In the late 19th century a clear shift occurs in Europe from a content society who though it had everything figured out to an anxious one, where everything could be questioned and argued. It is important to understand these changes of the modern times because they played a big part to cause World War I. European society faced many intellectual, scientific, and cultural challenges that came with the 2nd industrial revolution, which empowered science and made some people question the bible which was their main source of information until this point. A book that describes in a very subtle but powerful way these modern times is ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ written by Robert Louis Stevenson. In his book Stevenson addresses different changes, however, his most prominent one is the duality men felt during this period. People felt as if two personalities were inside themselves one that represented more romantic full of feelings and impulses and one totally different more modern and scientifically driven.
Stevenson makes the reader feel and perceive this duality in the modern times with the help of two well developed characters Dr. Jekyll a scientist that even though was modern and eloquent had a romantic in himself that was more metaphysical full of feelings and drives that classified him as a troglodyte. This second part of him at first is dormant but comes to life as Mr. Hyde and never goes back to be Dr. Jekyll again until he finally commits suicide. This symbolizes the anxiety society felt when choosing between these two ways of thinking: a scientific or a more conventional and religious one. Stevenson’s novel accomplishes to describe a changing society that is unsure about life. A society that has to take a side between religion and science and a society fearing to pick the wrong choice.
In many aspects European society was affected by the second industrial revolution. The new discovery of electricity played a big role in powering machines and allowed industries to prosper and become more complex. Even though many workers were under extremely bad conditions it was getting better for them. All this new advancement scared people, as Richard J. Walker states in an article titled ‘He, I say – I cannot say, I: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case’, published by Liverpool University Press: “What seems to be apparent is that Hyde speaks more about the fears and the anxieties of the fin de siècle bourgeoisie than monstrosity in general”. Even though with this new technologies the agricultural and other fields boomed between 1850 and 1870 in the late 19th century the economy stagnated adding to the anxiety and fear society felt just like Mr. Hyde.