A serious man in a dark laboratory contemplates a small vial of liquid briefly before upending the contents into his mouth. Almost immediately after swallowing the concoction, his face contorts in spasms of unthinkable pain. Slowly, his countenance begins to contort, transforming by degree into a grotesque mask of evil incarnate. Dr. Jekyll has once again transformed into his alter ego, the heinous Mr. Hyde.
I’ve seen depictions of this transformation all my life. Dozens of movies and television shows have reimagined this famous scene, sometimes adding a new element or two but always adhering to the formula of a normal man turning into a horrific monster.
It is a mystery to me, though, how The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ever got the reputation as a horror story. Mr. Hyde is often mentioned in the same breath as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man, but when you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story, it is anything but a horror story, as we understand that term.
His story tells of Henry Jekyll, a brilliant scientist who discovers that man’s soul is divided into two parts, good and evil. He invents two potions, the first of which turns him into the evil part of himself (Edward Hyde), allowing him to fully explore the darker side of his nature. The second potion is an antidote to the effects of the first potion, which turns him back into the kind and benevolent Dr. Jekyll.
As Dr. Jekyll continues to indulge his darker inclinations through the person of Mr. Hyde, he makes the alarming discovery that the transformation back to the good part of himself is becoming increasingly more difficult. Additionally, he begins involuntarily turning into Mr. Hyde, even when he hasn‘t taken the potion to do so. Eventually, his potion to return himself to Dr. Jekyll again loses its effectiveness, and the person of Dr. Jekyll is lost within the darkness that is Mr. Hyde.
The true horror of the story isn’t the thought of encountering a fiend like Mr. Hyde on the street, but the idea of being overtaken and dominated by the Mr. Hyde that lies within us. The lesson of the story is that if you feed and indulge your dark nature, it will one day consume and control you.
Excerpted from The Seven Powers of Success; Unlock You Strengths, Unleash your dreams. www.charlesmarshall.net. © 2013 Charles Marshall.