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The Psychology Underlying The Narrative Strategy English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1053 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a great illustration of how different disciplines of education are intertwined. Although this novel is used in many English courses, it could also be used in a Psychology course – more specifically, an Abnormal Psychology course. On the surface, Dr. Jekyll is clearly suffering from dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as a split personality. He alternates between the personalities of himself and his evil half, Mr. Hyde; however, below the surface there is another way this novel relates to Psychology. Dr. Sigmund Freud, a very notorious psychologist from the Victorian Era from which this novel is written, proposed a theory called Psychoanalytic Theory. This theory suggests the notion that the unconscious is split into three dimensions: the ego, the id, and the superego. Each of these dimensions represents one of the main characters in this novel. The narrative strategy in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is effective because it offers the perspectives of the three main characters, Dr. Hastie Lanyon, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Mr. Gabriel Utterson, which stimulates all parts of the unconscious making the novel appealing to all types of people.

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Dr. Hastie Lanyon represents the ego of the story which Freud describes as the “decision-making component of personality that operates according to the reality principle” (McCann, and Weiten 523). Lanyon is very much a realist. He speaks dismissively of Dr. Jekyll’s experiments describing them as “unscientific balderdash” (Stevenson, 38). Lanyon’s dominant ego also makes him very skeptical. An instance that shows this characteristic is when he is following instructions to gather the contents of Dr. Jekyll’s drawer. Upon finding the contents, Dr. Lanyon says, “Here were a phial of some tincture, a paper of some salt, and the record of a series of experiments that had led (like too many of Jekyll’s investigations) to no end of practical usefulness” (Stevenson, 73). Dr. Lanyon seriously doubts the value of the work of his former colleague, Dr. Jekyll. His letter which shows his point of view of the events involving Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde shows the cynical side of the story which stimulates the reader’s own ego by allowing them to question the plausibility of the events that occur in this mysterious novel.

Dr. Jekyll’s alternate personality, Hyde, represents the id, which according to Freud, is the “primitive, instinctive component that operates according to the pleasure principle” (McCann, and Weiten 523). Hyde is described as a “troglodyte.” This is basically defined as a primitive or caveman-like creature. Hyde is described as a short and hideous man that repulses everyone that crosses his path. The id can also be thought of as “the devil on your shoulder” that gives bad advice just to satisfy the here and now instincts of the unconscious. “Evil” is always described as inferior to “good” and the way Dr. Jekyll’s clothes are too big for Hyde correlates with this outlook. The id has a very powerful negative influence over the unconscious mind just as Hyde is very negatively influential over Dr. Jekyll’s personality. According to Freud there is always an internal conflict going on inside the unconscious sectors of the mind between the “evil” id and the “good” ego. An example of how this conflict arises in the novel is when Hyde murders Sir Danvers Carew. This shows how the id, Hyde, overpowers the ego-like, or good, Mr. Carew for no obvious reason other than it was something to do that would please him at that very moment. The perspective of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde presented through the letter at the end of the novel shows the reader how the id can sometimes overpower the rest of the unconscious and can also counter the attitude of the ego or Dr. Lanyon, therefore stimulating the reader’s id.

Mr. Gabriel Utterson represents the last component of the unconscious, the superego. Freud describes this this part as, “the moral component of personality that incorporates social standards about what represents right and wrong” (McCann, and Weiten 523). The superego acts as a mediator between the instinctive urges of the id and the realistic impulses of the ego. Mr. Utterson represents a perfect Victorian gentleman. He is polite and follows society’s norms but his persistent investigations show that he cannot ignore the fact that something unnatural is going on with his friend, Dr. Jekyll. Although the three main characters were once best friends, after Dr. Lanyon decided that Dr. Jekyll’s experiments were too peculiar and later declaring to Mr. Utterson, “Jekyll became too fanciful for me. He began to go wrong, wrong in mind” (Stevenson, 38), Mr. Utterson became a mutual friend or the mediator between the other two gentlemen. The way the novel is structured, having Mr. Utterson’s perspective contribute to the bulk of it, is effective because it is a midway point for the reader. It allows the reader’s own superego to mediate the events that occur regarding Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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It is interesting to see what can be uncovered when different areas of education are applied to one another. Through the research of Dr. Sigmund Freud, one is able to relate the psychology of the unconscious mind to the behaviour, motives, and opinions of the characters Dr. Lanyon, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mr. Utterson in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” This novel is remarkable because the author chose a creative way to narrate so that every person that reads the novel, no matter if they are dominated by their unconscious ego, id, or superego, they will be able to relate to at least one of the main characters. The narration technique of this novel is significant because it stimulates each region of the unconscious mind and allows the reader to separately evaluate the views of each of the three main characters which, in turn, eliminates bias.


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