Representatives of the Victorian Era The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Dorian Gray The novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was written by Robert L. Stevenson and first published in 1886. The years from 1837 to 1901 are considered the Victorian Era, so the novel is considered a Victorian novel. Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is written in the same era as Dr Jekyll and is a Victorian Novel as well. Having read the extracts of the novels and knowing what happens in the end, a comparison of the Victorian Era and the novels can easily be made.
One of the major themes of these novels is the double personality that Dr Jekyll suffers from. When Dr Jekyll takes his metamorphosis potion, he becomes Mr Hyde who is pure evil, which is clearly shown in the extract of the novel. Mr Hyde is very impolite towards his old fellow colleague Dr Lanyon even though he willingly agrees to help Dr Jekyll by giving the potion to Mr Hyde. Mr Hyde represents the evil side of the personality where Dr Jekyll corresponds to the good side. This split personality isn’t any extraordinary theme considering other novels of the Victorian Era. Oscar Wilde wrote The picture of Dorian Gray where double personality is one of the major themes too.
The portrait of Dorian Gray represents his inner beauty. The longer Dorian Gray stays beautiful on the outside the worse his personality gets. That’s why the portrait becomes so ugly in the end that Dorian had to destroy it. Another typical trait of the Victorian Era is the Biblical references. This is to be seen in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and in Dorian Gray as well. Dr Jekyll has a good side and an evil side which both try to eliminate one another.
And it’s exactly the clash between doing what’s good and what’s evil that is a reference to the Bible. In Romans 7: 20 is says:” Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. ” This struggle is the exact same as Dr Jekyll’s. Dr Jekyll doesn’t like Mr Hyde and does not want to become him, but his unknown desire to become evil has more control of him. This could indicate that the storyline could have been taken from the Bible. This assertion is supported a few lines later in the Bible, Romans 7: 24-25: “ What a wretched man I am.
Who will rescue me from this body of death? ” Thanks to be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! ” Jesus saves him because he’s his lord. Due to Darwin and his theory of evolution, God’s liability was doubtful. That’s why Dr Jekyll knows that if he wants change, he will have to make it himself. He is his own lord and he has to save himself.
In the end of the novel he kills Mr Hyde and thereby himself as well. The same ending is seen in Dorian Gray where he stabs the picture which in reality is himself. This brings us to another topic which is represented in both texts and is a common trait of the Victorian Era; the denial or ignorance of a split personality. In both texts the main characters, Dorian and Dr Jekyll, look at their less flattering side as distinct. Dr Jekyll isn’t fond of Mr Hyde and sees him as another person even though he is a part of himself.
The same happens in Dorian Gray where he is so detached from the painting that he only sees himself as a young and cannot relate to the painting before it is too late. In the end they both find out that their darker side is as much a part of them as their “ real” side. They find out by killing the darker side and thereby killing themselves. Both of the ending scenes are very descriptive and weren’t very common before the Victorian Era.
To the present generations these descriptions aren’t anything unusual. But to the generations living in the Victorian Era these descriptions were very provocative and disgusting. But that was also why many found them so compulsive. Many of the transformations scenes were very describing but necessary to set the right atmosphere.
The transformation theme that both stories had is very common in the Victorian Era. As mentioned Darwin had shocked the world with his observations and many people were impressed by this. Oscar Wilde and Robert L. Stevenson didn’t necessarily agree with Darwin’s observations, but they must have been impressed by the theory of evolution and animals undergoing a transformation.
Dorian Gray and especially Dr Jekyll experience a metamorphosis every time he drinks his potion. So to sum it all up, both of the novels are very typical of the Victorian Era. They both had the same theme of double personality and their way of writing was very harsh and describing. They were both affected by Darwin and his studies since they brought doubt to God’s creation of mankind. But there’s nothing unusual in being affected by the contemporary literature or science. Even nowadays we’re affected by new studies and ways of writing.
If we weren’t influenced by the modern studies, we wouldn’t have any progress in our society.
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