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The first stage of Dr. Henry Jekyll’s addiction is In Robert Louis Stevenson’s nineteenth century novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, addiction is a very important undertone. Stevenson writes “It was on this side that my new power tempted me until I fell in slavery. I had but to drink the cup, to doff at once the body of the noted professor, and to assume, like a thick cloak, that of Edward Hyde” (Stevenson 109). In other words, Dr. Henry Jekyll concocts a very strong potion in his laboratory and drinks it. As a result of his drinking the potion, he transforms into the evil Mr. Hyde. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll clearly shows all the classic signs of being a drug addict: experimentation, denial, attempt to quit and abuse. Ultimately, his self-destructive behavior becomes so severe that it leads him to commit murder; and eventually, to take his own life.
Experimentation. In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson notes “late one accursed night, I compounded the elements, watched them boil and smoke together in the glass, and when the ebullition had subsided, with a strange glow of courage, drank the potion” (Stevenson 106). This description refers to the doctor willingly concocting his strong potion. His initial purpose for cooking up and testing the drug is very well- meaning. Jekyll simply wants to rid his evil self from his good self. Despite the fact that his intentions are good, his experimentation begins his path towards addiction and isolation. Dr. Jekyll’s experimentation with psychoactive chemicals is similar to how contemporary addicts drink or use drugs to deal with problems in their lives.
Denial is the second stage of Dr. Jekyll’s addiction. This defense mechanism is commonly used by addicts to avoid facing the uncomfortable reality of their problem. Jekyll’s denial first comes up at his dinner party when Utterson comments that he is becoming increasingly informed about Hyde. Jekyll says,” it is not as bad as that; and just to put your good heart at rest, I will tell you one thing: the moment I choose, I can be rid of Hyde” (Stevenson 58). This quote from Jekyll is the speech of a person with a drug problem. His response is very similar to how today’s addicts claim that they can stop using when they want to. This is not to say that it isn’t possible, but it is very difficult for an addict to quit on their own. Furthermore, Jekyll also insists that Utterson be at ease about Hyde. Jekyll asserts “this is a private matter and I beg of you to let it sleep” (Stevenson 58). Jekyll convinces others that he and Hyde are two separate entities when in fact they are one. This denial of Jekyll is a sign that he is becoming an addict.
Similar to other addicts, Jekyll has an unsuccessful attempt at stopping his drug use. For several months, Jekyll is back to his friendly ways. He begins to become sociable again and appears to be back to his old self: “a new life began for Dr. Jekyll. He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar guest and entertainer” (Stevenson 71). This quote refers to Jekyll’s noticeable change in attitude when his drug use is ceased. Things seem to be as if they were in the old days for the doctor. However, as is often the case with addiction, his antisocial behavior returns just as quickly as it had left. His drug use begins again as he refuses visitors and becomes extremely secluded: “On the 12th, and again on the 14th, the door was shut against the lawyer. `The doctor was again confined to the house`, Poole said, `and saw no one`” (Stevenson 72). This quote is from Jekyll’s butler and refers to his noticing the changes in behavior of his master. These changes by Jekyll drive the butler to join forces with Utterson to find out what is going on with Jekyll. Jekyll’s attempt at quitting is another sign that he is becoming an addict.
Abuse is the next stage of Jekyll’s addiction. Drug abuse refers to a maladaptive pattern of use of a substance that is not considered dependent. Due to the fact that he enjoys the effects of the drug, Jekyll begins to abuse it:
I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; wither I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine. (Stevenson107)
This description refers to the sensations that Jekyll is feeling when he drinks his potion. It vividly details how the chemical makes him feel.
Consider heroin, for example. Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive and very dangerous drug. Those who have never used the substance can’t begin to understand why a person would risk their own life for such a drug. However, people addicted to heroin use any means possible to get the drug and their primary purpose in life becomes seeking heroin. My point is this: the reason that people use heroin or any drug is because the drug makes a person feel extremely good. Similarly, Jekyll also enjoys the pleasure that his potion gives him. Jekyll notes that it begins taking longer for Hyde to wear off as he spends more time recovering from the drug’s effects. Because he enjoys becoming a different person, Jekyll’s abuse worsens.
Jekyll’s continued abuse of his chemical causes serious changes in his personality. He begins behaving in unusually cruel and inhumane ways. For example, Enfield witnesses Hyde in motion: “and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground” (40). This quote describes Mr. Hyde brutally trampling a young girl and then disappearing into a door on the street. What is more important, it demonstrates that Jekyll is not a man who is right in mind or spirit. Jekyll begins requiring more of his drug than he has previously: “since then I had been obliged on more than one occasion to double, and once, with infinite risk of death, to treble the amount” (Stevenson 113). To put it another way, this quote by Jekyll refers to his increasing the amount of his drug because he has built up a tolerance to the drug. Just as important, Jekyll the quote shows Jekyll admitting that his drug abuse could cost him his life. It becomes apparent that Jekyll is not only addicted to the drug, but is also addicted to transforming into the secretive Hyde. Eventually, his addiction leads him to murder a young man. Finally, when he realizes that he can no longer return back to Jekyll, and will forever be Mr. Hyde, he takes his own life.
Henry Jekyll’s maladaptive behavior throughout the novel indicates that he is a man suffering from an addiction. His self- destruction points to the fact that he is powerless over his potion. As a result, Jekyll’s experimentation, denial and abuse eventually lead to addiction. As a result, Hyde gradually takes over the doctor to the point where he can no longer return back to Jekyll. Because of this, Jekyll commits suicide. Utterson and Poole find the body of Hyde wearing Jekyll’s clothes. They also find a letter that Jekyll has written to Utterson explaining the whole mystery. My conclusion, then, is that Dr. Jekyll is a drug addict.
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