The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside, and I came to myself as if out of a great sickness. There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill-race in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine. I stretched out my hands, exulting in the freshness of these sensations; and in the act, I was suddenly aware that I had lost in stature.
After the THREE minute exploration of the extract above, I returned to the passage in order to refine my original findings. The intensive, three one minute readings yielded several ideas that might prove useful in an analysis.Analysing initially in such a way prevents overthinking and censorship. This device ensures that you work more effectively in terms of time and spontaneity. ( I believe the latter gives a freshness and an originality to readings.)
So let’s look at the first readings and run with a few ideas.
The passage is full of contradictions and these engender a feeling of uncertainty which creates suspense. ”I came to myself, as out of a great sickness.’ This recognition is subtly playful as it suggests a recovery, or even rebirth, and could therefore seem quite positive. The process of the ‘self examination’ is carefully weighed through the narrative. What I wonder is the ‘sickness’? Is it the dead limitations of everyday life or even the falsities of respectable sexuality? I detect a strange, most ironic , even sexually ambivalent, play on words with ‘ I came to myself’ as this passage is the first time Jekyll turns into Hyde in his own words, within his own narrative. Self has become an object of observation. Yet who is ‘myself’ and who is actually speaking? And is the rebirth, a form of dramatic and most intense pleasure and release from one into another? An orgiastic response even?
If Jekyll is reborn as Hyde and he finds this ‘change sweet’ and ‘happier in body’ then we as readers, are being morally misdirected by Jekyll, as he is recreating his ill fated dalliance with Mr Hyde? So is Jekyll, even when he is Jekyll, Hyde also?
To be sure, the play on words could also be said to emulate Hyde’s own narrative, as his own speech writer. Thus, ‘I knew myself, ‘ raises questions about who is actually speaking when the ‘I’ descibes this Gothic resurrection of the hidden or lost self. Physically, Dr Jekyll, when reborn as Mr Hyde, experiences an intense ‘freshness’ at being alive (again) as another. (An–other). The moment where the new Jekyll, aka, Mr Hyde, ‘stretched out my hands’ is remarkable because it draws attention to the specifics of Hyde’s physical difference from Jekyll, yet also seems celebratory and sensually rewarding. We are being led with the speaker, to feel a sense of liberation and even coming ‘home’ or coming ‘out’ as a new, liberated being. Hyde is purged of Jekyll’s falsity.
The bathetic, ‘ I had lost stature’ seems pointedly(and self consciously) to edge the reader towards the fallen nature of the new Jekyll. (this is a Victorian Novel, even if fin-de-siecle). Yet its bathos seems forced, more morally appropriate, rather than actually felt. . Yes, Hyde is a debased, physically immature version of Jekyll. Yet, the energy and sensual excitement of the new self, ironically feel liberating and rewarding to the speaker. Hyde is elated to be rid of Jekyll’s hypocricies.
The reader’s difficulty is surely to determine who is really speaking at this point, or why this should be a worthwhile point of consideration? Is Hyde not always lurking about the fringes of Jekyll, or even the other way round, so that any final, or fixed identity seems impossible? Identity is always in excess to that which is admitted?
Think of the irony of the qualifying adjective, ‘full’ before ‘statement of the case!’
Identity in fact, appears profoundly theatrical: an act of consummate ventriloquism! Dizzyingly subversive.
How to write a good essay!
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