Last week I talked about Frankenstein (if you missed it, you might want to scroll down and take a gander at it, since I’ll be sort of leapfrogging off it today), so it seems only fitting that now I should discuss Dr. Jekyll and his sadistic alter ego, Mr. Hyde.
If you haven’t read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story is about a scientist named Dr. Jekyll who creates a potion that is supposed to separate his goodness from his badness. In other words, he’ll spent part of time being horrifically and wholly evil, but the rest of the time, he’ll be angelically good. Naturally, the potion does not work properly. Dr. Jekyll is never angelically good, but part of the time, he is indeed transformed into the hideous Mr. Hyde, who tramples down a child in the street and never even looks back.
Whether or not you enjoyed the book (Jekyll and Hyde seems to have a polarizing effect: people either love it or hate it), Stevenson’s underlying assumption is thought-provoking: men are born as broken beings, and spend their time on earth either embracing their brokenness, or striving to better themselves. Admittedly, Jekyll fails in his attempt at moral improvement, but Stevenson seems to say that such an outcome is only to be expected: relying on science to save your soul is suicide.
Now herein lies the crux of the problem. In Frankenstein, Shelley says that man is born basically good. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson says that man is born basically bad. Clearly, only one of them can be right.
The question is: which?
Some of you will think the answer is obvious. “Well, duh,” you’re probably thinking, “people are born with all the necessary potential, and only need knowledgeable and caring parents/mentors in order to achieve it.”
Others of you are likely thinking, “Naturally, people are born fallen, and cannot ever be anything but, without the intervention of something/someone beyond and higher than themselves.”
Still others may have never considered the question. The thing is, it’s such a fundamental question, upon which so much of our worldviews are based. How can we help but ask it?
So I ask: Do you believe yourself to be Jekyll with his accompanying Hyde, or Frankenstein?