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
Science, Reason and the Supernatural Quotes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
"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…”
"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.”
“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."
"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…”
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."
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.
An ivory-faced and silvery-haired old woman opened the door. She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy: but her manners were excellent.
"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."
"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."
"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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.