Applying Psychoanalytical and Post humanist criticism theories to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Subject: Psychology
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 9
Word count: 2312
Topics: Social Psychology, Human Nature, Humanism, Psychoanalysis


The book ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, by Stevenson (1886) is considered as one of the classics of fiction. It brings to light an involuntary transformation of the psyche where a responsible and respected citizen is transformed into a despicable murderer and criminal who represents the basest and deepest deprivations of man. In a way, Stevenson narrates the manner in which a person has deep and decayed alter ego, filled with vile desires and urges. The alter ego remains hidden, perhaps never to materialise. However, external triggers in the form of drugs and a repressed psyche can emerge without warning and turn a respectable person into a psychopath. Several critical theories of human behaviour can be applied to the work of Stevenson. This paper studies the book with critical application of two theories, Psychoanalytical and Post humanist criticism. In the next sections, the theories are briefly explained and then applied to the book.

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The method of Barry et al., (2008) is used for the analysis. In this method, a critical theory is first examined to understand the salient points of arguments and reference. These points are then used to analyse Stevenson (1886) to evaluate the extent to which the theory hold true. Ideas of congruence and divergence are brought out and explained.

Applying the Psychoanalytical Theory

Psychoanalytic theory describes the dynamics of a person’s psyche and psychoanalysis treatment given to a person. Rather than considering the brain, the psychoanalytic theory studies an individual’s mind, manner in which people function, behaves, and interacts with society (Freud, 1900). Several applications need to be considered and these include a study of human sexual and aggressive tendencies and urges. Many irrational, unconscious and biological drives force a person in distress to indulge in certain activities. If brain is controlled, then a person becomes a puppet to base urges (Friedman and Schustack, 2011). Rational and civilised behaviour, norms, and social processes are set aside and a person becomes a victim of his mind. As per this theory, the personality of a person has three components, id, ego and superego. Id refers to the normal personality of a person, driven by internal needs and basic requirements such as food, clothing, shelter, sex, receiving respect in the society, and so on. Id is subject to control from the pleasure principle where pleasure is sought by avoiding pain. Id is often impulsive and a person may be unaware of the implications from certain actions taken. Unconscious component refers to a person’s conscious that remains hidden, but where true emotions, feelings and thoughts lie (Freud, 1900). Unconscious component can come awake through trauma, hypnosis, consumption of narcotic substance, etc. Ego and superego are manifestations of the unconscious where a person may enact latest and manifest desires. A normal and sane person may have excessive and violent drives. However, these remain repressed by the mind. These may be released in the form of fantasises or a person may enact these urges physically (Tyson, 2002).

Analysis of Stevenson with psychoanalysis theory

A reading of Stevenson (1886) brings out several aspects of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that seem to suggest a struggle of Dr. Jekyll unconscious personality over his mental processes. It is clear that Dr. Jekyll first experienced an emergence of his vile alter ego, Mr. Hyde, when he consumed certain formulations of chemicals. Initially, Mr. Hyde emerges occasionally as the ego and superego shades. Dr. Jekyll retains control of his evil persona that comes out only when the medication is consumed. While Dr. Jekyll wants to restrain Mr. Hyde, it is obvious that an inner turmoil and urge is gaining control. These feelings are in line with the theory of psychoanalysis where a person tries to control latent and base feelings.

It appears that Dr. Jekyll is subjected to inner dreams and base urges. As suggested by (Freud, 1900), these inner feelings and drives occasionally surface as seen when Dr. Jekyll under control of Mr. Hyde, tramples a young girl, without any concern. Mr. Hyde represents the id. However, Dr. Jekyll soon recovers and is seemingly unaware of actions by Mr. Hyde, the behaviour is in line with standard psychoanalysis theory. It is possible that Dr. Jekyll has unarticulated desires that remain repressed. Stevenson portrays him as a harmless and cranky scientist who is busy in his lab and who never dreams of doing any harm to others. However, it appears that Dr. Jekyll is a victim of his unconscious, ego, and super ego components of his personality. The alter ego and drive becomes so strong that it makes Dr. Jekyll to commit very atrocious crimes such as violent murder, and he becomes a wanted criminal (Tyson, 2002). 

Psychoanalysis theory suggests that ego and superego states are mental stages where a person moves from the unconscious id state to the new states of ego and superego. Unconscious state indicates an inability to know the difference from unreal and real states. A person in such a state may commit heinous crimes, as seen in the activities of Mr. Hyde. An important aspect is when a person begins to sub consciously appreciate and like the activities of his evil persona, then the evil alter ego assumes control even when a person is in a normal condition (Friedman and Schustack, 2011).

This process is seen in later stages where Mr. Hyde assumes control of Dr. Jekyll, even when formulations are not consumed. Stevenson (1886) points out that medications/ drugs where responsible for the occasional transformation. After the medications lose their power since some impurities in materials used are not available, Mr. Hyde takes over the personality even when medications are not available. Transformation process seems to become unpredictable and irreversible. A certain poetic license is taken when such implications from the psychoanalysis theory is presumed. However, it appears that Dr. Jekyll has some amount of control over his normal sense. This process is evident from psychoanalysis theories where transformation, regaining and relapse are considered as cyclic, and the better sense, tries to fight with the evil sense. In this story, Dr. Jekyll appears to have some control over his mind. This is seen in the last section of the story where he commits secede to prevent his evil side from committing more crimes (Friedman and Schustack, 2011). 

The story is a good example of psychoanalysis theory and several ideas are applied to explain the bizarre behaviour of the respectable Dr. Jekyll who transforms into a despicable Mr. Hyde.

Applying the Post humanist theory

Post humanism, also called as after humanism has several sub discipline such as anti humanism, cultural post humanism, and several others (Bordwell and Carroll, 2012). The general concept of these theories is than human, as responsible, citizens, who observe social conditions of decent behaviour are transformed to a condition, either through internal mental processes or through technological and medical interventions into a new form with higher and sometimes base and extreme functions (Hayles, 1999). The post human seeks to represent a reconceived human where human nature of kindness, mercy, benign feelings are replaced by a free will that fluidly changes the perspective and manifest through different identities (Gane, 2006). The post human can be an intelligent superhuman who is kind, caring, and serves the citizen. In an extreme case, the post human represents the epitome of vices and cruel behaviour. The good representations are seen in movies such as Robocop, while the evil representation is exemplified by the behaviour of Mr. Hyde (Bordwell and Carroll, 2012).

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Analysis of Stevenson with post humanist theory

Several conditions and concepts of the post humanist theory are evident in Stevenson (1886). Dr. Jekyll transformed into Mr. Hyde after medications/ chemicals were ingested, and this is a medical intervention. The transformed Mr. Hyde is a super post human with exemplary strength, cruelty, and contempt for law. While Dr. Hyde is a weak and timid person with low physical strength, Mr. Hyde is strong, cruel and willing to kill a small girl by trampling her. Mr. Hyde also beats to death Sir Danvers, a kind, old MP, who had the misfortune of confronting Mr. Hyde.

According to the post-humanist theory, the new entity tires to gain anthropocentric dominance over other humans. This principle suggests that humans cannot claim any inherent rights to kill people or to destroy nature. Humans, with all their freedom remain constrained by ethical considerations that bind them by laws government rules. However, humans have certain urges, cravings, desires, and repressed feelings. These can be triggered through mental, biological, and chemical interventions. Post humanism borrows from several other theories of human behaviour such as psychoanalysis, modernist, post modern, constructivist and other theories. The sum of all these theories is that man tries to find ways in which the repressed and evil thoughts and behaviour emerge to take control over the normal human. As stated earlier, the transformed post human can be good or evil (Smith and Jenks, 2006).

These principles are evident in the story (Stevenson, 1886) where the transformed Mr. Hyde represents the epitome of super human evil. In this new and transformed form, base instincts, bad temper, willingness to hurt others, to show wanton and inhuman cruelty, are seen in his behaviour. Mr Hyde gains notoriety when he is declared a criminal and the police begin searching for him. This notoriety and being branded as a criminal appears to increase the craving of Dr. Jekyll in a perverse manner. While Dr. Jekyll is horrified at the activities of, his alter ego, the post-human Mr. Hyde.

The post human transformation gain intensity and from manifesting after Dr. Jekyll ingests the chemicals, Dr. Hyde transforms without any ingestion. This process indicates that Dr. Jekyll now faces an irreversible transformation into the evil post human monster. The post human transformation is so extremely rabid that Dr. Jekyll is horrified by the result of the transformation. A few people such as the maid and Dr. Hastie Lanyon, and Mr. Poole the butler are aware of the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Their voices remain silent out of fear and out of an unwillingness to expose the respected Dr. Jekyll. 

According to (Gane, 2006), the post human version of a transformed human, craves for attention while ignoring the law. Normal rules of etiquettes and behaviour are of no consequence to such an entity. Consequently, Mr. Hyde becomes a wanted criminal who enjoys his power and cruelty. When Police announce a reward for apprehension of Mr. Hyde, an implication is that Mr. Hyde gloats in the pleasure that his debauchery and evil yielded. We have instances of stories about werewolves were a respectable citizen transforms to an evil monster. Such stories would be based on Stevenson’s (1886) work.

A point of departure from the post human theory is that while post human theory suggests an indifferent post human stage, where the transformed entity may be far removed from human interactions (Hayles, 1999). Mr. Hyde appears to revel in torturing and murdering citizens and in generally creating terror. Perhaps, the transformation has given life to the inner, repressed and latent feelings of Dr. Jekyll, otherwise a model citizen.

Post human principles can be applied to the story, and it represents an extreme case of post human models that have gone wrong.

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Integration of the two theories

Several other theories can be applied to this work and the integration of the psychoanalysis and post human theories is examined. As per principles of psychoanalysis theory, a person has hidden and latent desires. These emerge in times of stress and through external interventions to create a new entity that is different from the original being. As seen in chapters 3 and 4, when Dr. Jekyll consumes chemicals, he undergoes a transformation into another entity, Mr. Hyde. This new entity is a post human manifestation of Dr. Jekyll. A contrast in characters, behaviour, personality, and activities become evident. Psychoanalysis theory suggests that a person assumes his id, which allows him to indulge in violent activities. This is a post human behaviour and a link between two behavioural traits is evident. When Mr. Hyde kills people violently and without mercy or humane behaviour, his id and unconscious state is now the post human behaviour (Fenichel, 2006). 

It becomes difficult to understand the theory that are applicable to this case. Psychoanalysis theory is about irrational, unconscious and biological drives that compel a person to take up activities that the person would not otherwise take. However, the new persona is linked to the original entity. New actions are a result of unrequited desires, dreams and wishes. Post human behaviour suggests that a transformed person is a new entity that may not have links or connections to the original state (Showalter, 1981). However, we see that Mr. Hyde is closely linked to Dr. Hyde, violent activities create a certain uproar and horror that Dr. Hyde finds extremely distressing. His distress is so great that he kills himself and destroy the evil Mr. Hyde than to let his own body serve as the means to commit further murder.


The paper examined the work ‘The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ from two critical theories, psychoanalysis and post human. It appears that the work satisfies and meets many concepts of the two theories. Psychoanalysis theory suggests that humans have several persona in their psyche, good and bad that remain hidden, but which emerge when triggered by external and internal conditions. Post human theory suggests that a new and transformed human is created due to mental, medical, and technological interventions. The transformed entity can work to improve conditions in the society, remain indifferent, or intervene sadistically to kill and maim people. It appears that Stevenson created an entity that turned into a criminal.

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