"Jekyll And Hyde": Is Jekyll An Imaginative Scientist And An Irresponsible Man?

1648 words - 7 pages

Throughout his life, Stevenson was always interested in mental illness and distortions of the mind and a lot of his novels are based on or involve schizophrenic characters. When growing up he had followed the case of Deacon Brodie - a peaceable cabinet maker by day and murderer by night. In my opinion, he saw the duality as a reflection of his own life; because he too had a split personality. Maybe he was using "Jekyll and Hyde" to portray his own personality.At the time he wrote "Jekyll and Hyde", Darwin's theories of evolution were just starting to be contemplated and not just discarded as irrational. Stevenson was very interested in Darwinian evolution so he used it as a theme for Jekyll and Hyde - Jekyll regresses into Hyde.Are the concepts of imaginative scientist and irresponsible man mutually exclusive? Is it possible that Jekyll is both an imaginative scientist and an irresponsible man and that there is therefore no black and white answer to the question? He certainly shows the characteristics of both identities at different times when he is in different mindsets. Jekyll is definitely a scientist, in that he wants to stretch the boundaries of knowledge. But early on we see the lawyer Utterson discussing Jekyll with Dr Lanyon, who implies that as a scientist he has started to go "wrong in the mind" and dismisses his work as "unscientific balderdash". Jekyll himself recognises that his "scientific studies led wholly to the mystic and the transcendental" - so not exactly the scientific mainstreamBut does that stop him actually being an imaginative scientist?Science at the time was relatively limited - it was almost an extension of, and had been dominated by, the beliefs of the church. In fact, the reason most people believed Darwin to be wrong was because of the fact that he undermined the teachings of the church. There was a big debate going on at the time discussing what science should or should not do. Stevenson expresses the two sides of the argument by manipulating two characters; Lanyon - the orthodox, moral and establishment scientist, versus Jekyll the pioneering explorer and breaker of taboos. In my opinion, science has a duty to push the boundaries, but Jekyll's experiments are clearly a step too far. Being a medical doctor, Jekyll should observe the Hippocratic oath and above all preserve human life - he does almost the opposite in creating Hyde. This would seem to suggest that he is definitely irresponsible in as much as he disregards all of his responsibilities.As a scientist, Jekyll has a relentless spirit of enquiry. An example of Jekyll being a good scientist is that even though he knows that in transforming into Hyde may cause him to die; he is willing to risk his life in the pursuit of science:"I knew well that I risked death."He is dispassionate and objective, able to look at his creation Hyde and observe closely the similarities and differences between them. In fact the narrator begins to occupy a kind of middle ground,...

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