Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Duality of Human Nature Theme Icon
Reputation, Secrecy and Repression Theme Icon
Innocence and Violence Theme Icon
Bachelorhood and Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Theme Icon

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde creates a tension between the world of reason and science and the world of the supernatural, and seems to suggest the limits of reason in its inability to understand or cope with the supernatural phenomena that take place. Jekyll confesses at the end of the novel that he has been fascinated by the duality of man and has taken to both chemical and mystical methods to try to get to the truth. This inclusion of a spiritual side to Jekyll’s philosophy shows his to be a mind unlike those of the lawyers and doctors of his society, who restrict themselves to traditional reason. The result of Jekyll's explorations—Mr. Hyde—is something beyond reason, which shocks and overwhelms the sensitive intellectual dispositions of the other characters and leaves Dr. Jekyll permanently removed from his educated, medical self.

The laboratory is the main setting of the mysterious events in the story, but far from being a place of science and medicine, the lab is deserted and strange, more Gothic than a place of science. In this setting the novel seems to hint at the insufficiency or even obsolescence of science. Jekyll, once a man of science, is leaving all that behind, leaving it unused, as he seeks new, unknown knowledge and truth. Jekyll's goals frighten and disgust the men of science, such as Lanyon, with whom he used to friends. Lanyon, in fact, is so shocked, overwhelmed, and unable to process what Jekyll has done that he dies soon after learning of it. He can’t bear the destruction of his stable, rational worldview. Utterson, meanwhile, is also unable to comprehend what is going on between Jekyll and Hyde—he thinks the relationship something criminal but comprehensible, such as blackmail—until the truth is revealed to him.

Hyde is described, quite literally, as being beyond rational description—his most noticeable trait is an unexplainable air of evil or deformity, which can neither be described concretely nor ascribed to any medical cause. This idea of deformity, both of the body and of the mind, fuels the power of the supernatural over the natural. And behind all the action of Jekyll and Hyde in the novel, a fear lurks for all the characters –the threat of madness and the threat of a new world, of new science, new traditions, new disorders that traditional science and reason can't comprehend or deal with.

Science, Reason and the Supernatural ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Science, Reason and the Supernatural appears in each chapter of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Science, Reason and the Supernatural Quotes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Below you will find the important quotes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde related to the theme of Science, Reason and the Supernatural.
Chapter 1 Quotes

"I feel very strongly about putting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment. You start a question, and it's like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others…”

Related Characters: Mr. Enfield (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first chapter of the novel, Mr. Enfield proceeds to tell Mr. Utterson about his impressions of a mysterious, violent man named Mr. Hyde. Enfield has had some limited interactions with Mr. Hyde, but he's very reluctant to talk about them--indeed, he protests to Utterson that to answer questions about Hyde is a "slippery slope." Enfield would prefer to ignore Mr. Hyde and Hyde's violent behavior altogether.

Right away, Stevenson suggests that Enfield and Utterson are repressed and reserved--in short, they're stereotypical Victorian gentlemen. Rather than root out evil and violence in their society, they'd prefer to sweep it under the rug. This theme of repression and secrecy is crucial to the novel, as Stevenson draws an important connection between Dr. Jekyll's own repressed evil and Jekyll's friends' willingness to repress their knowledge of Jekyll's evil. In such a way, Stevenson could be said to criticize the repressive Victorian society that allows evil to survive as long as it's just out of sight.

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"He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point.”

Related Characters: Mr. Enfield (speaker), Mr. Hyde
Related Symbols: The Appearance of Evil
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Enfield describes the appearance of Mr. Hyde to his friend Mr. Utterson. Enfield notes that Hyde seems hideously ugly, though Enfield can't exactly explain why. Because Mr. Hyde is the embodiment of evil, Mr. Enfield's reaction to Hyde's appearance reflects his attitude toward the abstract concept of evil. Because Enfield is a good, moral man, he naturally rejects Hyde, and just as Enfield finds Hyde ugly without being to specify what, exactly, is ugly about him, Enfield instinctively rejects evil without fully understanding it.

Enfield's observation that Hyde seems "deformed somehow" suggests that evil is a twisted, misshapen version of good. Hyde's deformed appearance could also reflect the fact that at this early stage in the novel, Jekyll's good side is stronger than his bad side--Jekyll (good) is strong, and Hyde (evil) is weak.

Chapter 2 Quotes

“He began to go wrong, wrong in mind; and though of course I continue to take an interest in him for old sake's sake, as they say, I see and I have seen devilish little of the man. Such unscientific balderdash," added the doctor, flushing suddenly purple, "would have estranged Damon and Pythias."

Related Characters: Dr. Hastie Lanyon (speaker), Dr. Jekyll
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Dr. Lanyon, one of Dr. Jekyll's oldest friends, complains that Dr. Jekyll has changed greatly in recent months. Where once Jekyll was calm, rational, and kind, he's become deeply "unscientific," experimenting with strange chemicals and potions and disappearing for days at a time. ("Damon and Pythias" alludes to a famous Greek story about two close friends--Lanyon is saying that he's a good friend to Jekyll, but Jekyll's behavior is trying their friendship.)

Lanyon fails to respect the near-magical nature of Dr. Jekyll's experimenting. Lanyon dismisses Jekyll's current work as "unscientific," and indeed, Jekyll's potion is almost magical in its power (it's capable of transforming Jekyll into Hyde). In short, Lanyon could be said to embody the 19th century spirit of enlightenment and logic, while Jekyll, via his experiments, embodies the "dark side" of the era--emotion, violence, and cruelty.

"Poor Harry Jekyll," he thought, "my mind misgives me he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace…”

Related Characters: Mr. Gabriel Utterson (speaker), Dr. Jekyll
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Utterson has known Dr. Jekyll for many years, and he's even aware that when Jekyll was a younger man, he he used to get in trouble. Utterson wonders if Jekyll's current behavior (unpredictable and untrustworthy) might have something to do with the sins of his youth.

Notably, Utterson claims that sin has no "statue of limitations"--in other words, the sins of Jekylll's past will stay with him forever. Over the course of the novel, Utterson's words will prove correct: Hyde is the very embodiment of Jekyll's dark, secret nature, proof that all human beings contain deep, sinful secrets which they try, and fail, to repress.

Chapter 3 Quotes

The large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes. "I do not care to hear more," said he. "This is a matter I thought we had agreed to drop."

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Gabriel Utterson
Related Symbols: The Appearance of Evil
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Mr. Utterson brings up Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll. Instead of talking about the matter, Jekyll replies that he refuses to discuss Hyde in any capacity. Utterson is surprised by Jekyll's reaction, since Utterson is one of Jekyll's oldest friends.

Jekyll's behavior--i.e., his refusal to discuss his secrets--is indicative of the repressive, stuffy atmosphere of Jekyll's society: Victorian society in general, but particular his circle of bachelor friends and acquaintances. Like his friends, Jekyll refuses to disclose his sins, or even to allude to them. And yet even here, when Jekyll hasn't ingested any of the potion that transforms him into Hyde, Utterson can see some "blackness" in Jekyll. It's as if Jekyll's secret, sinful nature is struggling desperately to get out, affecting even his physical appearance.

Chapter 4 Quotes

And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman.

Related Characters: Mr. Hyde
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hyde commits a horrible crime; he beats up a defenseless old man, Sir Danvers Carew. Stevenson uses subtly-chosen language to convey the nature of Hyde's evil: he describes Hyde "breaking out" like a flame, suggesting that Hyde is as fierce, angry, and uncontrollable as fire.

Hyde, one could say, is pure "id" (a concept from Freudian psychoanalysis)--he feels an unquenchable need to exercise his own aggression, or whatever other desire he might be feeling, and has no "ego" to check his behavior. Dr. Jekyll feels similar aggressive instincts, but because he's a good man, he knows how to control and repress such instincts. Hyde--the embodiment of all Jekyll's sins and secret desires, has no such restraints on his behavior, and thus, he beats the old man.

An ivory-faced and silvery-haired old woman opened the door. She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy: but her manners were excellent.

Related Symbols: The Appearance of Evil
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the police investigate Hyde's living quarters. An old woman with an evil, "hypocritical" face, lets the police into the room. The woman's face symbolizes some of Stevenson's ideas about the relationship between good and evil. All human beings have a secret desire to do evil, but most people learn how to control or at least conceal such a desire.

The old woman is a great example of a character who plainly desires to do evil, yet she is also an excellent example of the way society prevents people from giving in to their sinful desires. Good manners, it's suggested, help the old woman control her sinfulness--in other words, even though she's thinking nasty thoughts, she's able to conceal her thoughts beneath the facade of politeness. In a way, the old woman--and not Mr. Hyde--represents the real horror of Stevenson's novel. At least Mr. Hyde is clearly evil--someone like the old woman, who conceals her evil behind the appearance of goodness, can be far more dangerous in the long run.

Chapter 6 Quotes

"I have had a shock," he said, "and I shall never recover. It is a question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it. I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away."

Related Characters: Dr. Hastie Lanyon (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Utterson speaks with Dr. Lanyon. Lanyon has had a horrible shock, and senses that he is going to die very soon (suspend your disbelief, okay?). Lanyon seems unafraid of death--in fact, he implies that he's glad to be at the end of his life, since he's come upon some important and disturbing information recently.

What Lanyon doesn't say (and what we don't know yet) is that he's discovered Dr. Jekyll's secret: Jekyll is Mr. Hyde. Lanyon has accidentally stumbled upon the secret that Jekyll was hiding, and now that he's aware of the truth, he can't bear to live any longer. Lanyon's observation about "knowing all" reinforces the novel's themes of repression and secrecy, suggesting that human happiness hinges on our ignorance of the world around us, and of ourselves. Inside each one of us lurks a Mr. Hyde--once we become aware of such a thing (as Lanyon must be), it becomes difficult to go on living normally, or living at all. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

"O, sir," cried Poole, "do you think I do not know my master after twenty years? Do you think I do not know where his head comes to in the cabinet door, where I saw him every morning of my life? No, sir, that thing in the mask was never Dr. Jekyll--God knows what it was, but it was never Dr. Jekyll; and it is the belief of my heart that there was murder done."

Related Characters: Poole (speaker), Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Poole, Dr. Jekyll's old, faithful servant, insists that the figure locked in Dr. Jekyll's study isn't actually Dr. Jekyll at all. Poole has known Jekyll for 20 years, and can clearly tell that the Jekyll he knows is no longer present in the house. Poole's solution to the mystery of Jekyll's disappearance is that someone has murdered Jekyll and taken his place. But as we'll soon discover, the truth is far more disturbing. In reality, Jekyll's own hidden nature has consumed him: he has meddled with science and been punished for his experimentation with an awful curse. Mr. Hyde has finally triumphed over Jekyll: in other words, the evil side of Jekyll's soul has dominated the good.

Chapter 9 Quotes

"Lanyon, you remember your vows: what follows is under the seal of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors--behold!"

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Mr. Hyde meets up with Dr. Lanyon and drinks the potion that Dr. Jekyll has sent Lanyon to deliver. As Hyde drinks the potion, he urges Lanyon to "behold" his transformation from Hyde back to Jekyll.

Jekyll's interaction with Lanyon in this passage reflects the differences in their approaches to science. Lanyon, we sense, has always refused to experiment with "transcendental medicine" (something Stevenson never really explains, except that it's scary and radical) because he finds it evil. Jekyll, on the other hand, has been more willing to take risks with science--as a result, he's been brave enough to stumble upon the secret of Mr. Hyde. Jekyll's behavior in this scene confirms his status as a tragic hero--a figure whose rather arrogant desire for knowledge and greatness has led him to great pain and suffering, almost as if he's being punished by the gods for reaching above his station. Jekyll has made a great scientific discovery, but at a great price--he's sacrificed his self-control and fallen into a state of uncontrollable sin.

What he told me in the next hour, I cannot bring my mind to
set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard, and my soul
sickened at it; and yet now when that sight has faded from my
eyes, I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer.

Related Characters: Dr. Hastie Lanyon (speaker), Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Lanyon has just witnessed Mr. Hyde drink a potion and transform into Dr. Jekyll. Now that Dr. Jekyll has regained his true form, he tells Lanyon about the scientific discovery he's made: a discovery that allows him to turn into Mr. Hyde. Lanyon writes that he can't bring himself to write what Jekyll tells him next--presumably, Lanyon is going to hear about Dr. Jekyll's "career" as Mr. Hyde.

It's strange that even after Dr. Lanyon has seen first-hand evidence of the success of Dr. Jekyll's scientific discoveries, he continues to feel "sickened" by Jekyll. One could say that while Dr. Jekyll is the better scientist, Dr. Lanyon is the better human being. Lanyon instinctively avoids scientific discoveries that lead to evil, while Dr. Jekyll bravely (and recklessly) pursues his scientific research, leading him to transform into Mr. Hyde.

Chapter 10 Quotes

With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the
intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of the novel--a letter written by Dr. Jekyll--Jekyll explains that he long ago realized that humans have a divided nature. All humans have two halves: one half good, one half evil.

Jekyll's discovery has been interpreted in all sorts of ways: for some critics, Stevenson's conceit anticipates the discoveries of Sigmund Freud, who argued that man has a repressed, irrational side, the id. For others, the divide between man's good and evil nature evokes the age of imperialism, during which the people of Great Britain claimed to be righteous and moral, hypocritically ignoring their own country's brutal interventions in India, Africa, and other parts of the world (the source of England's great prosperity).

It's also worth noting that Jekyll takes on the qualities of a Promethean hero in this passage. Like Prometheus, who was punished for stealing fire from the gods, or Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, Jekyll bravely and carelessly sails on to reckless heights, guided by his studies of science and of mysticism. Drawn to "the truth," Jekyll eventually comes upon a great scientific discovery, albeit one that brings him to ruin.

I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde.

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker), Mr. Hyde
Related Symbols: The Appearance of Evil, Letters and Documents
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Dr, Jekyll is sitting on a park bench in public. Suddenly, he finds himself transforming into Mr. Hyde, despite the fact that he hasn't drunk any of the potion that's supposed to enable such a transformation. Thus far, Jekyll has believed that he can control his dual nature: he can be Hyde one day and Jekyll the next. Now, Jekyll begins to realize that he can't control his spirit at all: once Hyde has been released, there's no controlling him.

Stevenson's description of Hyde's sudden, unexpected appearance parallels some of Sigmund Freud's ideas about the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind. Mr. Hyde's unexpected appearances evoke the way the human unconscious can "jump out" at any time, no matter how rigorously one tries to control it. At the same time, Stevenson makes this duality physical in a horrifying way, again portraying Hyde as evil even down to his appearance--he is "shrunken," "corded," and "hairy," unlike the presumably healthy and wholesome Jekyll.

I am careless; this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns another than myself. Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.

Related Characters: Dr. Jekyll (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters and Documents
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

At the very end of the novel, Dr. Jekyll senses that he is losing control of his spirit. He transforms into Mr. Hyde more and more frequently and unexpectedly--eventually, Jekyll predicts, he'll be Mr. Hyde all the time. In a way, Jekyll writes, his life is coming to an end: he'll still live as Mr. Hyde, but his life as Dr. Jekyll is ending forever.

As we look back on the totality of Dr. Jekyll's life, we see that Dr. Jekyll meddled with evil and lost. Jekyll believed that he was pure and good enough to keep his evil under strict control. In reality, however, nobody is good enough to control their own evil nature. By flirting with violence and cruelty, Jekyll unleashed a force so powerful that by the end, it dominated his existence. Stevenson portrays evil (through Mr. Hyde) as an unquenchable appetite; an indestructible, constantly growing force of nature.

In all, the passage suggests that Stevenson's novel is a cautionary tale. Dr. Jekyll has meddled with forbidden, sinful knowledge, and gotten his comeuppance for doing so.