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Gothic Literacy Techniques In The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde

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Albert Einstein once said; ‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” (Einstein, 1954) This idea is represented in the Gothic text The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Gothic Literature is defined as writing that utilizes a dark and picturesque setting, astonishing and melodramatic narrative devices and an atmosphere that is full of mystery, exoticism, fear and dread (, 2019). Good morning ladies and gentlemen, neo-gothic writers and special guests; welcome to today’s conference, my name is Josie Smith and today we will be discussing the importance of the novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written by Robert Louis-Stevenson in 1886. In Victorian England, religion and science were prevalent as people changed their beliefs from superstition to logic. Stevenson used the novel to warn his audience of their primitive, animal-like needs and the risks of supressing them. To this day, the issues discussed in this novel are still relevant as they allow us to answer earth’s greatest mysteries.

Religion was significant for various communities and individuals in the Victorian era. Most people believed that God created the universe and therefore it was necessary to follow the teachings of the Bible — Gods Word. People were afraid of scientific discovery because of the interest of society in religion and had many doubts about the theories it contained. The discoveries made in science and technology challenged old religious values. Changes brought about by the industrial revolution and the new scientific philosophies arose and played major roles in questioning ancient superstitions about the nature of humanity. The main person investigating innovative religious beliefs was Charles Darwin, the naturalist of the Victorian era. Darwin’s book titled ‘origin of the species’ had broached the theory that mankind was made like any other species and that they were not separate creatures as a common belief was. Darwin went on to say that by the natural selection process, man evolved. Darwin’s discovery culminated in an ordinary person’s change from spirituality to ideologies

Religious people during the Victorian era believed in the devil. People believed that others would obtain the devil’s power when they would commit crimes. Hyde is described as Evil, devilish and a criminal mastermind. This quote ‘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 to, I could see that—but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan,’ (Stevenson, R. 1886, page 7) indicates that before anyone knew Hyde’s name, he was seen as Satan. Jekyll had created a potion to encourage himself to convey his desires without feeling guilty, and we could almost assume that Hyde was his disguise. Je meaning, I in French makes Jekyll’s name I kill, we can approach this as him wanting to kill the personality of him that he hated but hide it at the same time. The novel’s primary location is the laboratory, the atmosphere is deserted and strange, and feeling much more gothic than a place of research, it immediately excites the viewer. This atmosphere in the book also implies science’s insufficiency and obsolescence. Jekyll’s goal frightened fellow scientist and friend, Lanyon. After the discovery of what Jekyll was planning to do, Lanyon died in shock. ‘O God!’ I screamed, and ‘O God!’ again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll! (Stevenson, R. 1886, page 21).

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The story of Jekyll and Hyde uses a lot of metaphor, described as a contrast of different ideas or objects. Stevenson frequently uses metaphors to make the explanation more vivid. For example, Jekyll’s lawyer Utterson expresses his concern for his friend by saying, ‘Poor Harry Jekyll . . . my mind misgives me he is in deep waters!’ (Stevenson, R. 1886, page 21) Jekyll is not literally drowning but in deep trouble. Later, an attack by Hyde is described as the man ‘hailing down a storm of blows,’ Jekyll is not drowning literally, but in deep trouble. Later Hyde is attacked by a shark and is characterized as ‘hailing down a storm of blows,’ a popular use of metaphor to explain a severe beating. Hyde is characterized, quite simply, as having a prominent characteristic and an unexplained aura of evil or deformity that cannot be clearly identified or attributed to any medical cause. The notion of deformity fuel the influence of the supernatural over the natural, both of the body and the mind. And after all Jekyll and Hyde’s action in the novel, a fear of insanity and the threat of a new world, of new science, of new traditions, of new disorders that conventional science and reason cannot be understood and become difficult to cope with. (LitCharts, 2019) The allusion “Jekyll and Hyde” is used to describe a person with two totally different sides to their personality. In this case, the villain is Hyde residing in the hero Jekyll. Hyde ‘hides’ in the protagonist’s head, Jekyll, thereby holding the hero in plain sight leading to the confusion of one attempting to catch himself. This quote “ Hyde alone, that was guilty” (Stevenson, R. 1886, page 81) shows that Jekyll could not cope with his guilty conscience after performing such a catastrophic science experiment.

To this day religion and science both play major roles in shaping the world we live in. without science there wouldn’t be the objects we need to survive and without religion no one would have a belief. In today’s society, gothic literature has been replaced by horror stories, suspense novels and many other contemporary ways that emphasize shock, sensation and mystery. Gothic literature fostered a growing interest in the true medievalism way of writing. Numerous writers saw the medieval life as an offer to ideal nobility and harmony. Gothic literature consists of many elements to set the reader in a scene. Stevenson’s hope with this novel and like any other gothic writers was to warn people about the terror there is throughout the world. Throughout the years gothic literature has been a significant source of inspiration to other authors and film directors, it is only continuing to grow as a source of inspiration and is appropriated by popular culture in many new ways. This may include the growing popularity of graphic horror novels as well as people dressing up on occasions such as Halloween to just scare people. “The notion of haunted or ghoulish clowns has exploded lately in popular culture and become a mainstay of social media,” Franz J. Potter, professor in gothic studies, but it all has its links in gothic literature, also mentioning ‘we’ve taken the genre a step further, adapting the tried and true themes from gothic literature and applying them to new settings and situations. Creepy clowns are another example of our fascination with things that stalk us from the shadows that is both terrify and thrilling. Ultimately, they remind us that monsters could be real, and are still among us.” (National University, 2019). As an audience we watch or read horror for something fun, we can blame science for the fact that science has a reasoning behind everything and as we watch or read a horror we know that it can’t be real because there is no reasonable explanation. Science and religion are useless without one another but when Jekyll combines them his work leads to be ‘Wholly towards the mystic and transcendental'(Stevenson, R. 1886, page 74) as mentioned in the novel. At one-point gothic literature was one of the most popular genres of text, stories were full of vampires, ghosts, haunted houses these days modern horror in film and fiction represent some of the biggest box office hits. Many authors, film producers and even song writers for example country band ‘Zac Brown Band’ produced and album called Jekyll and Hyde in the attempt to show something different to the audience.

Jekyll and Hyde was important throughout the 9th century and is still relevant in today’s society. Stevenson’s gothic novel utilizes a dark and picturesque setting, astonishing and melodramatic narrative devices and an atmosphere that is full of mystery, exoticism, fear and dread. Victorian England relied on science and religion to shape the society we live in today. Think of again this quote from albert Einstein ‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

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Gothic Literacy Techniques In The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from
“Gothic Literacy Techniques In The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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