Jekyll and Hide: Repressing Society's Undesirables

byValerie Vollono

Rationale

The New Haven Public Schools English 1 curriculum includes a literary analysis unit that examines multiple stories treating the same theme. The idea is for students to consider how one theme can be shaped into many different forms. We explore the choices each author makes and how these choices affect an audience’s perception of the characters and of the messages of the story. One challenge of this unit is student tendency to focus on plot differences among the stories. My goal is for my students to think beyond the surface; I want to challenge them to consider the way authors style characters, the reliability of the narrator, the effect of the style in which the story is told, and why the author chose to tell the story in this way.

Refocusing this unit on adaptation analysis will allow me to meet this challenge, as well as to push my students to higher order thinking. I have realized that rather than using entirely different stories, I could base the unit on various adaptations of one classic story. Since plot points would be similar, my students would not as easily fall into the trap of fixating on plot. The focus would shift to the different ways in which this one particular story is told, allowing us to more deeply explore the effects of style and genre.

Exploring the theory of adaptation, I recognize another challenge that I face with my students. The essays in James Naremore’s Film Adaptation1 speak of the need to move adaptation analysis beyond issues of fidelity to the source text. This inadequate analysis is exactly what traps my students when we watch films; they cannot overcome their need to obsessively critique what the movie adaptation leaves out, and thus, more interesting questions go unasked. This is yet another symptom of my students’ hyper-focus on plot. I am hopeful that explicitly teaching different approaches to adaptation analysis will help my students grow into more critical readers of both film and literature. Perhaps by learning to probe more deeply into film adaptations, my students will also improve their abilities to dissect original texts.

The idea for my unit comes from a reference in a contemporary young adult novel that I teach to my English 1 classes. Bottled Up by Jaye Murray details the life of a troubled and apathetic young teen, who happens to be reading Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in his English class. As the book develops and the main character is forced to confront his problems, he begins to relate the themes of Jekyll and Hyde to his own life. Though my students are always curious about Jekyll and Hyde, I have never done more than give them a brief summary of the story. But I have now realized that Jaye Murray’s allusion to Stevenson’s novel holds the key to crafting a more comprehensive and challenging unit.

Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, first published in 1886, emphasizes the repression that Henry Jekyll subjects himself to. His experiment begins with his attempt to sever the baser qualities of his nature – the desires and characteristics that defy generally accepted rules of behavior and traditional Victorian values. The result is the creation of a monster that embodies these very desires. As Jekyll literally loses his own identity to Mr. Hyde, we see a symbolic representation of the consequences of repression. When we deny aspects of our true selves, our desires become perverted and result in destructive behaviors.

Jekyll’s struggle is not one that is unique to Victorian society; all societies have standards that not everyone quite meets. This fact has interesting implications for a story that has birthed countless adaptations in the one hundred thirty years since it was written. What Jekyll needs to repress and the consequences of that repression are influenced by the historical and cultural contexts of each adaptation. These thoughts have inspired me to analyze different adaptations of the Jekyll and Hyde story for the ways in which they incorporate and characterize repression.

Throughout the unit, we will study Robert Louis Stevenson’s original, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 film, Victor Fleming’s 1941 film, Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical, and the novel, Bottled Up, by Jaye Murray.

The unit will thoroughly examine relevant portions of each text, with a focus on the concepts of identity, deviant (or “undesirable”) behavior, and societal restriction of individual expression. We will explore the socio-historical contexts of each text to gain a deeper understanding of their respective characters. This approach will raise interesting questions about the fears and social conventions of the time period within which each adaptation was created. How did Victorian values and fears influence the original story? What changes are visible in post-Freudian film adaptations? What modern preoccupations influence Jaye Murray’s portrayal of the “Hyde” character in her novel? Working through these questions will help my students to move beyond plot-based considerations and more fully analyze the effects of each author/director’s stylistic choices.

I will also build in time at the end of the unit to relate our discussion to today’s political climate and the plight of marginalized groups. Just as Jekyll’s self-imposed repression has dangerous consequences, silencing someone’s identity ultimately results in destruction – a loss of that person’s true self, but also of everything that person could have offered to the community and the world had they not been oppressed. This will be an important part of the learning that takes place during this unit. Students must discover what kinds of repression our current society demands, evaluate the consequences of those repressions, and ask themselves what they can do as citizens of this community to right some of the world’s injustices.

Research

The introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics version of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde concludes with the observation that “the lure is always to seek the final, authoritative interpretation… The better reader is the one who enters the dream-logic of the Gothic knowing its capacities to twist and turn and to elicit then collapse or invert meanings. A text like Jekyll and Hyde is over-determined by multiple and often contradictory elements: its final meaning will always be running ahead of us, ducking round the corner like Mr. Hyde, forever just out of reach.”2 Indeed, researching Stevenson’s time and influences can feel somewhat like a fever dream; it offers a dizzying array of possible interpretations for this rather short tale. In addition, there have been countless adaptations created over the past hundred years, spanning a wide variety of styles and genres. It did not take long for me to realize that sharing such a staggering amount of information with my students would be counterproductive. Though I want to expose my students to the context, implications, and far reaching impact of Stevenson’s text, overwhelming them with information would detract from their ability to really engage with the story and pursue their own perspectives. With that in mind, I have been careful to select a limited amount of my research to actively write into the unit. What follows, however, is a more comprehensive review of what I have discovered. Some of this information may be useful to informally bring up throughout the course of the unit, in response to various student comments and questions.

Stevenson’s Personal Life

While being interviewed in 1887, Stevenson revealed that the idea for Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to him in a dream about a man “being pressed into a cabinet, when he swallowed a drug and changed into another being.”3 Feverishly writing, he composed the tale in three days (or so his family claimed). He did however, rewrite the story entirely over the next several weeks, after throwing the first draft into a fire following criticisms from his wife.

The idea of the double nature of man was not new to Stevenson; he had experimented with this concept in several earlier pieces, but was never fully satisfied with the results. This preoccupation with human duality likely stemmed (at least partially) from Stevenson’s family life, particularly from his strained relationship with his father. Though the two had a close bond, they warred over Stevenson’s lifestyle. Stevenson’s father expected him to join the family profession, engineering, and was not prepared for a son with serious literary ambitions. The father-son relationship was only made more fraught by Stevenson’s opinions on religion, which, despite his pious upbringing, differed greatly from those of his devout parents. Though Stevenson subscribed to his parents’ teachings as a child, having “such a fear of sin and worldliness… that he was tormented by dreams of Hell, to the point where he was afraid to fall asleep lest he die and fall into eternal ruin,”4 his later life suggests a loosening of these morals. In her article on the origins of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hilary J. Beattie observes, “Living at home and kept very short of cash by his father, Stevenson increasingly led two lives, one of respectable dinner and tea parties organized by his parents; the other, in the guise of an awkward, shabbily dressed, somewhat affected Bohemian, of high-spirited practical jokes and lowlife dissipations among the sordid public houses and prostitutes of the city.”5 Stevenson’s own double life likely influenced the character of Henry Jekyll, as well as the ideas of repression that are central to the text. As a young adult, Stevenson no longer suppressed his desires in deference to his parents’ strict religious teachings; however, he still had to sever a part of his identity to maintain his standing in his parents’ home. It is not hard to imagine the guilt that must have come from this split life. Lingering childhood fear of sin, combined with the weight of his parents’ disappointment and anger? Sounds like a recipe for a conflicted and chaotic mind much like that of Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Despite numerous arguments and periods of brief rebellion, Stevenson remained close to his parents throughout his life (as well as being financially dependent on them). He even served as his father’s caretaker as the man aged and fell victim to dementia. Witnessing his father’s unstable condition likely contributed to Stevenson’s invention of Jekyll’s increasingly erratic mind. In fact, in letters, Stevenson even referred to his father as “Hyde” on days when his illness caused especially severe behavior. There is also evidence that Stevenson thought of himself as Hyde at times, as one of the letters he wrote to his mother was signed “Yours – (I think) Hyde – (I wish) Jekyll.”6 Though critics suggest that Stevenson may have been depicting his relationship with his father in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (viewing Hyde as the ostracized son who both loves and hates his father and struggles for acceptance), the letters imply more complexity, with Stevenson seeing qualities of both Jekyll and Hyde infecting both sides of the relationship.

Stevenson’s Cultural Influences

In the late nineteenth century, an English journalist, Richard Proctor, wrote extensively on dual consciousness, particularly referencing two case studies involving multiple personality disorder. His writings brought scientific theories about the “double brain” into public awareness.7 Late Victorian scientists recognized differences between the left and right brain and hypothesized that these hemispheres could function independently. They posited that mental disorders, hysteria, and even criminal behavior were a result of an imbalance of brain hemispheres. Specifically, they believed that those who relied too heavily on the right brain, which was associated with feminine and “uncivilized” emotions and impulses, would exhibit deviant behavior. In an article that examines Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through the context of the double brain theory, Anne Stiles gives a Victorian diagnosis of Dr. Jekyll: “Jekyll initially relies too heavily on his left hemisphere, and then shifts the balance too sharply toward the right. In each instance, he inadvertently creates the brain asymmetry that leads to his mental illness and criminality.”8 Though this reading exposes the prejudices of Victorian society, as well as a preoccupation with socially correct behavior, it also sheds light on the true problem at the heart of the story. It is not the existence of Edward Hyde that ultimately leads to Jekyll’s destruction, but rather Jekyll’s own inability to balance his baser impulses.

Because Stevenson is not entirely specific about the “appetites” that Jekyll wishes to indulge, there has been much speculation about the true nature of Hyde’s crimes. Some critics suggest that the tale contains veiled references to homosexuality. In 1885, the Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed, outlawing “gross indecency.” Although this term was not specifically defined, it was used to bring criminal charges against men for homosexual activity and was referred to as the “Blackmailer’s Charter.”9 Because Stevenson withholds the information that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person until the end of the novel, his contemporaries would be forced to speculate about the nature of this relationship. With a cast of characters comprised almost entirely of unmarried men and the suggestion that the unsavory Hyde may be blackmailing Dr. Jekyll, it is possible that Stevenson was writing, in part, about homosexual desire. Though this theory can never be definitively proved, it would be an interesting addition to our conversations about the repression of socially deviant behavior.

During the 1880s, London was experiencing a significant economic decline. As years of poor trade spiraled into a depression, a wide range of occupations and industries were significantly affected. The growing urban population and insufficient housing only exacerbated the problem. Living conditions grew so poor that social unrest began to threaten the status quo of upper and middle class life. In 1886, Henry James wrote, “Nothing of it appears above the surface; but there’s an immense underworld peopled with a thousand forms of revolutionary passion and devotion… And on top of it all society lives… In silence, in darkness, but under the feet of each one of us, the revolution lives and works.”10 Prosperous Victorians lived in fear of a revolution that would threaten their way of life. This description, of an invisible threat seething under the surface of London, calls to mind the double nature of Jekyll’s soul. Outwardly respectable, Jekyll mirrors the everyday life of upper and middle class London, while beneath, Hyde lurks, threatening violence, much like the perceived threat of London’s poor. At this time, there was also a deeply rooted cultural anxiety about the poisonous influence of a large, degenerate lower class. In his book, Outcast London, Gareth Stedman Jones writes of how the poor were viewed: “Herded into slums where religion, propriety, and civilization were impossible, interspersed with criminals and prostitutes, deprived of light and air, craving for drink and ‘cheap excitement’, the ‘residuum’ was large enough to engulf civilized London.”11 The word “engulf” speaks to the (perhaps irrational) fear that the moral vices of London’s lowest class would entice and eventually corrupt society’s betters. It is hard to read this quote in the context of Stevenson’s work without applying this description to Hyde, who would fit neatly into a slum offering “cheap excitements.” It is interesting to speculate about whether or not Stevenson shared his contemporaries’ fear of the lower classes. Regardless of the answer, Hyde could represent a physical manifestation of this culture’s anxieties about the various threats of London’s economic and social decline.

Stevenson’s Narrative Structure

The structure of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be disconcerting, particularly for those who are already familiar with the concept of the Jekyll and Hyde story. Though today it is common knowledge that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, this information is not actually revealed to readers until the end of the story. Stevenson leads up to this revelation in a roundabout way, telling the story from the perspective of various narrators, including the observations of Jekyll’s friend and lawyer, Mr. Utterson, a letter composed by Dr. Lanyon, and Dr. Jekyll’s own “statement of the case.” Though the story itself fits neatly into the genre of Gothic literature, the detached, objective narrative style and presentation of the case evokes a feel of scientific writing. Anne Stiles speculates on the implications of this story that is at odds with its telling. She explains, “By mimicking the case study within a Gothic romance, Stevenson lays bare the limitations of scientific prose, particularly its inadequacy in light of complex moral and social realities impossible to relate in purely empirical terms… [Jekyll] struggle[s] to maintain scientific objectivity in the face of a terrifying subjective reality that threatens to overwhelm him.”12 Scientific case studies of the 19th century would rely on narrative patient histories as data and evidence. Stiles argues that Stevenson deliberately styled Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a case study in order to critique this type of scientific writing. By crafting a fictional story that could fit into the confines of a scientific case study, Stevenson may have been pointing out that narrative patient histories are far from objective fact. In addition, the character of Henry Jekyll blurs the lines between doctor and patient, because he acts as both. Stevenson may have been questioning the power dynamics between doctors and patients. Finally, it is interesting to note that the novel’s duality of form mirrors the duality that the story explores.

Transition to Stage and Film

Early adaptations of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, such as Thomas Russell Sullivan’s stage play and John Robertson’s 1920 film, make several adjustments to the story. The most obvious change is the addition of female characters, who serve as Jekyll’s love interest and Hyde’s sex object. This normalizes the story into the conventional expectations of bourgeois society. By spending too much time on intellectual pursuits, Jekyll threatens the domestic sphere; his losses relate to family life and social respectability, rather than to his own mind and soul. In addition, his sexual desires are shown to corrupt him, aligning the story with religious thinking. Stevenson did not approve of these changes, as he felt they deemphasized the true evil of the story. In an 1887 letter, Stevenson wrote, “The harm was in Jekyll, because he was a hypocrite – not because he was fond of women… The Hypocrite let out the beast Hyde – who is no more sexual than another, but who is the essence of cruelty and malice, and selfishness and cowardice: and these are the diabolic in man – not this poor wish to have a woman, that they make such a cry about.”13

Other notable changes in these early adaptations are the shifting of the narrative structure so that the tale unfolds chronologically (the Jekyll/Hyde parallel is revealed early, with an elaborately staged transformation) and a concerted effort to valorize Jekyll. Rather than exploring hypocrisy and contradiction, these early adaptations set the precedent of realigning the story within the confines of classic tragedy. Henry Jekyll therefore becomes the hero. A respected member of society and an honorable man, he is shown to be caring and selfless, dedicating his life to providing medical treatment to the poor. His downfall does not result from evil per se; he instead falls victim to the bane of many classic heroes – hubris. As Brian A. Rose comments in his study of Jekyll and Hyde adaptations, these early versions of the story establish Jekyll as “the good man who went too far,” rather than delving into the complex narrative of Jekyll’s inner life and “enforced repression.”14

Film Adaptation in the 1930s and 1940s

Though Freud was already published at the time of Robertson’s 1920 film, his theories had not quite yet entered into popular culture. Later adaptations however, reveal a cultural awareness of elements of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Most notably, adaptations from this era contain telling imagery during the iconic transformation scene. In Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 film, the camera spins around the room, creating a dizzying effect. Interposed on this are various images – Jekyll telling his fiancé that he cannot wait any longer, other men speaking of things that are “indecent” and “not done,” and finally a woman’s sensually swinging leg. This focuses the audience’s attention on Jekyll’s sexual desires, as well as the pressure he feels to obey society’s rules of propriety. Victor Fleming’s 1941 film also takes us into Jekyll’s psyche during the moment of transformation. An image of flowers emerging from the water gives way to shots of two women – Jekyll’s fiancé and an alluring barmaid he had recently encountered. The vision ends with Jekyll whipping the two women, who have taken the place of horses on the screen. This version in particular calls to mind Freud’s ideas of repressed experiences and desires returning as perversions.

Though early critics and adaptors of Stevenson’s work also added female characters and associated Hyde with sex, the 1931 and 1941 adaptations reveal a cultural shift. These films showcase sexual satiation as Hyde’s primary obsession, rather than as only one of his many appetites. The transformation scenes in particular encourage a psychoanalytic reading; Freudian criticism often labels Hyde as the instinctive id and Jekyll as the rational ego.

In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after One Hundred Years, Virginia Wright Wexman raises another point that gives insight to the Jekyll and Hyde adaptations of this era. In Mamoulian’s film, Hyde is presented with darker skin and stereotypically black racial characteristics. Wexman explains, “In Jekyll and Hyde, it is the monster’s determination to appropriate the sexuality of white womanhood that defines his malevolence… The abomination represented by Hyde’s sexual appetite is made palpable by his hideousness. While Jekyll’s handsome demeanor is often enhanced by backlighting and is set off by the grace of his carriage, the coarse, typically underlit features of Hyde are complemented by stealthy, apelike movements. Thus, the racial overtones inherent in the representation of Hyde are intimately associated with his physical repulsiveness.”15 When seen in this way, the film serves to reinforce racial tensions and perhaps even relegates black sexuality to the realm of the socially unacceptable. This may be an interesting concern to explore with students.

Adaptation Theory

In the preface to the book, Jekyll and Hyde Adapted: Dramatizations of Cultural Anxiety, Brian A. Rose introduces two terms that work well for examining the impact of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and thus will be particularly useful for students during this unit.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an example of a “tracer-text.” Rose explains that tracer-texts “are adopted as the bases of adaptational families (group-texts) because they are viable tools for the transmission of weighty themes and potent iconographic imagery.”16 Stevenson’s story speaks to an inherent human struggle. Thus, its themes can transcend its time period. There are countless Jekyll and Hyde adaptations because each new cultural context can reimagine Jekyll’s story and claim his central conflict as its own.

As defined by Rose, all these various adaptations comprise the Jekyll and Hyde “culture-text,” which “evolves from the… interaction between cultures of generation/reception, the original story (or seed text) upon which the adaptations are based, and the family of adapted versions that grows from it as the process of serial adaptation proceeds over time.”17

What Rose stresses is the fact that adaptation does not just happen linearly; not all adaptations are based strictly on the original text, but rather, they often affect each other.

Objectives

As I waded through the vast seas of Jekyll and Hyde adaptations and criticism, I considered how to narrow the scope of the unit for freshmen English classes. Wanting to focus on repression, I used this concept as a guide for choosing which adaptations to include. By focusing on what is repressed in each telling of the Jekyll and Hyde story, as well as what the characters lose as a result of that repression, we will be able to explore what each different culture fears and values. By instructing students about the contexts of each adaptation and exposing students to this type of analytical lens, I hope to lead them beyond their preoccupation with plot and help them become more sophisticated thinkers and writers. In addition, I believe that a focus on repression will be meaningful to their own lives, asking them to consider who they are vs. who society wants them to be.

With these considerations in mind, I have developed the unit objectives.

Throughout the course of the unit, students will…

Based on these objectives, I chose the following texts for the unit.

At the end of the unit, there will be two culminating activities that will allow me to measure these objectives and make a final assessment of student learning.

  1. Literary Analysis Paper: Students will work through the writing process to compose an analytical paper in response to the question – How do Jaye Murray’s allusions to the Jekyll and Hyde story influence character, symbol, and/or theme in her novel, Bottled Up?
  2. Jekyll and Hyde Adaptation Project: Students will create their own adaptations of the Jekyll and Hyde motif. They may use any art form and will be able to freely choose how faithful an adaptation to create. As they plan their projects, they will need to consider the repressions their own society requires and how our modern cultural concerns should show up in their work.

Teaching Plan and Strategies

Please note – this section also contains examples of classroom activities, which allows them to be understood within the context of the unit’s progression.

The first ensemble song of Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical, “Façade,” contains the lyrics: “There’s a face that we wear/ In the cold light of day -/ It’s society’s mask,/ It’s society’s way,/ And the truth is/ That it’s all a façade!/ There’s a face that we hide/ Till the nighttime appears,/ And what’s hiding inside,/ Behind all of our fears,/ Is our true self,/ Locked inside the façade!”18 This song provides an opportunity to effectively open this unit. By using this song before delving into any of the texts, students will be able to reflect on the idea of repression before being influenced by the content of the unit. After listening to the song together, we will examine and thoroughly discuss the lyrics. Not only does “Façade” raise interesting questions about hidden identities, but it also references society’s role in shaping who we become. This will allow us to investigate what society is and what it expects from us. It will be important to acknowledge the benefits of society and why we need it, while also critiquing it. This will set up an idea that will be vital later in the unit – sometimes certain desires do need to be repressed, for the common good. It’s about balance, not about indulging every rogue thought. Furthermore, the end of the song speaks of how we “love the façade.” Exploring this idea (particularly in comparison to some of the very negative diction in the song – “locked inside,” “disease,” “lurking there beneath,” “nightmare”) will deepen our discussion of identity, repression, and society.

The musical’s use of the term “mask” in this song will ground these abstract concepts in something concrete for the students. This will help me to introduce the terms “façade” and “hypocrite” in a way that they can fully absorb and understand (which will be important later, as these terms are central to the Jekyll and Hyde story). After we discuss the song, I will introduce a mask activity to the students; they will consider if they wear a metaphorical mask and if so, when and why they put it on. Following these considerations, students will artistically create a mask that represents the self they show to the world and compare it to their inner self. This will allow us to discuss why we mask our identities, the pros and cons of this type of deceit, and what would happen if we took our masks off.

These pre-reading reflections will prepare my students for the body of the unit, which will begin with the novel, Bottled Up. The book is conveniently split into four parts, so I can intersperse Jekyll and Hyde lessons following the conclusion of each section. The only exception to this will be following Part 1; it’s necessary to forge ahead a few pages into Part 2 until reaching the moment when the main character, Pip, begins reading Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I want to wait to introduce Stevenson’s story until Bottled Up has peaked student interest.

While reading Part 1, our focus will be on character analysis and symbolism. Working on making character inferences (primarily about Pip and his brother, Mikey) will build on the learning of our previous unit, as well give students a thorough understanding of Pip. This will become important later, as we begin to make connections between Bottled Up and the Jekyll and Hyde story. When teaching symbolism, I will refer back to the mask activity we did after discussing “Façade.” The students’ masks are a physical representation of the “character” they present to society, symbolizing a rejection of their inner selves. To extend their thinking, I will ask them to consider what a symbol of their truest self might be. By interacting with symbolism in this personal way, my students will internalize the concept, preparing them for our analysis of the symbols in Bottled Up.

The major symbols present in Part 1 of Bottled Up are Pip’s shoelaces, the bottle cap, Mikey’s M&M questions, the Site, and the Superman cape. Though we will not be able to definitively determine the final meaning of these symbols at this early stage of the book, I will draw my students’ attention to the implications of each through questioning and discussion. Pip leaves his shoelaces untied as a demonstration of his defiance of authority; the bottle cap from the beer Pip’s father gave him at age 9 is a physical reminder of his history of abuse; Mikey’s M&M questions reveal the innocence that has not yet been destroyed by their abusive father; the Site is a graveyard where Pip hangs out, ominously foreshadowing the death of his potential; and the Superman cape shows Mikey’s need for protection. I will also ask my students to track all the times Pip is referred to as a dog (both by other people and in his own mind). Considering the author’s language at these moments will allow us to parse this deliberate symbolism. I will also be sure to refer back to the “mask” idea, asking students to consider if and when Pip wears a mask.

Before concluding this portion of the unit, it will be important to discuss the moment when Pip’s English teacher distributes the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde books. Murray writes, “Maybe I’d read the book. It didn’t sound too bad. I shoved Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into my back pocket. It was a perfect fit.”19 The thought “it was a perfect fit” is an interesting moment of foreshadowing; it cues the reader that this book is going to fit Pip in some way, and thus affect him throughout the rest of the story.

At this point of the unit, I will take the opportunity to introduce Stevenson’s original Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As a class, we will read the final chapter, titled “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case.” I will also utilize quotations from other parts of the book, primarily concerning other characters’ reactions to Hyde and the contrasting descriptions of Jekyll’s house and the back entrance to the lab. After reading, there will be an open discussion; for the start of our Jekyll and Hyde considerations, I want to defer to the thoughts and interpretations of the students. After allowing them time to process and reflect, I will gradually begin to focus our conversation. I will introduce the term “repression” and we will work back through the text to identify the elements of repression in Jekyll’s story. Our main focus will be on what Jekyll represses, why he represses it, and what he loses as a result of the repression. Again, we will refer back to the “mask” idea, so that students can begin to see the song “Façade” as a story about repression. We will also consider what Pip is repressing (and connect this idea to the title, Bottled Up), and I will ask the students to make predictions about how Pip will respond to reading Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

After our initial Jekyll and Hyde discussions, I will introduce some historical information to give my students context for the story. We will talk about why old stories can give us insight into a particular time period – the fears and values of a culture show up in the stories authors write. I will then teach the students about certain Victorian theories of the double brain and London’s economic decline of the 1880s that led to a pervasive anxiety about the degenerate poor. Students will work together to find examples in the text that relate to this new information. There are multiple instances of duality to examine (including even the description of Jekyll’s house vs. the description of the back entrance to the lab that Hyde uses) and Hyde’s physical appearance closely aligns with Victorian descriptions of the poor. Following this, we will renew our discussion of repression. As a result of his various repressions (and of releasing his inner monster, Hyde), Jekyll loses his mind and his social reputation. These consequences reflect Victorian scientific theories and a preoccupation with social class separation and strict social standards of behavior. When this portion of the unit concludes, I expect students to have a preliminary understanding of the dangers of repression and of the relationship between a culture’s needs and its stories.

Next, we will move on to finish Part 2 of Bottled Up. We will continue to analyze character and symbol, as well as paying particular attention to Jekyll and Hyde references. Most significantly, it is in this section of the book that Pip first refers to his father as “Hyde.” Therefore, during this section of the unit, I will include a lesson on Stevenson’s complex relationship with his father. This will allow us to rethink our interpretations of the Jekyll and Hyde story, looking for elements that represent (and perhaps even attempt to work through) a difficult father-son relationship. We will also have to probe into the relationship between repression and oppression, considering how Stevenson’s oppressive religious upbringing forced him to repress certain aspects of his own identity. Returning to Bottled Up, we will compare Pip’s relationship with his father to Stevenson’s life. We must also ask ourselves about the significance of Pip thinking of his father as the Hyde character, when there is a lot of evidence that Pip is a Hyde character himself. This is similar to Stevenson, who referred to both his father and himself as Hyde at different points of his life. Finally, we will consider the moments when Pip thinks of his father as “the Grinch.” Why does Jaye Murray choose to make two incredibly different literary references about the same character? Are there similarities between Hyde and the Grinch?

Following Part 2 of Bottled Up, we will pause to consider two post-Freud adaptations of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Mamoulian’s 1931 film and Fleming’s 1941 film. I will begin this portion of the unit by introducing Brian Rose’s terms tracer-text and culture-text. I want my students to understand that Jekyll and Hyde is a story that has been told and re-told, meaning different things to different time periods. Because its struggles are inherent to human nature, its universal themes can be reshaped to address different cultural needs. I will ask students to consider this as they watch the transformation scenes of both films.

Just as with Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I will first allow my students to guide the course of our discussion about the films. I want to begin with what they notice, what they want to discuss, and any questions they may have. Then, I will introduce some elements of Freudian psychoanalytical theory to deepen our adaptation analysis. We will focus on how Jekyll/Hyde’s desires become sexual in nature, shifting the consequences of his repression to sexual perversion. This will also allow us to consider why adaptors choose to add women to the plot. In these films at least, the addition of women allows the directors to explore elements of Freudian sexual repression. We will also discuss the genre-specific needs of film. To be financially successful, films require mass culture appeal (of which, a romantic subplot is a huge part). I am hopeful that through these discussions, my students will finally be able to internalize the idea that plot changes in film adaptations are not always a sacrilegious travesty meant to ruin the book, but rather conscious decisions that reflect a director’s interpretation of the story, the cultural mores of the time, and the needs of the genre.

Depending on student reading levels and ability, at this point of the unit we could return to Stevenson’s original text to explore the narrative structure. Reading excerpts from Mr. Utterson’s narrative and Dr. Lanyon’s letter will force students to confront the novel’s varying points of view and Stevenson’s decision to delay the revelation of Jekyll’s transformation. We could then discuss the techniques each film employs to shift the narration to the first person perspective of Henry Jekyll.

While reading Part 3 of Bottled Up, our focus will continue on character, symbol, and Jekyll and Hyde references and connections. Through discussion, guiding questions, and close reading activities, I will push my students toward deeper analysis. The most notable moment of this section of the book occurs during Pip’s English class. When Mr. Kirkland asks Pip why Hyde is smaller than Jekyll, Pip answers, “I guess maybe ‘cause Hyde is hiding.” Though Pip says it like a joke, his teacher takes him seriously and replies, “We’re meant to consider that the evil that exists within each of us is only a small part of who we are. No matter how big and ugly the evil may seem, in reality it’s only a smaller, crouching version of our true selves. It is not who we are. Jekyll is not Hyde. But he has a part of him that, as Pip points out, is hiding.”20 I will be interested in the students’ opinions of this quote. We will consider if Stevenson would agree with this interpretation and if Hyde really represents evil. More importantly, we’ll question what is hiding (hyde-ing) inside Pip, and whether or not it would really be “evil” of him to let it out.

Upon concluding Part 3, we will turn to Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. This adaptation, published in 1990, reflects modern concerns with identity and reveals the value our society places on self-worth. Jekyll is reimagined as a gifted and visionary scientist who petitions a hospital’s board of directors for permission to experiment on human mental health patients. He seeks a cure for psychological neuroses. When he is denied, Jekyll exclaims in song, “Who are they/ To judge what I am doing?/ They know nothing/ Of the endless possibilities I see!/ It’s ludicrous I’m bound by their decision!” Utterson sides with Jekyll and replies, “Seems vision/ Is a word/ They’ve never heard.” At the end of the musical, during a song called “Confrontation,” Jekyll tries to wrest back control from Hyde. As Jekyll tries to regain his sense of self as a moral, good man, Hyde insists, “I’m what you face/ When you face in the mirror!/ Long as you live, I will still be here!/… You can’t control me!/ I live deep inside you!/ Each day you’ll feel me devour your soul.”21 The musical adaptation clearly characterizes the Jekyll and Hyde story as a struggle to stay true to yourself in the face of the rejection and influence of society. In this modern version, Jekyll’s consequences are not loss of social status or troubling sexual perversions, but rather the ruin of his personal ambitions and, more importantly, the death of his true self.

During this portion of the unit, we will focus on three songs from Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical – “First Transformation,” “Alive,” and “Confrontation.” These songs tell the most important aspects of the story, reveal Jekyll’s repressions, and distinctly place emphasis on individuality. Comparing them to Stevenson’s original and the 1931 and 1941 films will allow us to track the changes to Jekyll’s motivations and repressions throughout the years. This will reinforce for students the idea that adaptations are a product of specific times and cultures.

Finally, we will finish Bottled Up with our analysis of Part 4. While reading this section of the book, we will be able to make our final analysis of the various symbols we noticed throughout. Most significant is the bottle cap; when Pip tosses the bottle cap away, he finally lets go of his past and releases all of the negative emotions he had been bottling up inside (repressing). Another key aspect of this section of the book is Pip’s final confrontation with his father, which I will be sure to connect back to the song “Confrontation.”

The most significant Jekyll and Hyde moment of Bottled Up occurs when Pip’s teacher reads one of Pip’s test answers aloud. In response to the question “Is Jekyll good and Hyde bad?”, Pip writes, “Jekyll is like everybody else – showing one face and having another. I see people all the time saying one thing and doing something else. Girls wear makeup so nobody sees what they really look like. People smile when they want to cry, go places they don’t want to go, stay places they want to leave… Jekyll needs a way out. His potion lets him off the hook. He can do what he wants. He can be who he really is – a pissed off guy… If he could be Jekyll and Hyde at the same time – do and say what he really thought – he could be one person. No potion. No Hyde-ing. No good or bad.”22 Using this quote in class will ensure that we do not miss an important qualification in our reflections on repression. As we previously discussed at the opening of the unit, some desires do need to be repressed. While Hyde may not represent evil, the majority of his actions are. Questions of morality aside, a society of Hydes would not be able to function. What is truly important is balance. This moment of the book connects perfectly to a comment James Campbell makes in his article, “The Beast Within.” He references Stevenson’s statement that “everything is true… only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned.” Campbell then writes, “Jekyll is a true type, but no more so than Hyde; truer than either is Jekyll-and-Hyde, that combination we all recognize.”23 Students will compare this quote to Pip’s thoughts, and then we will explore the implications for both Pip’s and Jekyll’s story. The important question for us to consider is how to find the right balance in life.

In our final Bottled Up discussion, I will pose the following questions to the students. My goals will be to tie together everything we have learned, touch upon anything that has not yet come up, and probe even more deeply into aspects of our analysis.

Following our final discussions, students will write their literary analysis paper, receiving support from me throughout the writing process.

To conclude the unit, I will ask students to make connections to their own lives and the communities they live in. We will start by revisiting the mask activity. I will be curious to know if studying the Jekyll and Hyde story has changed student perception of the “masks” they wear in various situations. We will then consider modern society. Hyde is a manifestation of society’s undesirables. Therefore, it is important to ask who society is labeling “undesirable” and why. We will discuss the current political climate and address the consequences of living in a society that oppresses large groups of people. These marginalized groups must choose between exposing themselves to criticism and repressing their true identities. This will lead directly into the Jekyll and Hyde adaptation project.

Bibliography

Beattie, Hilary J., Ph.D. "Father and Son: The Origins of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 56 (2001): 317-60. An in-depth exploration of Stevenson’s early life and relationship with his father.

Beckson, Karl E. London in the 1890s: A Cultural History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992. A comprehensive history of the socio-cultural influences at work in London in the late 19th century.

Buzwell, Greg. "'Man is not truly one, but truly two': duality in Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." The British Library. February 13, 2014. Accessed May 18, 2017. http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/duality-in-robert-louis-stevensons-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde. A brief article that summarizes Stevenson’s major scientific and cultural influences. Its length and language are appropriate for students.

Campbell, James. "The beast within: Interpreting Jekyll and Hyde." The Guardian. December 12, 2008. Accessed May 18, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/dec/13/dr-jekyll-mr-hyde-stevenson. A brief exploration of many varying interpretations of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Chisholm, Alexander, and Martin A. Danahay. Jekyll and Hyde Dramatized: The 1887 Richard Mansfield Script and the Evolution of the Story on Stage. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. An in-depth study of the 1887 adaptation of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, including reviews and other primary source documents.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Directed by John S. Robertson. Performed by John Barrymore. United States: Famous Players-Lasy Corp., 1920. DVD.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Performed by Fredric March. United States: Paramount, 1932. DVD.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Directed by Victor Fleming. Performed by Spencer Tracy. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1941. DVD.

Edgar, David. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: A Play. London: Nick Hern Books, 1996. The script of the play premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1991.

Freud, Sigmund, and David McLintock. The Uncanny. London: Penguin, 2003. Freud’s original article exploring the psychology of the return of the repressed.

Jones, Gareth Stedman. Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship Between Classes in Victorian Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971. A study of London’s socioeconomic conditions in the late nineteenth century.

Leitch, Thomas. "Jekyll, Hyde, Jekyll, Hyde, Jekyll, Hyde, Jekyll, Hyde: Four Models of Intertextuality." In Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation, 27-49. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011. A chapter dedicated to defining different models of adaptation analysis, using Jekyll and Hyde as an example.

Murray, Jaye. Bottled Up. New York: Speak, 2004. A contemporary, young adult novel about a teenage boy struggling to move past his history of addiction and abuse.

Niemtus, Zofia. "How to teach ... The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." The Guardian. October 12, 2015. Accessed May 18, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/oct/12/how-to-teach-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde. A website with activity ideas, discussion questions, and links to articles.

Rose, Brian A. Jekyll and Hyde Adapted: Dramatizations of Cultural Anxiety. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. A book that examines cultural influences on Jekyll and Hyde adaptations from 1887 through 1990.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Stevenson’s original text, with an introduction, a selection of Stevenson’s other stories, and a few scholarly articles.

Stiles, Anne. "Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 46, no. 4 (2006): 879-900. An analysis of late Victorian psychology in relationship to Stevenson’s work.

Veeder, William, and Gordon Hirsch. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde after One Hundred Years. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. A collection of articles exploring Jekyll and Hyde adaptations within the contexts of text, voice, repression, and genre.

"Whitechapel Road on a Saturday Night." Casebook: Jack the Ripper - Whitechapel Road on a Saturday Night. Accessed May 18, 2017. http://www.casebook.org/victorian_london/whitesat.html. A newspaper article from 1862, describing the section of London terrorized by Jack the Ripper.

Wildhorn, Frank. Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, libretto by Leslie Bricusse, Steve Cuden, and Frank Wildhorn, 1990. A musical adaptation of the Jekyll and Hyde story.

Appendix A: Texts for Student Use

Many of the texts listed in the bibliography are intended for teacher use. Their length, vocabulary, and reading level would make them inaccessible to students. The texts listed below however, are more accessible and intended for student use.

  1. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (selections).
  2. “‘Man is not truly one, but truly two’: duality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Greg Buzzwell;
  3. John Robertson’s 1920 film.
  4. Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 film.
  5. Victor Fleming’s 1941 film.
  6. Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical (song lyrics).
  7. Jay Murray’s Bottled Up.

Appendix B: Implementing District Standards

This unit is designed to address the following CT Core Standards. A brief explanation is included below each standard.

RL.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Students will build the skill of citing textual evidence as they compare various Jekyll and Hyde adaptations. They will need to notice and analyze details in the original story, as well as visual details in the films, in order to effectively explore character. They will also make inferences as they analyze the symbols of Bottled Up. During class discussion and on written assignments, I will challenge them to support their interpretations with specific details from the text.

RL.9-10.5: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

RL.9-10.7: Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.

Comparing Stevenson’s narrative structure to Jekyll and Hyde film adaptations will allow students to practice this type of analysis.

RL.9-10.9: Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work.

Bottled Up is an ideal text to help students analyze an author’s use of source material. Together, we will explore and analyze how Jaye Murray transforms the original Jekyll and Hyde story and for what purpose.

W.9-10.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

As students complete their Jekyll and Hyde Adaptation project, they will need to consider the purpose of their adaptation and their desired audience to determine the best artistic approach.

W.9-10.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

We will work through the entire writing process as students complete their literary analysis paper, which will allow me to explicitly teach students how to gather relevant and meaningful evidence.

Endnotes

  1. James Naremore, Film Adaptation. Rutgers University Press, 2000.
  2. Roger Luckhurst, “Introduction” to Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, xxxii.
  3. Robert Louis Stevenson as quoted in “Introduction” to Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, xi.
  4. Hilary J. Beattie, “Father and Son: The Origins of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 323.
  5. Hilary J. Beattie, “Father and Son: The Origins of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 328.
  6. Hilary J. Beattie, “Father and Son: The Origins of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 348.
  7. Anne Stiles, “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain,” 891.
  8. Anne Stiles, “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain,” 887.
  9. Greg Buzwell, “Man is not truly one, but truly two.”
  10. Henry James as quoted by Karl Beckson, London in the 1890s, 19-20.
  11. Gareth Stedman Jones, Outcast London, 283.
  12. Anne Stiles, “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain,” 881.
  13. Robert Louis Stevenson as quoted by Hilary J. Beattie, “Father and Son: The Origins of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 347.
  14. Brian A. Rose, Jekyll and Hyde Adapted, 36.
  15. Virginia Wright Wexman, “Horrors of the Body,” published in William Veeder and Gordon Hirsch, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde After One Hundred Years, 289.
  16. Brian A. Rose, Jekyll and Hyde Adapted, ix.
  17. Brian A. Rose, Jekyll and Hyde Adapted, x.
  18. Frank Wildhorn, Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical.
  19. Jaye Murray, Bottled Up, 61.
  20. Jaye Murray, Bottled Up, 97-98.
  21. Frank Wildhorn, Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical.
  22. Jaye Murray, Bottled Up, 172-173.
  23. James Campbell, “The Beast Within.”
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