Mr. Hyde: Beyond Lombroso’s “criminal man”

“Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him. ‘There must be something else,’ said the perplexed gentleman. ‘There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say?’” (Stevenson 16).

In his first impression of Mr. Hyde (see above), Mr. Utterson immediately likens the mysterious criminal to a “troglodytic”—an ape-like or cave man being. Such an emphasis on the primitiveness of Hyde seems to mirror a new field of research that emerged a decade before The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s publication: criminal anthropology. Pioneered by the Italian physician and psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso, this realm of analysis reoriented the logic behind the nature of crime to an examination of the characteristics of the criminal. In his Criminal Man (1876), Lombroso studied the physical attributes of criminals – the size of their skulls, the shapes of their noses, the texture of their hair – to distinguish them as their own type. He proposed that these dangerous individuals were marked by “anomalies,” physical and psychological abnormalities. He exposed how such anomalies could be inspected, counted, and categorized, rendering the criminal a physical and hereditary condition. Through his illustrations, notes, appendices, glossary, and index, Lombroso thus transformed criminality into an empirical science.

In the above passage, Mr. Utterson engages in a similar anthropological analysis to Lombroso’s field of study. His character echoes the same inclination towards scientific classification and exact typology that Lombroso offered in his classic work. Though Mr. Utterson initially casts Mr. Hyde as an archaic criminal, the ape-like savage soon exceeds his label.

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an example of Lombroso’s criminal “type” — do such illustrations reflect your own impression of Hyde’s physical attributes?


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