The story/movie of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, whom I will refer to simply as Jekyll and Hyde, is a story of dual identity in man and the acknowledgement of monster in man. It is a film from 1920 inn black and white, and is a silent film. John Barrymore plays Jekyll and Hyde, Brandon Hurts plays Sir George, Martha Mansfield as Millicent, and Charles Lane as Dr. Lanyon the rest of the cast can be seen on Imdb. It was seen as America’s first great horror. A short synopsis of the story is that Jekyll is a successful doctor who works day and night to help the poor. He is meets with one Sir George, who’s daughter Millicent ends up being married to Jekyll, and they discuss how Jekyll devotes his life to his work and Sir George comments to him that he must have a life for himself, not just his work. George makes the analogy that “just because I am right handed, must i not use my left?” It is this analogy that leads Jekyll to create a potion that transforms him into a more base version of himself in which he maintains his consciousness but his body transforms. He uses this form to life a second life of indecency and inappropriate acts for a man of his status. He begins with acts like going to see exotic dancers like the Italian Gina, whom sparks his lust and goes through acts of murder. This begins to run his life and he transforms from Jekyll to Hyde until his death.
He is having an identity crisis where he does not risk to tarnish his reputation as a respectable man but he cannot resist the urge to indulge the dark side of man. As he begins to transform more and more and seemingly uncontrollably his life begins to be run by Hyde. He cannot resist these urges and this is also due to the idea he gets in the movie “To do evil freely, and yet leave the soul untouched!” I believe that this monster that is Hyde is a fantastic representation of Jeffery Cohen‘s Monster theory.
Monster theory has seven theses, which I will go through a few and state why they apply to Hyde. Thesis one says that a monster is a cultural body where ” Like the letters on a page , the monster signifies something other than itself: it is always a displacement” which is exactly how Hyde began, as the displacement of all the feelings that Jekyll had but could never act upon because he could not risk himself but once he was able to embody something that wasn’t him he was able to do what he pleased as a monster would.
Thesis Six says that fear of the monster is really a kind of desire which is completely true for Jekyll. During the movie he begins to fear what will become of him if he continues to embrace Hyde, so he stops inducing the transformations, but they happen anyways. he still knows he has transformed but he does not fight the monster and lets Hyde run free to be almost sacreligious to what Jekyll feels.
Thesis seven is The final thesis by Cohen and the one that can sum the movie in its entirety in saying that ” The Monster stands at the threshold… of becoming.” Cohen goes on to discuss how monsters ask us why we have created them in the first place and ask us to question our cultures and societies and why we have made this clustering of traits about a person a monster. In the movie Hyde is disfigured and horrifying but still human but he has become othered and a monster by society. Jekyll had an identity crisis causing him to question himself and how he lived his life to maintain how society viewed him. This shows how our society is what creates monsters, not special effects or masks, but people. People and what is inside us, is what creates monsters more often than not.