The Lesson of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Rev. Robert J. Hermley
Stories for Life Index
I have always been a fan of mystery stories. As a youth I would read Edgar Allan Poe until I scared myself silly. I went to every scary movie, read every scary story I could lay my hands on, and even to this day, I never tire of a Frankenstein castle with the lightning flashing about and shadows darting to and fro in a haunted castle. I guess as old as I am, I still love mysteries.
One of the movies that I saw once when I was very young that made a deep impression upon me was the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Perhaps you've seen the movie, too. It is the story of a doctor who is very good, very kind and gentle. He does all kinds of good deeds for everyone. But somewhere in his mind, deep inside, he wonders what it would be like to be evil and to experience doing evil. So he concocts a potion in his laboratory to see if he can drink it and become evil. I can still remember seeking beakers of fluid smoking in his laboratory; beakers of colored fluid going through glass tubes into a test tube. Finally, he produces enough to drink, and he does so. Within a few moments, his face changes. He grows hair all over, his fingers elongate and come to points and his teeth enlarge. His eyes become dark and he begins to grunt and walk about the lab as a half-man and half- beast.
He runs out into the night and commits all kinds of foul deeds, even murder. Very late, be comes home all disheveled and covered with blood. He falls into a deep sleep in the lab and awakens early in the morning somewhat remembering the evil he had done. He reads in the newspaper about a kind of beast which had been seen by a few and he reads about a vicious murder that had been committed obviously by the fiend. He is horrified by what he had done as Mr. Hyde, but after a day of doing good, he returns to his laboratory at night to drink the potion again so as to experience a feeling of doing evil. The same thing happens again. Evil becomes exciting to him. He always awakens to a sense of guilt, but there is a fascination with wrongdoing.
Then, one day, without taking the potion, he turns into Mr. Hyde automatically. He does his foul deeds to awaken early the next morning to realize that he can no longer control Mr. Hyde. He has completely taken over the kind, gentle, caring, Dr. Jekyll. Finally, he is shot in a scuffle one night, he makes his way home to the laboratory, the police in pursuit. He falls on the laboratory floor, and dies as the police batter down the door. they see the beast on the floor; and as they watch, it changes back, before their eyes, into the gentle, kind Dr. Jekyll. They realize the truth that the good doctor had a sinister side to his life.
It is still, for me, a fascinating story because now I realize that the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is simply the story of mankind. Within each one of us there is a kind, good and promising future and it exists side by side with a potential for evil. It is the story of good and evil within the same individual. All of us have Mr. Hyde within us that we must conquer. He tempts us to evil, but we never have to give in.
Dr. Jekyll is the good part of us, the part that tells us to keep the commandments and to be honorable. It is the kind part of us, the prayerful part of us, the part that fights temptation and sin. It is the part guided by our Catholic faith in which we do good.
Along the way, Mr. Hyde comes with his tempting suggestions, "Try it; you'll like it." He used that line on Eve and he still uses it to great advantage. He gets many a good person to fall because he has fascinated them with evil. Instead of dismissing Mr. Hyde and his temptations, some people go along with him to see what evil is like. They become horrified at what they can do when they separate themselves from God and from goodness. They repent, but again become enamored of evil. If they stay away from the Sacrament of Penance long enough, Mr. Hyde - the devil, I'm sure you recognized him already - can get us to fall very deeply into evil. After a while of sinning, we just fall into habit. The devil doesn't even have to tempt us anymore.
Fortunately for us, we have the ability to drive Mr. Hyde out of our lives anytime we want - and for good. Christ told us what to say, "Be gone, Satan."
We do that by Confession and a firm purpose of amending our lives. We do it by avoiding occasions of sin, persons, places or things that led us into sin and evil in the past. We practice our faith, listen to authentic Church teaching, defend the Pope, go to Confession and communion often and Mr. Hyde doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hades to get to first base with us. Don't ever be afraid of the devil and his temptations, for he can never get too far with you unless you let him. You are always free to tell him where to go. Perhaps a better way is to say to him what Christ did, "Be gone, Satan" - here's no room in my heart for you. I am serving God and I have no need for Mammon.
St. Paul also gives us a beautiful suggestion in his Epistle to the Romans:
Do no conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2) , , , do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Our kingdom is not of this world.