Jekyll & Hyde: Strange Case of “The”

Now, many know of “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr.Hyde” . But what if I told you this is not what the story is actually titled. That’s right, in the original title there is no “The” at all. Stevenson, the author, simply called it :

“Strange Case of of Doctor Jekyll and Mr.Hyde”.

Editions upon editions have misprinted the title, adding “The” in front of the real title. For many, this may be a “shrug” and “So what?” moment but to an avid reader this is significant. Why is it significant may you ask? Well let me explain.

Why Had No one Caught On?

This misprint was from Barnes and Nobles!!!

I, like many others, believed the title was “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll”. When I found out that I was incorrect, I was appalled. For, how could so many editions be misprints? Why had no one caught on? To answer it simply, if I, or any of the editors, were to name the novel we would have all included “The”. But the fact that Stevenson deliberately choose to exclude it could only mean one thing.

Before I delve into the motive behind Stevenson’s choice, let’s examine the purpose of “The”.

The Purpose of “The”…

“The” is a determiner, meaning that it determines how the noun is referenced in a sentence. A few other determiner examples are: a, any, and every. “The” is used to specify the noun. It is not general. If I were to say :

I want a banana

I could be referring to any banana in the batch. BUT I could change this if I were to say:

I want the banana

This time around, I am referring to a specific banana. I don’t want just any banana, I want THAT one.

So, it is logical to conclude that by omitting “The” in his title, Stevenson intended for “Strange case of Jekyll and Hyde” to be a general case, not a specific one.

Why Generality Matters

Now, the title of Stevenson’s novel is general. This has been established. That means that the “Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde” is not a particular instance but rather something that has happened many times.

For example, we don’t say he has a case of THE measles, rather he has a case of measles. Measles are common; general. It is not a rare illness that requires us to be specific.

So, when I said that it it could only mean one thing when Stevenson deliberately choose to exclude “The” from his title, here it is:

Within every being there is a Jekyll and Hyde. It is not a specific case. We all have it.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde

Dr.Jekyll’s was a strange case of it, as he managed to separate his two halves. But it is not the only case.

I mean, who hasn’t wished to take on an alternate identity?

It is undeniable that we all have two sides. We all have primitive desires as well as logical thoughts. Therefore, there is a constant internal battle of these polar opposites. But we must choose which one to be, as we cannot be both in one instant.

This is what makes the tale of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so hauntingly accurate. All of us are the same as Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.

Whether or not each individual’s fate will be similar to that of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde’s depends on how well we can handle our two sides; how well we can keep the balance.

Case Closed.

And so, the mystery of “The” in Stevenson’s title has been solved. The title itself is very effective, as by simply omitting a word, Stevenson managed to reference a major thematic idea that appears in his novel. Very few are capable of such a feat.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that this title was a very strange case indeed.


Psssst!

Intrigued? Curious? Fascinated? Check out my other post on Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde! Click here.


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