Mentalities

The rich, anxiety-provoking theme of the double and of subconscious life, made Stevenson's novel eminently open to subsequent, psychoanalytic speculations and usage.[1] Whilst Freud did not refer to Stevenson's novel (published under ten years before the Studies in Hysteria), it is clear that Jekyll and Hyde belongs to the genre of the "depth psychological" novel and shares, or anticipates, with psychoanalysis, a compelling insistence on the duality of human nature and the role of the "underworld" and "unknown mind". That emphasis was already established in Victorian literature. Saposnik (1974) considers the location of Stevenson's work within a culture haunted by a picture of man's inescapable divisions, as does Miyoshi (1969), who explores the Gothic and romantic expressions of this in Victorian literature. What were these connections with the pre-psychoanalytic psychiatry of the era?

By the 1820s and beyond, a number of terms coalesced that spoke to a mind divided, which potentially signified a new form of moral insanity. These included double consciousness and double conscience, although double personality became a standard after the mid 1870s (Hacking, 1991). Fertile sources for such images were the study of and the depictions of mesmerism, somnambulism, spiritism, and trance states. Given the Victorian emphasis on will, self-possession, and masculine self-mastery, the idea of a mind divided was threatening, with its prospect of internal revolts and even usurpations. Another factor influencing such notions was the localisation of brain function and interest in the double hemispheres of the brain. The possibility of unintended, dispersed actions, organically in-built, was morally alarming. The sleepwalker, for example, could act in an irresponsible manner and the "host" personality be upstaged.

In a fascinating journey from the clinic to the courtroom, Eigen (2003) explores cases when "impaired consciousness", "lesions of the will", the "brain turning", and simply being "out of one's wits" coincided with criminal acts and thereby posed complex medico-legal questions of criminal responsibility. A further twist in the tale is that of how concepts of the unconscious changed, from being repository of forgotten knowledge to a seething storehouse of resentments and hostilities. Meanwhile, across the channel, Pierre Janet was penning his new psychological framework for describing multiple personality, hysteria, and somnambulistic states. Highlighting the role of psychogenic trauma,

Janet coined the term "dissociation" at a similar time as the publication of Stevenson's novel (LeBlanc, 2001).

Jekyll and Hyde poses a curious, mental issue: is it repression, dissociation, degeneration, or some form of madness that governs the processes that unfold? Brennan's (1997) Jungian analysis deploys the notion of man's shadow side and argues that for the most part Jekyll does, in part, perceive and admit to his other side: "when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself" (Stevenson, 1886, p. 84). And yet he, too, recoils, and it is after times of retreat, when he tries to be rid of Hyde, that there is a catastrophic return of the repressed; indeed, Hyde's powers increase with the growing sickliness of Jekyll. By contrast, Brennan suggests that Enfield and Lanyon are completely incapable of seeing their shadow natures and thus project it onto the figure of the despised Hyde. Lanyon himself disintegrates, whereas Utterson is credited for being the more integrated character in the story, with his indefatigable quest to know and to put the stands of the story together.

There are many readings of the story as cautionary tale, as critique of bourgeois respectability. Hyde's vices, at the very least, reflect the activities of a moneyed individual; indeed, his Soho den resembles the "retreat of a cultured gentleman", not a rogue (Arata, 1996). The book raises the possibility that it is the normative, if alienated, world of the middle-class professional male that creates its own demons (Smith, A. 2004). In the strange alliance and protectionism between Jekyll and Hyde, more is at stake than just the transformation of one into the other. In spite of the thrilling possibility of "housing each in separate identities" and of the "separation of these elements" in some form of co-existence, certain convergences occur. Arata (1996) pushes the consequences of this to the full: "It is one thing to say that Hyde acts out the aggressive fantasies of the repressed Victorian men, another altogether to say that he comes eventually to embody the very repressions Jekyll struggles to throw off. Yet this is in fact a prime source of horror in the tale: not that the professional man is transformed into an atavistic criminal, but that the atavist learns to pass as a gentleman" (p. 39).

The link between story and quasi-medical diagnosis is evoked by the use of that medico-legal term, "case". At one level, the narratives could read as dossiers by witnesses. Mighall (1999) points out that the narratives represent the worlds of law and medicine and that, whereas Utter-son, the lawyer, uses the evidence of his sight as main instrument in his detection, Lanyon, the physician, speculates on a suitable diagnosis of Jekyll. The novel starts with the shock of Hyde's first instance of violence, the trampling of the young girl. In the first description of Hyde and in the account of his action, the implication is one of moral turpitude. We learn that the reputable Utterson has a vicarious interest in, or at least a tendency to become associated with, the lives of "going-down men". Seeing Hyde as 'fiend" is the most straightforward response. Hyde's violence turns murderous, and in a scene of notable professional hierarchy, Utterson discusses an example of Hyde's handwriting with his head clerk, Mr Guest. Guest jumps to the obvious conclusion, that "The man, of course, was mad" (Stevenson, 1886, p. 54). Utterson asserts his authority, whilst introducing ambiguity: "No, sir. Not mad; but it is an odd hand" (ibid.).

Utterson's narrative is the dominant one. Standing for the impeccable gentleman, he notes Jekyll's morbid seclusions and other "irregularities". As an instance of manly self-possession, he tells the footman Bradshaw to pull himself together, as he gathers evidence from the various servants. Jekyll's manservant, Poole, reports noises he has heard from the doctor's chamber, including a "lighter foot" than the "heavy creaking tread" of Jekyll, and sounds of weeping. Utterson presses him to reveal more. It was "Weeping like a woman or a lost soul", says the butler, who adds that he could have wept too (p. 69). Thus the simple insanity case is undermined and the novel introduces an alternative, that of hysteria, or at least the "wrestling against the approaches of hysteria", including hysterical reactions or contagions in those who witness the scene. We face the undignified prospect of men who cannot compose themselves. The elision of womanly behaviour, smallness of body, light-footedness, and weeping with disintegrating men brings us to the arena of male hysteria. Men are losing grip and self-disciplined, masculine selfhood is under threat. It seems no accident that the novel appears during a growth time in the professional industry of hysteria.

So far then, we have a menu of choices: do we see moral depravity, pure and simple, the ill-fortune of "going-down men", is it a more serious moral insanity, or is it some form of hysteria, where men turn into women? There is another option, dovetailing with moral insanity—that of lustful murderousness. Linking Gothic literature to the contemporary science of psychopathia sexualis, Heath (1986) points out that what the latter studies "is the pathology of the sexual and a significant area of attention is the criminal-sexual. The animal in man comes, in extreme, to the surface in what Krafft-Ebbing calls 'Lust-Murder'" (p. 103). Male sexuality can contain all that is undesirable as well as representing the norm. Stevenson's novel sold dramatically, 40,000 copies in Britain in the first six months alone. Produced as a "shilling shocker", it was rapidly read, performed, and translated. Walkowitz (1992) observes how, in an interesting blending of the imaginative and the actual, through the newspapers and broadsheets, it was linked in the public mind to the contemporary Ripper crimes in the East End. A real Mr Hyde had arrived.

  • [1] It is interesting to read Stevenson's novel alongside Freud's (1919b) erudite psychoanalytic/literary study, The Uncanny (Das Unheimliche), where he traces various meanings around the word unheimliche: for example, the "uncomfortable", "sinister", "frightening", "un homely", "alien". There he makes reference to the theme of the "double", things of terror, sometimes involving mirrors or shadows. Freud speculates in the essay on unconscious re-enactments, or the "compulsion to repeat". It should be noted that Freud became a corresponding member of the Society for Psychical Research, which was committed to objective investigation into the occult, haunted houses and so on (Pick, 1989). Grotstein (1999) provides an updated psychoanalytic review of such phenomena and notes the dependence of psychoanalysis on eighteenth and nineteenth-century preoccupations with the alter ego. He uses expressions such as "monsters", "demons", phantoms", and "rogue subjects" to depict such states of splitting.
 
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