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The Importance of Robert Louis Stevenson's Novel 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'

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‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind’ is a well-known quote from Albert Einstein. Gothic literature is defined as a style of writing that utilizes a dark and picturesque setting, astonishing and melodramatic narrative devices while also having an atmosphere that is full of mystery, exoticism, fear and dread. In this essay I will discuss the importance of ‘The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde’, written by the Robert Louis-Stevenson in 1886. In Victorian England religion and science were prevalent as people changed there thinking from superstition to logic, Louis-Stevenson used the novel to warn his audience of their primitive, animal-like needs. Religion and science however are still relevant in shaping today’s society because it allows us to answer the greatest mysteries on earth.

In the Victorian era religion was important to various communities and individuals. Numerous people had the belief that God created the universe and he was the creator and therefore the principles and the world of the bible had to be followed. Due to the society’s interest in religion, the people were afraid of scientific developments are had many fears of what it would do to mankind. Old religious beliefs were being questioned to the process being made in science and technology. During the Victorian era, the people of England were very religious. The Victorian era suffered from the time when Christianity was being questioned. Changes brought about were by the industrial revolution and the new scientific ideologies were emerging and played major role in challenging the old religious beliefs. The main person that shook the religious beliefs was Charles Darwin, the Victorian era naturalist. Darwin’s book ‘Origin of the Species’ had broached the theory that mankind were made like any other species and were not separate creatures as was a common belief. Darwin went on to say that man evolved through the process of natural selection. This expedition of Darwin had resulted in the shifting of an ordinary person from religion to more simple things. Darwin’s book made the people change their approach towards religion. It was then that people were slowly withdrawing from traditional religious ideologies.

During the Victorian era, the people that were religious believed in the devil. People believed that others would harness the devils power when they would commit crimes. Evil, devilish and a criminal mastermind are the three words that describe Hyde. 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), indicates that before anyone knew Hyde’s name, he was seen as Satan.

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Jekyll had invented the potion to allow himself to express his urges without the feeling of guilt and without any consequences, we could almost say 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 other side of him but hide it at the same time. The main setting of the novel is the lab, the setting is deserted and strange and more gothic then being a place of science. This setting in the novel slightly hints at the insufficiency or obsolescence of science. 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).

The story of Jekyll and Hyde uses a lot of metaphor, described as a contrast of different ideas or objects. Stevenson frequently uses metaphor 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). 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 beyond logical description his most prominent characteristic is 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. The allusion of Jekyll and Hyde is used to describe a person with two totally different sides to their personality. The villain in this instance is Hyde live in Jekyll, the hero. Therefore Hyde ‘hides’ in the body of the protagonist, Jekyll, keeping the character in plain sight adding to the dilemma of one trying to catch himself.

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). At one point gothic literature was one of the most popular genres of text, stories were full of vampires, ghosts, haunted houses an 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.

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The Importance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Novel ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-robert-louis-stevensons-novel-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/
“The Importance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Novel ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-robert-louis-stevensons-novel-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/
The Importance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Novel ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-robert-louis-stevensons-novel-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/> [Accessed 4 Feb. 2023].
The Importance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Novel ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Feb 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-robert-louis-stevensons-novel-the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/
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