The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, was an immediate success and had been revisited a number of times since its first publication in 1886. It can be considered as the Gothic tale par excellence. The Gothic genre started in the middle of the Eighteenth Century as a reaction against the Victorian society. Thus, I will attempt to show how Stevenson used the fantasy to criticize his society in this novella. To do so, the fantastic and gothic nature of the novella will first be stated, and then the fantastic theme of the duality of human nature will be studied. Finally, the criticism of Victorian society will be discussed. The fantasy genre appeared around the Middle Ages in Europe and in the Muslim world. Thanks to its popular characteristic, it found its way through the literature of all ages. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, belongs to fantasy since it displays almost all of its main features. Indeed, the novella involves a "physician-wizard", Dr Jekyll, and a "criminal-beast-devil", Mr Hyde.
[...] says that: in the time of Huxley and Darwin, “writers were becoming more and more interested in what scientific terms- constituted the “humanity” of human beings” (28). Indeed, the theories of evolution were challenging the true origin and nature of man. As science was interested on what made someone human, the gothic (and even science fiction) literature was paradoxically challenging science as something which could overreach people. Through the extreme example of the scientist” syndrom, Stevenson wanted to warn them of the danger of science. [...]
[...] But the mysterious door is actually a connection between Jekyll's and Hyde's dwellings, and, as their connection in real life, one cannot see it from the outside because it is hidden (the two appartments look on different sides of the street). Appearances were also very important on a physical point of view. Indeed, physiognomy was a very popular science at the time, the one holding that one could identify a criminal by physical appearance. Thus, the animalistic of Hyde aspect made him the perfect suspect. Actually, in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Stevenson denounced progress and science, a value that was praised during the Victorian period. [...]
[...] It can even be classified in the Urban Gothic sub-genre in which the city is uncanny and in which alienation of the urban subject, leading to paranoia, fragmentation and loss of identity, is another important theme” (Mulvey-Roberts 289). Indeed, in the novella, the maze of London seems to be the ideal setting for Hyde's horrible crimes. II. The duality of human nature The main fantasy feature in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the theme of the double. Indeed, several times in the novella, the characters themselves are confronted to this problem: is not truly one, but truly (Stevenson 113), learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of (113). [...]
[...] In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dr Jekyll has succeeded in splitting his self: Mr Hyde is the perfect opposite of Jekyll. He is hairy, small, altered, and evil, while Jekyll is a tall gentleman, refined and respected. But, if Hyde emerges as the perfect fiend, he has no angelic counterpart (because Jekyll is just human, so not perfectly angelic). And at the end, Hyde slowly takes over, until Jekyll ceases to exist. The animalistic aspect of Hyde could lead to think of a Freudian interpretation of the struggle between Jekyll and Hyde. [...]
[...] In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, fantasy, and here gothic literature, allowed Stevenson to lead readers to question the problems of their own society in a more or less hidden way, since he goes through a pleasant tale. He criticizes the prudery, hypocrisy, violence, and blind faith in science of the Victorian period. Gothic fiction has actually often been a tool to challenge the issues of the real world where terror is genuine and murders and misery happen. [...]
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