From Mr Hyde’s physical appearance to the transition between Jekyll and Hyde, these attributes explore the discoveries of mental illness, specifically multiplex personalities. The focus of this chapter is on how Stevenson’s novella explores the connection between multiplex personalities and degeneration while examining how his depictions of the main characters mirror society’s shifting perception of mental illness.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, England saw an influx of new theories, like Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, that concerned humanity and society. The theory of degeneration sparked public discourse and fear of falling civilization. Julia Reid says the fin de siècle was Famously haunted by the fear of degeneration. With its roots in pathological medicine and biology, and drawing on the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection, the theory of degeneration amounted to a reassessment of progressive narratives of evolution, and a recognition that life did not always advance from the simple to the complex.
This collapse from the complex to the simple was also mentioned by British zoologist Edwin Ray Lankester. In 1880, he wrote on the topic of degeneration in which he defined the term as ‘a gradual change of the structure in which the organism becomes adapted to less varied and less complex conditions of life.’ Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde is a form of this concept of degeneration. While Jekyll does enjoy the transformations, he soon