AS ARTHUR PAUL PATTERSON writes
in his introduction to Watershed Onlines Frankenstein
pages, it isn't the gross out, gory stuff of horror that shakes us to
our bones; it is the searing truth of its indictment that nails us against
the wall saying, "here, look at this horrific spectacle - this
In Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde, Jekyll is the respectable doctor whose experiments manufacture
a craggy monster-like man prone to evil acts. Just as it is easy as
readers to focus on the depravity of Frankenstein's monster, forgetting
his absent creator, we're compelled to detest the crude Hyde and sympathize
with Dr. Jekyll.
More jarring than these initial responses are the penetrating studies
which peel the apparent away to reveal the lurking truth - the truth
that horrifies. In The Strange Trial of Mr. Hyde, John Sanford
employs Jungian psychology and Christian thought to flip our assumptions
about good and evil on their heads. Is Dr. Jekyll, outstanding citizen
that he is, more responsible for the evil unleashed by Mr. Hyde than
Hyde himself? Is there something about Jekyll rather than Hyde that
needs to be destroyed?
Sanford answers yes to both these questions and explains how what appears
to be good can mask evil and how what appears to be evil can be used
for good. Sanford creates a mock trial in which Counselor Mapleson argues
not against the injustice of Hyde's actions, but against the sole responsibility
placed on Hyde as the author of his evil. Sanford indicts Jekyll, the
creator of Hyde, as the greater evil.
Using Jungian terms, Sanford explains that we live out of two centers
of personality, the ego and the Self. The ego is the center of our conscious
personality, the part of us through which we encounter the world. The
Self is a larger reality which encompasses and energizes the ego. The
Self, which some liken to God, provides a larger framework in which
the ego can view reality - offering creativity and a sense of meaning
in life. The ego and Self are meant to have a relationship in which
each supports and serves the other, resulting in a whole person.
Many of our egos, however, are not interested in sharing the limelight
with the Self. A relationship with a meaningful source might mean the
diminishment of the ego's control, something we don't want to concede.
And so we live out of an egocentric ego resulting in a selfish and false
the trial, Mapleson points out how concerned Jekyll was with his reputation:
he sported numerous degrees on his calling card, went to great lengths
to be seen as a decent, reputable man, and after one of Hyde's more
destructive bouts, even became religious. To support such a fine reputation,
something has to be sacrificed; in Jekyll's case it was anything that
would suggest he was less than pure. In short Jekyll sacrificed his
authenticity. Acknowledging that all of us are a mixed bag of finer
and weaker traits, we wonder where he stuffed those less than pure qualities.
Enter the Jungian concept of the shadow, all those qualities that could
have become part of the structure of the ego but were repressed. What
we mistake for Jekyll's goodness is only a mask that has been distorted
and brought into the service of the egocentric ego. Below this mask
lies the shadow, hidden away. But unless the dark side is included,
a person cannot be whole.
When Hyde emerges we are appalled by his evil acts, but he is merely
the manifestation of the absence of good. Sanford argues that the blame
for Hyde's evil lies with Jekyll's false ego which, having distorted
what it ought to be, has produced evil. It is the egocentric aspect
of the ego intent on destroying wholeness that is the locus of evil.
The argument continues that Hyde's evil is used by the Self to destroy
that which is truly evil: Jekyll's egocentricity.
For Jekyll this split between ego and shadow resulted in a cyclical
existence of apparent good and blatant evil. This is where the story
touches my life. It has been my experience that the messy cycle of good
and evil is not hard to get caught up in. When the wheel plummets downward,
I mope, depressed after having done something selfish and often harmful.
My greatest fear is that I've been found out. Now what will my friends
think of me, those to whom I have been cruel, from whom I cannot hide.
I must repair, be kind, save face. I read of better ways to live and
am inspired, feel convicted and recommit. I will be generous, consider
others, and do what is right. But soon, at the pinnacle of the wheel,
I find myself on the park bench with Dr. Jekyll, comparing my kind acts
to the selfishness I see in others. It is only a matter of time before
righteous judgment morphs into a hairy beast. And she appears, my Ms.
Hyde to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting passerby.
It's chilling to recognize one's habitual patterns in one of the most
horrific of classic literature's characters. But it would be melodramatic
to claim, as Jekyll does, that we with this pattern are the worst of
sinners, the greatest of victims. To varying degrees most people probably
resist trusting the Self. Sanford insists that the ego must be willing
to submit to what amounts to something like the will of God within the
personality. Just as the refusal to acknowledge the Self yields a disintegrated
being, hard-hearted in its separation from itself and others, the healing
of this chasm depends on the devotion of one's being to the Divine.
Sanford writes, "...therefore the hearts of men must be seized
by a devout emotion. They must be shaken by a religious awe in the face
of eternity - with an intuition of the One Creator of all living beings,
and united through the strong feeling of fellowship."
Devotion to the Divine conjures up images of acting piously, doing the
right thing in the presence of the all-knowing, all-judging One. A god-image
like this, however, is surely a projection of the ego's own demands
for moral perfection. Devotion to the Divine may require a new image
of the Divine. Sanford helps the construction of a new image by referring
to the Self as the source of our deepest convictions. The Self is creative,
seeking to bring about ever new and more creative forms of life and
consciousness. This is not a judging God but a mediatory function that
allows us to transcend our basic instincts for self-congratulation.
Sanford also cautions that the morality of the Self in our awareness
emerges only as we grow in consciousness. Our consciousness grows as
we make choices including the choice to be honest with ourselves about
ourselves. So courage as well as knowledge are necessary.
In trying to imagine how Jekyll might respond to Sanford's analysis,
it is difficult to imagine that he would accept the responsibility for
courting evil. In cynicism we might see a similarly hopeless plight
in our own struggle with evil. In facing our lives honestly we offer
hope not only for ourselves, but for the egocentric archetype that prevails
in our world. In acknowledging our desire to split the 'bad' from the
'good' in us, and then in humble recognition and openness to the guiding
principles of the Self, we will inch toward wholeness. Then we will
be able to see the horrific spectacle of ourselves in horror's lens
and admit, yes, this is me, but only a part seeking authenticity.
Sanford, John A. The Strange Trial of
Mr. Hyde: A New Look at the Nature of Human Evil. San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1987. 182 pages.
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