Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Frankenstein

January 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

Both Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tell cautionary tales of scientists abusing their creative powers to exist in another sphere where they cannot be directly blamed for their actions. Though Frankenstein’s creation is a “Creature” distinct from his creator while Dr. Jekyll metamorphoses into Mr. Hyde, the “double” of each protagonist progressively grows more violent throughout his story. By doing so he symbolizes his creator’s repressed desires in a stifling society.The stories have parallel structures in the three main ways. First, both Dr. Jekyll and Frankenstein are scientists who, though welcomed by society, find it constraining and often alienate themselves. Each creates an alter ego for himself to live out his liberated passions, Hyde for Jekyll and the Creature for Frankenstein. Jekyll creates his with intention for evil and Frankenstein with the idea of building a supreme being. However, it could be argued that Frankenstein unconsciously wishes his creation to commit acts of sin. Hyde’s and Frankenstein’s first victims are children. They each evolve over time and develop their violent tendencies, culminating in the murder of a well-esteemed man for Hyde and Frankenstein’s family and friends.The first mention of Dr. Jekyll comes in a discussion between his longtime friends, Lanyon and Utterson, men whose names imply a traditional, hampered society. “Utterson” combines both “utter,” connoting a squelched speech, with “son,” defining the society’s patriarchal structure, and “Lanyon” casts images of sprawling canyons that are noticeably absent in the gray, foggy London Stevenson depicts. Lanyon admits he sees little of Jekyll anymore; according to Lanyon, “‘He began to go wrong, wrong in mind; and though of course I continue to take an interest in him for old sake’s sake, as they say, I see and have seen devilish little of the man'” (12). Jekyll’s associations with demonic and insane imagery contrasts with the well-polished society from which he struggles to extricate himself. His self-imposed isolation is the least harmful manner he uses to show his displeasure with society.Frankenstein similarly isolates himself. Under the guise of protecting his friends and fiancée from the Creature that stalks him, the scientist decides to leave England instead of marrying: “My journey had been my own suggestion, and Elizabeth, therefore, acquiesced; but she was filled with disquiet at the idea of my suffering, away from her, the inroads of misery and grief” (149). However, Frankenstein cannot muster the same emotion: “I remembered only, and it was with a bitter anguish that I reflected on it, to order that my chemical instruments should be packed to go with me” (149). Frankenstein also has a penchant for working alone; like Dr. Jekyll, he is emotionally detached from a society that expects him to fulfill various obligations, and he accordingly responds with physical detachment.Both Hyde and the Creature choose children for their first victims. According to an eyewitness, Hyde “trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground…He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running” (4-5). Hyde is a deformed character who evokes horror and disgust in those who contact him. He lashes out in this seemingly chance encounter, but his trampling a child’s body, a figure of innocence that would find his scarred visage doubly repugnant, is indicative of his deep-rooted discontentment with his environment and his own psyche. The reaction he provokes from the crowd confirms his masochistic tendencies. As an eyewitness reports, “I never saw a circle of such hateful faces; and there was the man in the middle, with a kind of black, sneering coolness-frightened too, I could see that-but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan” (5). The very name “Hyde” serves a double meaning: both a haven, a “hyde” where the upstanding Jekyll can sequester himself, and an animal’s skin. Hyde is incredibly animalistic; simian elements are conjured up when he is described in a later confrontation: “Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows” (27). Words like “bounds,” “clubbed,” “earth,” “ape-like,” and “storm” all reinforce the reader’s idea of Hyde being a thoroughly primitive savage, and the repetition of “trampling” serves as an excellent mini-motif. Though Hyde tramples his victims, has he not been trampled in the same way by the oppressive society that condemns him at a glance?The Creature murders Frankenstein’s younger brother, but he, too, is driven to that course of action by a society that scorns him. The Creature spies on a family in the wilderness and learns human language, customs, and history. He resembles nothing so much as a child or prehistoric man in these episodes, first discovering fire, then bits of language, and finally emotion. He confronts the elderly father of the family and predicts his fate if he is not taken in by them: “I am full of fears, for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world forever” (129). Fulfilling his prophesy, the rest of the family barges in: “Who can describe their horror and consternation upon beholding me?” (131) The Creature’s status as pariah differs in one major respect from Hyde’s; though they both possess loathsome appearances, the Creature’s soul, at the beginning of his life, at least, is as pure as could be hoped for, while Hyde’s black heart shows in his face.Both Hyde and Creature turn more vicious and more reactive to society. Hyde’s second incident is the murder of an “aged beautiful gentleman with white hair,” precisely what he can never hope to be (26). Hyde uses a stick to club his victim to death: “The stick with which the deed had been done, although it was of some rare and very tough and heavy wood, had broken in the middle under the stress of this insensate cruelty; and one splintered half had rolled in the neighbouring gutter-the other, without doubt, had been carried away by the murderer” (28). The broken stick, a gift from Utterson to Jekyll, further emphasizes the duality of man’s nature, and half of its destination, the gutter, outlines Stevenson’s view of that nature. As Jekyll confesses, “I was the first that could plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete. Think of it-I did not even exist!” (86) Hyde has fully broken through and exhausted his rage on the society of Sir Danvers Carew; he has evolved from a forum for “naughty pleasures” to a minor terrorist of children to a full-fledged murderer. He acts out Jekyll’s own dark nature, perverting the stick, a gift that once symbolized a societal bond, into a weapon that tears apart its environment.The Creature continues a string of murders of Frankenstein’s family. Frankenstein’s reaction to the murder of his friend Clerval reveals that he, too, perhaps had this evil side that he could not act upon: “‘Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor-‘” (171) Though this speech could be read as Frankenstein’s first assumption of guilt, indirect as it may be, one could also analyze it as an admission that he has been behind every murder from the inception. He is not as aware as Jekyll is of his own lust for evil, but his monstrous side shows up in his isolationist dealings and his God-complex that reveals his desire for a new society.Hyde and the Creature’s plights follow similar paths, but their motives seem somewhat different. Jekyll invented Hyde for a dive in which he could transport himself and put on display his evil psyche. Frankenstein assembled the Creature as an über-man of sorts, a prototype of a better society. Frankenstein was published in 1818, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886. Perhaps Stevenson’s book marks the end of Romanticism as a viable literary style in modern times. Though Frankenstein’s evil hides is veiled by guilt and a seemingly upstanding society position, Jekyll’s is visibly apparent. Frankenstein is a shaded man with no clear dividing line, whereas Jekyll is a black-and-white character with a subset of colors inside his dichotomies. Stevenson, drawing on Shelley’s story, reflected both a new literary movement and a new psychological study.

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