The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, "Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case"
In the following passage, Dr. Jekyll explains the circumstances of his scientific experiment.
That night I had come to the fatal crossroads. Had I approached my discovery in a more noble spirit,
... under the empire of generous or pious aspirations, ..., I [would] had come forth an angel instead of a
fiend. The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the
doors of the prisonhouse of my disposition; and like the captives of Philippi, that which stood within
ran forth. At that time my virtue slumbered; ... and the thing that was projected was Edward Hyde.
Hence, although I had now two characters ..., one was wholly evil, and the other was still the old Henry
Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to
despair. The movement was thus wholly toward the worse. ...
My new power tempted me until I fell in slavery. ... I made my preparations with the most studious care.
. . . I announced to my servants that a Mr. Hyde (whom I described) was to have full liberty and power
about my house in the square . . . I next drew up that will . . . so that if anything befell me in the person
of Dr. Jekyll, I could enter on that of Edward Hyde without pecuniary loss. And thus fortified, ..., I began
to profit by the strange immunities of my position. ... and in a moment, like a schoolboy ... spring
headlong into the sea of liberty. ... Let me but escape into my laboratory door ... [to] swallow the draught
... and whatever he had done, Edward Hyde would pass away like the stain of breath upon a mirror; and
there in his stead, ... a man who could afford to laugh at suspicion, would be Henry Jekyll.
The pleasures which I made haste to seek in my disguise were, as I have said, undignified ... But in the
hands of Edward Hyde, they soon began to turn toward the monstrous. ... Henry Jekyll stood at times
aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde; but the situation ... insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience.
It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good
qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done
by Hyde. And thus his conscience slumbered. . . .
I had been out for one of my adventures ... and woke ... with somewhat odd sensations. It was in vain I looked
about me; in vain I saw the decent furniture and tall proportions of my room in the square; in vain that I
recognised the pattern of the bed curtains ... [then] my eyes fell upon my hand. Now the hand of Henry
Jekyll . . . was professional in shape and size . . . white and comely. But the hand which I now saw ... [was] of a
dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair. It was the hand of Edward Hyde. ... ten minutes
later, Dr. Jekyll had returned to his own shape . . . with a darkened brow to make a feint of breakfasting. ...
I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde. ... Now ... in the beginning, the difficulty
had been to throw off the body of Jekyll, it had of late gradually but decidedly transferred itself to the
other side. ... that I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly
incorporated with my second and worse.
Between these two, I now felt I had to choose. ... Jekyll ... projected and shared in the pleasures and
adventures of Hyde; but Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll, or but remembered him as the mountain bandit
remembers the cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit. ... To cast in my lot with Jekyll, was to
die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and had of late begun to pamper. To cast it in
with Hyde, was to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow and forever,
despised and friendless. . . . Strange as my circumstances were, the terms of this debate are as old and
commonplace as man; much the same inducements and alarms cast the die for any tempted and
trembling sinner; and it fell out with me, as it falls with so vast a majority of my fellows, that I chose the
better part and was found wanting in the strength to keep to it.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Learn Library, 2000-2012. Web. 24 March 2016.
What is the primary effect of the simile "like the stain of breath upon a mirror" (line 16)?