Return of the Real, the Split and Alienation of Human Subject in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
The typical approach to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is to see the novella in terms of split personality or “the good-evil antithesis that lurks in all men”, while some critic bases the split personality on the dual-brain theory, arguing the opposites, which engages in perpetual power struggle, are embodied in the Jekyll/Hyde binary. Jekyll and Hyde, however, are not opposites, since Hyde is a part of Jekyll, or rather Jekyll cannot be completely distinguished from Hyde. The novella is concerned more with the split human subjectivity as well as the alienation which the human should inevitably undergo in order to be a subject. It is, therefore, most adequate to examine the work in terms of Jacques Lacan’s theory of human subject which inevitably remains split and alienated. The subject, according to Lacan, is constituted in and by the symbolic order which corresponds to the human society in which the human relationship is formed by the exchange of symbols or language. To be a subject, therefore, we should be subjected to the symbolic order/human society which, in the name of the father, demands the subject to give up parts of ourselves threatening to the symbolic order/ system. To what is prohibited by the symbolic order Lacan gives the name of the real, which remains beyond the symbolic order. The human subject who should give up parts of himself, thus, inevitably remains split and alienated from himself. Furthermore, the subject is, according to Lacan, alienated even from his own desire, since he desires what Other/symbolic order desires, (mis)recognizing Other’s desire as his own. Like a typical Lacanian subject, Jekyll is fundamentally split and divided. He, obsessed with reputation and respectability, tries to be “one of your fellows who do what they call good” as an effort to gain “the respect of the wise and good”, while his ”impatient gaiety of disposition” leads him to want to do some “irregularities”. Hyde as an embodiment of his “gaiety of disposition” represents the (Lacanian) real of Jekyll which has been oppressed and prohibited by the symbolic order, while Jekyll represents/adjusts himself to the social identity given by the symbolic order whose desire Jekyll adopts/(mis)recognizes as his own desire. In short, Hyde does not represent a pure evil, but the return of Jekyll’s real, and Jekyll whose desire for reputation and respectability is the symbolic order’s/Other’s desire is Hyde’s social mask, socially constructed subject/identity, which Hyde puts on to hide his real. Hyde, though represented as a monster threatening to the symbolic order, is the real (of) Jekyll which unveils the constructiveness and fundamental alienation of the human subject.
Index terms - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Lacan, the real, Split personality, Symbolic order,