They can be considered as novels which look at the darker side of a persons capabilities, this was a new concept to the Victorians in the 19th Century. The book, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde raises issues of and supports the concept of the dual nature of man, Victorian hypocrisy, the bestial nature of man and the experimentation with science and drugs. The issues within the book created a whole new genre in the nineteenth century for such books including The Body Snatchers and Mary Shelleys Frankenstein, which can also be categorised into this genre. In this essay I will explore Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as a mystery and a gothic story.
I will include historical, social and cultural knowledge of the Victorian era and compare this to The Body Snatchers as both mystery and gothic stories. I will also discuss the meaning behind the stories and the effect it has on the reader. In the Victorian era the concept of a man having or being able to have a dual nature was unthinkable. They did not believe that something like that could be possible, where a person could combine both the good self and the bad self within one individual, this theory was not supported by the beliefs they had, unlike today where the possibility of a split personality is not unknown or unthinkable.
This was until a social scientist, James Hogg introduced the concept of the individual psyche = externalisation verses internalisation, the second self. It is from this theory that doppleganger originates from, In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Stevenson introduces this theory into 19th Century literature where Dr Jekyll is the good, which from Hoggs theory says is controlled by the right side of the brain and Mr Hyde is the evil character, which according to the theory is controlled by the left side of his brain, it is the one person with the two very different personalities struggling against each other.
Stevenson has shown reflected this theory through the characters, Dr Jekyll being good and Mr Hyde being the evil side of the same person. In The Body Snatchers, this concept of the dual nature of a man, Stevenson portrays through Fettes as a young man, who when he awakens after the ordeal as an older man, his evil side comes through while he is under the influence of Dr Macfarlane. The Victorians were very religious people, for centuries it was believed that people had originated or created directly by God, the thought of evolution had never occurred until Darwins theory, the Theory of Evolution in 1859.
This shocked the Victorians the thought that they had evolved and where in a sense the descendents of primates, revealing that they were no longer superior beings would have been the biggest shock to people in that era. Darwins theory and beliefs were rejected and associated with both blasmafy and evil. The theory had been rejected and placed to one side, however the thought and the fear associated with Darwins work lived on with the people. Stevenson brings a hint of Darwins theory of evolution to his novel in the form of Hydes character.
The bestial nature of a man is portrayed in the evil side, as he is described as ape-like with descriptions of his stance compared to an animal, he stoops like a monkey and he was heard making grunting noises like an animal. These descriptions would drive fear into the reader in the 19th Century as it reflects on Darwins theory of Evolution. In The Body Snatchers, Stevenson has used the bestial nature again to describe the actions of the characters to enhance the evil calious of their actions. As two vultures may swoop upon a dying lamb, Fettes and Mcfarlane were to let loose upon a grave.
This description compares the characters actions to animals desecrating corpses, it is descriptive of what they are about to do, which reflects the bestial nature of a man. The movements of Mcfarlane reflect his bestial nature, dart like a serpent, Stevensons use of similes create both atmosphere and clear images of the characters involving the reader. Stevenson uses animal words to describe the charters and their actions which do reflect Darwins theory and would be very significant for a reader in the Victorian era.
During the Victorian times, society and a persons social standing was very important, it was highly regarded, with more emphasis put on it than in todays society. Men who demanded respect in society, the upper class or the professional were expected to appear to be gentlemen at all times, they had a certain standard they had to uphold when in public. Noblemen looked the part as they were well bred, upstanding and respectable within their social class with the manners and the educational background to match.
This was somewhat different to the activities that took place behind closed doors, where they could be who they really where and fulfil all their whims of drinking, gambling and whatever else they desired regardless of how it would be viewed in society. It was acceptable as it was going on behind closed doors. Noblemen did not practise what they preached and were in fact, hypocrites, a person who pretends to be more virtuous than they really are. The behaviour was known in society, however it was never acknowledged or mentioned that they hid dark secrets.
Many critics even suspect that Jekyll and Hyde was a self-administration by Stevenson of his own dark nature. Victorian hypocrisy is an underlying theme Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with it being represented by Dr Jekyll I was the first that could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and in the moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. In this quote he is explaining that with Hyde is able to behave how he really wants to, by acting freely to fulfil all desires and not losing any of his social standing or grace.
The hypocrisy here lies with the main character, Dr Jekyll represents the respectable nobleman while Mr Hyde reflects Dr Jekylls acts behind closed doors, he is the side that can be ruthless in society as he cannot be recognised as Dr Jekyll and therefore he does not lose any social grace within his social circle or in society. Dr Jekyll makes excuses for what his evil side does, either something cruel and harmful or something appalling by saying It was Hyde, after all and Hyde alone that was guilty. This is Jekylls way of clearing his conscious of all the unsocial crimes he commits.
He accepts no responsibility for his own creation, Hyde and is therefore a hypocrite because he wants to have the social standing and respect in society in addition to fulfilling his darker side. Stevenson shows us how he deals with his own hypocrisy by paying for Hydes actions, paying a cheque for trampling on the little girl. Through his actions of payment he is trying to keep his respectable image as an upstanding citizen that he portrays, although it is due to his own guilt of knowing about Hydes actions and not stopping them in some way.
In The Body Snatchers, Stevenson has not included this theme of Victorian Hypocrisy so extensively, he touches on it slightly, with Fettes, the young doctor with the respect and social standing who changed himself from being young and irresponsible, who was highly influenced by peer pressure, After a night of turbulent pressures the ordeal changed him for the better, the author is reflecting and portraying the different sides of a person and how man can be influenced especially when it is for the worse.
The author also uses, Dr Macfarlane to portray hypocrisy, who breathing, as he did, of wealth and consideration, was a murderer with a black soul underneath, this quotation represents the hypocrisy of the character because in society he is view as a respectable nobleman who is wealthy and is well to do, however he is committing a huge social crime by being a murderer. A character who is well known can commit such crimes and get away with them this represents hypocrisy. Both these novels by Stevenson fit into the gothic genre.
This is depicted through the descriptions and images the author creates for the reader to use. Atmosphere and settings are also important for the gothic genre as it is used to set the scenes and allow to reader to visualise the backdrop to where the crimes or the acts of horror are taking place. The settings allow the author to build up tension and suspense for the reader adding to the gothic nature of this genre in the novels. Within the gothic genre are the authors use of setting and scenery, which contribute largely to the essence of it.
Both the novels have been set in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is set in London, while The Body Snatchers is set in Edinburgh. This has relevance to the genre as a gothic story will usually have the background setting of a major well known city, which the people who read the novel or story will be able to relate to. The concept of Pathetic Fallousy, the weather descriptions are very important to this genre as the settings and the descriptive nature set the scene for what is going to happen.
The weather is significant as bad or horrific scenes are associated with bad weather, setting the atmosphere and mood for the events of the story. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde the concept of pathetic fallousy provides a major connection in this novel as the gothic atmosphere allows the reader to visually set the scene. The weather references are gothic in nature, descriptions of the rain, the extensive grey skies and clouds.
The descriptive detail of the town the abandoned street, the broken down area surrounding them, the atmosphere created allows the reader to experience what it would feel like, the dark nights with the faded distant sounds allow the reader to feel involved. The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmer like carbuncles; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds. This quote represents the way in which the author engrosses the reader into the text with a very effective atmosphere surrounding detailed description.
Stevenson has achieved a very descriptive image of the town, the context important to the concept of pathetic fallousy are the weather words of fog and clouds The Body Snatchers weather descriptions and atmospheric settings are consistent with this genre, they are continuous through out the novel, which reinforces the idea and the gothic nature of the novel at all times to the reader. With the descriptions Stevenson is able to set the scene of the town with the atmosphere enclosing it.
There was a thin, bright moonshine, it was bitter cold windy and frosty the town had not yet awakened. This quote tells us that the town was yet to known the events of the night before. When an author uses pathetic fallousy, it allows them to convey future events to the reader as it enables them to connect the mood of the events or actions in the novel with the weather conditions. In gothic genre novels, the worse the weather conditions the worse the event which is or has taken place.
If the weather conditions are foggy, stormy, windy and generally unfavourable it makes the reader think that something bad or disturbing mite occur, under a blanket of bad weather. It adds to the readers anticipation, holding there interests with the descriptions allowing the reader to actually feel and visualise the background settings, into the black night. Another part of the gothic genre is the use of descriptive words which creates imagery in the mind of the reader. Stevensons opening in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde begins with a character description of Hyde.
This is a strong opening, shocking the reader from the start, as he is not a pleasant figure. This opening sets the tone for the whole novel, making the reader curious as to who or what that figure is. Questions are put in the mind of reader from the descriptive gothic nature of the novel. Stevenson combined the gothic genre with Darwins theory of Evolution successfully with reference to Hyde. He is numerously referred to as bestial, this is supportive of the theory that humans are superior beings but have evolved from animals.
His nature is not human like, he has behaviour void of any emotion to the people he attacks, like an animal. Stevenson uses words relating to his bestial nature to describe particular aspects of him like his voice, enhancing the overall image the reader has created, as husky. It creates imagery of a dog / wolf like creature making Hyde more real to the reader as they can image what he sounds like. Hydes presence made people fear him because of his appearance, when he was sighted he was described as ugly but his features were indescribable but somewhat deformed.