asp>
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
New York: Oxford University Press (World’s Classics), 1998.