Stevenson’s subtle placement of details is what really strikes me about his writing. One of my favorite examples is the difference between Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s footsteps, with Mr. Hyde’s being light and Dr. Jekyll’s being described as a “heavy creaking tread” (p. 791). Mr. Hyde’s gait is likely due to his lack of remorse. He doesn’t carry a heavy burden of guilt, as Dr. Jekyll does. We also see signs of depersonalization in Dr. Jekyll’s letter as he describes his experiences in both first and third person. He seems to have become confused and detached from his own identity, given that he has essentially split it in half.
The critical role that salt plays in Dr. Jekyll’s formula suggests that it may hold more symbolism than it appears to. The Wikipedia article “Salt in the Bible” states that “In various contexts, [salt] is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.” Stevenson reveals in Jekyll’s final letter that the “first salt supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught” (p. 809). Given its mostly positive symbolism in the Bible (which was a rather popular book in the Victorian age), if salt were to become contaminated in some way, then it could be considered “evil,” and its usage in Dr. Jekyll’s drink might symbolically result in Mr. Hyde’s character.
When connected with the theme of friendship, the split between Dr. Jekyll’s/Mr. Hyde’s identity reminds me of how one person can leave a hundred different impressions on a hundred different people. For example, the way my mom sees me is probably very different from how my best friend sees me. The way I view myself even varies from day to day. Every single person I know has a different impression of me, and none of them are fully accurate because they can’t know every single thing I do, say, or think. In the case of this story, Mr. Hyde can represent a secret part of Dr. Jekyll’s identity that no one, aside from himself, knows about. Mr. Hyde represents Dr. Jekyll’s darkest, most secret desires. I wonder, then—if someone who loves me were to encounter the manifestations of my deepest desires, would they still love me? Or would they be disgusted, as Dr. Jekyll’s friends are disgusted by Mr. Hyde?
Image Credit: https://bellesguardgaudi.com/en/blog/the-roman-god-janus-and-bellesguard/