4 Biblical Truths Illustrated in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
“How do you know the story if you’ve never read it?” my 12 year old asked us, as we listened together to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
It was true: neither my husband nor I had ever read the book. But we know from culture what it’s all about. The story has so permeated our western society that we know when someone is a “Jekyll and Hyde” he exhibits two different personalities in one person. Therefore, we were able to help our kids understand the tale that was written in 1886, as we streamed it from Hoopla to our car stereo.
The novella is short, but packs a punch. Dr. Jekyll (the protagonist), at first, keeps Hyde (the antagonist—but one in the same man) in check. Initially he only brings forth Hyde when he wants to. But the more he allows Hyde to present himself, the more Hyde wants to be present. In fact, Hyde begins to manifest himself even when Dr. Jekyll wishes otherwise. You know the story: slowly, but surely, Hyde takes over and eventually ruins Dr. Jekyll for good.
Together our family discussed four important life lessons that are presented in this novella, which may also be seen in scripture.
1. We’re all born with a sin nature.
There are many interpretations of the moral of the story intended by Stevenson in this book. And while the interpretations vary, everyone seems to agree that Jekyll and Hyde present the good and evil that we all observe in ourselves and one another. Across time and cultures, all people sometimes behave well and we sometimes behave badly.
The Christian worldview says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). All readers can identify with Stevenson’s story because we all have an inner Hyde.
2. Sin grows in the dark.
Dr. Jekyll kept his experiments and entertainments of Hyde a secret from his friends and household staff. He mixed his potions and fed his evil character only in the privacy of his laboratory. He had locks on doors and alibis made up to mask his gratification of his evil side.
The Bible instructs us, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (Ephesians 5:11-14). Indeed God is light. When we bring our sins to the light, Christ will shine, allowing us to break the stronghold that keeps us captive.
3. Left unchecked, sin will devour us.
As a whole, our family agreed that the ultimate moral of the story seems to be that evil, left unchecked, will devour us. Our sin nature can be insatiable. In fact, the hunger of our sin can be so overwhelming, that we’re willing to sacrifice our good name, our career, our friends, our family, our very lives to feed it just a little bit more. James tells us, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Sin will indeed lead to death apart from the grace and intervention of Jesus Christ.
Listening to this story left all of us appreciating Peter’s instructions. He says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). In an age in which sin is rarely identified and almost always made light of, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde point us back to what’s true.
4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we cannot rescue ourselves—we are all in need of a Savior.
Dr. Jekyll tried in vain to rescue himself from Mr. Hyde. He made promises to himself to stop flirting with fire. He even made it through months at a time without entertaining Hyde in any way. In the end, though, his human efforts at self control were not enough. His strength and drive for good behavior could not outdo the draw of Mr. Hyde. He gave in again and again, resulting in death.
Paul shows us in Ephesians that apart from Christ we are dead. Alone, we have no hope. We need a savior.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-5).
I appreciate Stevenson’s timeless tale and recommend it to families with middle schoolers and above. Each of us can see ourselves in this story and it stands as an important reminder of many truths.