Sex and sexuality have been a taboo for most cultures across the world at some point or the other. Interesting, isn’t it? The thing that is the reason for life is one of the most shied away from topics of discussion. The mere mention of it makes most people blush. Or awkward. Or uncomfortable. Once you are passed all that, which may or may not happen, there are all the ideas of what it means and what is it constitutes – what is normal and what is strange.
Such is the case with “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” – yes that is the one with the crazy doctor who drinks a potion that brings out his alternate, more hideous personality. Now, you may wonder where the sex in that is? You are right – there isn’t. Not in the physical definition of the word anyway. Ironically, though, there is a lot of contention as to what the novel is saying about sexuality and how it is presented.
Stephen Heath, in “Psychopathia sexualis: Stevenson’s Strange Case,” discusses the perversion of sexuality in Jekyll and Hyde and how the exclusion of women works to highlight that perversion. For Heath, Stevenson provides a text “for the representation of men and sexuality, excluding women and so the sexual and so hysteria and then finding the only language it can for what is, therefore, the emergence of the hidden male: the animal, the criminal, perversion.” Hyde, obviously is the representation of that animal, that beast, or in Freud’s language, the id. The absence of women and the presence of Hyde then puts into question the unquestionably of male sexuality and the civilized morality to which it complies.
As Heath discusses in his article, if the woman figure isn’t there to own up to the strangeness of things, then who takes the fall? Of course, it can’t be the man or his morality, so there must be his “double being” or the beast within him. For without women “Stevenson loses the key to the stable representation of men” (Heath). So, if the only way for men to be stable, or seen stable, is through the oh-so-apparent instability of women, then that strangeness must emerge in some form other than the men as a cover for their instability, which “works with the assumptions of, the given system of representation” (Heath).
Thus, the title of the book speaks to the idea of what we think of as strange and not strange, which is strange, because really, we are all strange. And… I am fascinated by serial killers – this is a related thought, I promise. 😉 So, if nothing else, ask me about it in the comments below.