This chapter is Jekyll’s "confession." He starts by writing that he had a good start in life, and had all the promise of an honorable future. But he describes one fault of his: a pleasure for darker things which doesn’t fit with his outward honorable reputation, and which he therefore concealed. When Jekyll became older and could reflect on his life, it astonished him how split his personality had become and he continued with shame to disguise his darker self.
The introduction of the final chapter and Jekyll’s confession letter is the first time we are allowed access to the details of Jekyll’s secret double life. Stevenson has kept up the suspense when, all along, the truth has been hidden and suppressed in Jekyll’s secret diary of documents. You can imagine a very different story told by Jekyll instead of Utterson with this as its beginning.
As a scientist, Jekyll began to theorize that all men have an inherent dual nature. He starts to study mysticism, and feels that he is drawing nearer to the truth of the matter. As he becomes more sure of these identities, they seem to be both equally real aspects of him, and he dreams of separating them, each twin being able to reign independently in their opposite moods.
Mysticism is a kind of philosophy that deals more with religion and superstition than it does with the physical matter of the world. Jekyll’s character is a mass of contradictions – his scientific career and his split personality cause a gulf between his professional and private lives.
Jekyll writes that he does not wish to go into the scientific details, but he eventually discovered a chemical concoction that will cause him to feel and to see a separation of his two fundamental elements. He is scared to try the potion out once it is finished, because he knew he risked overdosing or destroying one of his two halves. Even so, one night he mixes up the medicine and drinks it. He is immediately struck by painful sensations, both physical and spiritual. But amid these horrible pains, comes something pleasurable—he turns into Mr. Hyde and feels a kind of reckless joy.
Stevenson chooses not to go into the details of the potion or its anatomical effect too greatly. This may well be because he wants us to take a leap of faith and believe the transformation is real. It also accentuates the idea of repression that runs through the whole narrative. Even in what is supposed to be a confession, Jekyll is vague and secretive, leaving the full sensory experience to the imagination.
Jekyll is determined, even though he has obviously changed shape (he is now much smaller, though he has no mirror to observe it), to go out of the lab and to his bedroom. He marvels at the feeling of being a stranger in his own house. Then, he describes seeing his new form for the first time. He notices that his evil self is less healthy looking, as if he has been worn out and deformed by his evil spirit. But he is not repulsed. He feels as much identity with this image as he does with his more robust original one. He decides that the reason people looked on Hyde with such horror was because everyone is made of good and evil parts and so are unused to seeing such a purely evil being.
The theme of secrecy and repression is powerfully at work here. Jekyll longs to come clean and public about his split identity. For him, the transformation into Hyde signifies more than just a miracle of science, it is his chance to be himself, to speak the things that he has always silenced. The act of looking at the mirror at the manifestation of all his suppressed evil desires is a momentous, symbolic act.
But he needs to perform a second experiment to make sure he can turn back to Dr. Jekyll. He rushes back to his cabinet and prepares another potion, drinks it, and becomes his former self. But though he sees himself as the virtuous side again, it is the desire for evil that now reigns over both beings. He becomes more and more obsessed with becoming Hyde, because every evil thought can be swiftly satisfied by drinking the potion. Jekyll prepares a new life around his new identity, buys a house for Hyde in Soho, and begins to profit from having two faces.
Jekyll’s two identities are not in fact two sides of one coin. Hyde, who has been in the shadow of Jekyll until now, has been released with greater force than he exerted as a repressed, secret alter ego and is now taking over, putting Jekyll in the shadows. He is not just a supernatural, outsider anymore, he is being given a real life, with property and money.
He describes himself as the first man who could shed the conscience of evil deeds and enjoy them, maintaining the respectability of Dr. Jekyll whenever he wanted. But these deeds were becoming more monstrous and Dr. Jekyll at times cannot believe what Hyde has done, sometimes even trying to make amends for his evil twin.
Even in his final confession, Jekyll seems to be suppressing the truth about his relationship to Hyde. He describes the freedom of being able to exercise his evil desires but the way he hints at his conscience suggest that they are not separate at all.
But the next year, two months before the murder of Danvers Carew, things began to go wrong. One night he woke up in bed to discover that he has woken up as Mr. Hyde. He is astonished, having gone to bed as Dr. Jekyll. He panics, but realizes that his servants already are used to seeing Hyde around so he won’t cause too much alarm by going through the house, turning back into Dr. Jekyll and going to breakfast.
Up until now the shift in balance between evil and good has been an internal struggle for Jekyll, but now he physically can’t control the transformation. Science has gone from holding a lot of power to now seeming small compared to the unexplainable laws that govern Hyde.
But though he escapes detection, this event threatens Dr. Jekyll. He believes it is a sign of a coming judgment. He starts to feel that the balance between his two selves is shifting toward Hyde, and feels he has to choose between them. He considers the advantages of each and hates to imagine living without Hyde’s pleasures or Jekyll’s aspirations. But in the end he chooses the better part of himself.
Initially, Jekyll’s split personality was a gift, then it became a curse. Now Jekyll is forced to choose between the two, he is given back a kind of moral authority. The mention of “judgment” conjures a world beyond both superstition and science to an idea of God.
The trouble was how to maintain it. For two months, he enjoyed the life of Dr. Jekyll again, being sociable and leaving Hyde’s Soho house empty. But one night, he feels the evil desires of Hyde bubbling up within him and he gives in. This is the night of Danvers Carew’s murder. After such a long period of dormancy, Hyde was more furious and violent than ever. In an ecstasy of rage, he describes mauling the body and then going back to Hyde’s house and feeling Jekyll, like a pursuing authority, find him again. His life flashes before his eyes and he feels an outpouring of remorse at how Hyde’s deeds taint the other memories. He knew then that it was impossible for him to keep becoming Hyde.
The problem that has occurred with Jekyll’s duplicity is that his two selves, though separate enough to lead their own lives, share the same memory. Now in his confession letter, Jekyll recalls all the events of Hyde’s life and the events of Jekyll’s and can narrate the sensations of mauling Sir Carew. The problem that once was one of natural and supernatural takes on a moral tone. Authority becomes separated from morality when Jekyll feels all the guilt for Hyde’s deeds.
The next day, the public anger at the murder of Carew becomes clear and Jekyll resolves himself to make amends by doing as much good as he can. He succeeds for a while, but again Hyde’s desires begin to trouble him. This time the balance, he says, is finally overthrown. He cannot resist Hyde anymore. He is sitting in a park, surrounded by sweetness, and considering his sympathy with his fellow man. But just as this thought occurs to him, he feels a shudder, feels suddenly bold. He looks down and sees the hand of Edward Hyde on his knee. He has transformed into Hyde.
The good and evil sides of Jekyll, which he described as two discrete, equal sides in his theory, are unbalanced. We suspect that the scientific discovery that Jekyll believes he has made is more confined to his own mind than a universal phenomenon. At times it is as if good, innocent thoughts set off his transformation into Hyde and that it is Jekyll’s own mind that gives way to his darker self.
Hyde is quick-thinking, and, given that he is wanted for Danvers Carew's murder, he quickly decides to drive to an inn and, keeping as much undercover as possible, write to Dr. Lanyon (the letter from Jekyll that is mentioned in Lanyon's letter of Chapter 9). After the letter has been sent, Hyde sits nervously, holding in his rage, until midnight, when he travels to Lanyon’s.
The description of Hyde’s journey and his time at the inn trying to keep himself busy and out of sight accentuate how badly contained his rage and animal qualities are. It is as if he is about to burst with all the negative energy he is carrying.
Lanyon’s fear and condemnation affects Jekyll (who has transformed back from Hyde into Jekyll before Lanyon’s eyes, just as described in Lanyon's letter in Chapter 9), and Jekyll now starts to fear Hyde. He goes home and sleeps a deep sleep. When he awakens in his familiar territory, he feels in control and hopeful again.
The movement of this chapter creates a false sense of security when Jekyll finally arrives back home and can sleep in his own bed – it is as if he has been running from his alter ego, but we know that he will have to find a different kind of escape.
But again, as he is walking to breakfast, Jekyll is taken over by Hyde. He rushes to the upper room of his laboratory and makes the potion but the transformation into Jekyll is once again only temporary, as is every subsequent dose. This is how he comes to be a prisoner in this room and is writing the letter in this state, between images of awful deeds as Hyde and remorse as Jekyll. Now Jekyll's hatred for Hyde matches Hyde's hatred for everything. Jekyll has come to view his evil twin as something unnatural. He marvels at how Hyde has taken over his life.
Once, Jekyll looked with pleasure on his twin, identifying with both Hyde and Jekyll equally. Now the duality has turned to rivalry and the difference between good and evil has been blurred. Hyde is not the only creature with hatred in his heart. Jekyll has a fair share of hatred too and even his mind is alternating with Hyde’s thoughts and his own until they are hardly distinguishable.
Jekyll and Hyde’s relationship becomes more complicated. Hyde’s “terror of the gallows” drives him to seek refuge in his dual identity with Jekyll, but Hyde also resents Jekyll and plays tricks on him, using his own handwriting to graffiti his books for example. Jekyll too is full of hatred yet can’t help but pity his other half.
Jekyll’s identity has become so far beyond his own control that he’s being bullied by his own other half. This description, of a dependent yet destructive relationship, is a world away from the beginning of Jekyll’s narrative that describes his belief that this duality is natural and normal.
Jekyll writes that this awful, but now familiar pattern, could have gone on for years but he found himself running out of necessary chemicals. He sent Poole out for more but nothing worked. Now, he is using up the last of the powders as he writes and reflects that this will be the last time he will know himself as Henry Jekyll. He must stop writing before the inevitable change occurs. He doesn’t know what Hyde will do, kill himself or continue to pace about the room, but he sees this moment as his own death; he is now a separate being. On this note, he signs off and ends the record of his life.
Both science and mysticism have failed now. As the last of this faulty batch of chemicals runs out, the real, human consequence of Jekyll’s experiment sinks in. Though he has succeeded in bending the natural laws that people like Lanyon took for granted, he has also engineered his own death. He has changed the nature of death as he changed the nature of life – in a way his death is not even his own – he is leaving a living corpse behind.