Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Transformations Linked to Sleep

I wanted to wait until today to post because of this line that I found in the Preface of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

"This account can reinforce our appreciation of the tale's hallucinatory vividness of scene and sensation, and can deepen our interest in its treatment of the interchanges of identity linked with sleep and dreaming." (xiii)

This line seems fitting to describe both Alice in Wonderland and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Not only is the story hallucinatory to the readers, but also the reaction of the characters to the world they find themselves in. There is a sort of "elixir" that brings about the change in size in both Alice and Dr. Jekyll. For Dr. Jekyll, the elixir/potion became his vice much in the same way that alcohol can alter the personality of the drinker (sometimes for the worse) when consumed. However, no physical change occurs with alcohol unless you count a beer gut. But that's besides the point. Mr. Hyde is shorter in stature than Dr. Jekyll, and much like Alice, when he is smaller he has less power or control over what happens to him. While Alice's personality fundamentally remains the same, Dr. Jekyll turns into a different, much eviler person who does not carry the same sort of authority the "good" side of Jekyll does.
In the last chapter "Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case," in Jekyll's letter he writes: "And this again, that that insurgent horror was knit closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born..." (61). The difference between Alice and Jekyll/Hyde is that Alice's soul is not in torment for she does not commit any heinous crimes while in Wonderland; her transformations are solely physical. Contrasting, Jekyll/Hyde's torment is of the soul.
Jekyll/Hyde's transformation represents the double side of man and the pull between good and evil--is Stevenson's message that evil will overrule good? The fact that Jekyll dies as Hyde appears to symbolize that evil is stronger than good, that the irrational is stronger than the rational. However, I also think that Stevenson wants the reader to see that there is good in evil, and evil in good. There is no black and white "evil vs. good." Dr. Jekyll was not all good in the same way that Hyde was not exactly all pure evil because he was under the influence of a drug/potion. The voice of reason appears to be Mr. Utterson, the "man of rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse," which seems like a very dim prospective "voice of reason" to squash the seemingly irrational transformations. But is having two sides to your personality really irrational? I think it is human to struggle between what is right and wrong, good or evil.

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