Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by: Robert Louis Stevenson

Repression

Quotes Repression
“Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life.”

In his letter, Jekyll reveals a strange truth about his life: He was already living a life of duplicity long before his personality split into Jekyll and Hyde. Living in the Victorian era, Jekyll was compelled to satisfy his appetites in secret and further repress them to preserve his reputation as an upright citizen. It is never revealed what “pleasures” Jekyll indulged in, so the reader is left to surmise to what degree Jekyll’s character was composed of evil before it split.

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“I do not suppose that, when a drunkard reasons with himself upon his vice, he is once out of five hundred times affected by the dangers that he runs through his brutish, physical insensibility; neither had I, long as I had considered my position, made enough allowance for the complete moral insensibility and insensate readiness to evil, which were the leading characters of Edward Hyde. Yet it was by these that I was punished. My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring.”

In the final chapter of the novel, Jekyll describes the unintended effect of repression. Jekyll compares his position to a drunkard’s, saying that both himself as Hyde, and a person who is intoxicated, are reduced to a state of animalistic impulses. Neither are in possession of reason. Jekyll says Hyde, repressed for so long, had built-up frustrations that exploded. Jekyll sees Hyde’s fury as the logical consequences of Jekyll’s repression of his evil side.

“If you choose to make capital out of this accident,’ said he, `I am naturally helpless. No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene,’ says he. `Name your figure.”

When Enfield blackmails Hyde for trampling the girl, his account of Hyde’s response is surprising. Hyde replies that if Enfield is threatening to expose him and ruin his reputation, he will gladly pay Enfield off. Even though Hyde represents an uncontrolled, impulse-driven side of Jekyll’s personality, Hyde’s cold calculation shows a level of repression. Hyde is trying to uphold his appearance as a gentleman, in accordance with the Victorian custom.

“Hosts loved to detain the dry lawyer, when the light-hearted and loose-tongued had already their foot on the threshold; they liked to sit a while in his unobtrusive company, practising for solitude, sobering their minds in the man’s rich silence after the expense and strain of gaiety.”

In this quote from Chapter 3, we see Mr. Utterson’s effect on people. Utterson’s presence can bring a calming mood to those around him. People find Utterson’s silence is enriching after their exhausting socializing. His presence exemplifies Victorian standards and recalls people to those virtues. Ironically, the narrator refers to the exuberant, carefree mood at parties as a “strain.” Victorian society could be conflicted about having fun.

“A great curiosity came on the trustee, to disregard the prohibition and dive at once to the bottom of these mysteries; but professional honour and faith to his dead friend were stringent obligations; and the packet slept in the inmost corner of his private safe.”

When Utterson receives a strange letter from Dr. Lanyon that reads “not to be opened til the death or disappearance of Dr. Henry Jekyll,” Utterson is tempted to ignore the instructions and tear open the letter, but stops himself. Utterson has become desperate to understand the mysteries behind Jekyll’s behavior, and it seems Lanyon has something to say on the matter. But Dr. Lanyon is now dead, and Mr. Utterson feels obligated to honor Lanyon’s wishes. Utterson’s professionalism allows him to repress his curiosity and maintain respect for his dead friend’s wishes.