8 thoughts on “Recent Criticism of Jekyll and Hyde: Observations and Reflections

  1. Pingback: English B1918 S18: The Victorian Novel – Renata Kobetts Miller, Ph.D.

  2. Joseph Caceres

    Joseph Caceres

    Article: “Silent Homosexuality in Oscar Wilde’s Teleny and The Picture of Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson’s, The Stranger Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Antonio Sanna.

    This article expands on the role science and public policies had on institutionalizing homophobia during the late-Victorian period; and three fin-de-siecle novels whose textual silences act as responses to this form of oppression.
    The author makes many compelling statements regarding the silences in the texts of these three novels, and their supposed retaliation against the ideological (heteronormative/homophobic) principles as an indirect demand for homosexual recognition. However, what is not stated is how the methods employed to make such demands also reproduces the ideological principles of the late-Victorian period the author claims these novels are attacking. For me, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray do what Sanna states but, they also reproduce stereotypes of the immoral homosexual—a stereotype that not only further contributes to the erasure of homosexuals, but needs misogyny as its basis for success.

    Bibliography

    Sanna, Antonio. “Silent Homosexuality in Oscar Wilde’s Teleny and The Picture of Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson’s, The Stranger Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Law & Literature, Vol. 24, Issue 1, 2012, pp. 21-39.

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  3. Emily Miller

    Stiles opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde, who wrote in 1889 that, “the transformation of Dr. Jekyll reads dangerously like an experiment out of the Lancet.” Stiles uses this quote as a jumping off point to show how Stevenson’s work was influenced by scientific and medical theories.

    Stiles believes that Stevenson didn’t want his readers to know of his prior knowledge about scientific theories relating to dual brain or double personalities. The implication is that Stevenson would feel his work was less original and mysterious if it were thought to be based on actual case studies. Stevenson denies having known of such cases in an interview with a journalist from New Zealand in 1893.

    However, Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, is quoted as saying that Stevenson was impressed by a scientific journal article he read prior to writing Jekyll and Hyde. Other authors and researchers have cited similarities between Stevenson’s work and case studies documented in popular French and English medical journals from the 1870’s and 1880’s. Stiles identifies two articles she feels Fanny references, both by a French physician, Eugene Azam. The patient described in these articles is known as Felida X, identified by researchers as “the first French double personality to be studied in depth.”

    Stiles mentions Stevenson’s training, his family background and relationships with scientists to support that he was well-qualified to incorporate scientific theory in his writing. He was from a family of engineers and he had friends who were scientists and researchers in the field.

    Stiles feels that Stevenson “demonstrates his familiarity with the rhetorical conventions of scientific prose in Jekyll and Hyde.” She goes on to say that the novella is a clever parody of a scientific case study within the genre of Gothic romance. Stiles posits that Stevenson ascribes to certain scientific theories about the double brain and personality disorders and she traces the probable sources of his familiarity with these theories to work from the first half of the 19th century.

    Stiles says that while other critics, including Elaine Showalter, have hinted at Stevenson’s knowledge of scientific theory before writing Jekyll and Hyde, most “…have overlooked dual-brain theories as potential sources for the novella’s central theme.”

    Stiles, Anne. “Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and the Double Brain”
    Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol.46.4, 2006, p.879-900.

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  4. Raji Pandya

    In “Down with the Door, Poole: Designating Deviance in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” M. Kellen Williams argues that the novel can be read as Stevenson’s criticism of realism in fiction, or, “an inquiry into what appears pathological from the realist perspective” (Williams 413). By being repulsive in a way that can’t be articulated, Hyde is the embodiment of what a realist paradigm informed by scientific empiricism fears most: something out of line, or deviant, that cannot be named, categorized, and thus controlled.

    The late Victorian era saw major advances in science, medicine, and psychiatry. Williams discusses the “visible vice” (Williams 422), the idea that all pathologies, aberrant behavior, and deviant phenomena could be explained by studying the physical body. She links this to the fact that “the inability to account for Edward Hyde’s body” is “arguably the mainspring of this text’s entire plot mechanism” (Williams 415). That for the better part of the story, Utterson and other characters are unable to trace Hyde’s whereabouts, or pin his body down to a specific physical location, is Stevenson’s way of pointing out the futility of a realist schema.

    Williams then cites Mark Seltzer’s idea of a “fantasy of surveillance,” and Foucault’s position that by monitoring and studying the physical body, the scientific enterprise’s goal is ultimately to control deviances. She relates this to the violence of Utterson and others breaking down Jekyll’s door to “seize the deviant body” (Williams 424). The likens this to the “violence” of imposing scientific labels and schemas on the human body and psyche that defined late Victorian scientific thought.

    She cites essays wherein Stevenson criticized science and empiricism’s influence on fiction, and how he rejects the realist doctrine that fiction, like science, should be “a transcript of life, to be judged by its exactitude” (Williams 425). The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, then, becomes a contestation against the idea that the value of a narrative lies in its ability to represent real life.

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    1. Raji Pandya

      Works Cited:

      Williams, M. Kellen. “‘Down with the Door, Poole’: Designating Deviance in The Strange Case of
      Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” English Literature in Transition, vol. 39, no. 4, 1996, pp. 412–429. Project MUSE [Johns Hopkins UP], muse.jhu.edu.ccny-proxy1.libr.ccny.cuny.edu/article/367901/pdf.

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  5. BRENDA COX

    A STUDY IN DUALISM
    This review is about Robert Lois Stevenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which is regarded by many, as a very prominent example of Victorian fiction. Written in 1886, the names Jekyll and Hyde have now become synonymous with multiple personality disorders. The study examines the novel from the view point of dualism as a system of philosophy and as a religious framework and also from the view point of Freud’s structural theory of the mind.
    According to the study, “a religion that is dualistic admits not only that the universe comprises good and evil, or light and darkness, but also that though these are eternally opposed they are coeternal, coexistent, and equipotent.” It concluded that that good and evil are often derived from the same source. In the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the good and the evil came from the same person — one person — with the good side being in control of the bad, at first. Jekyll was able to command or make the change whenever he chose. The study went on to state that the aim of the novel was to expose the duality that Stevenson believed lurked within individuals and society as a whole. In Victorian England, “the aristocracy had dark secrets to hide behind the high walls of the mansions where they lived . . . most of the action takes place in the night time and much of it in the poorer districts of London, considered the abode of evil-doers. Most significantly, Mr. Hyde enters and leaves Dr. Jekyll’s house through the back door which seems a metaphor for the evil that lies behind the façade of civilization and refinement.”
    The study stated that “dualism as a philosophy signifies the view that the universe contains two radically different kinds of being or substance-matter and spirit, body and mind” and went on to explain that “evil therefore was a result of an infinite soul trapped in a finite body.” In support of this claim, it made reference to the great ancient philosopher Plato, who believed that the soul exists independently to the body. The study also referenced Freud who (according to the study) “realized that humans were neither exclusively nor essentially good.”
    “The characters in the novel manifest characteristics of the structural theory of the mind. Mr. Hyde would seem easily recognizable as the id, seeking instant gratification, having an aggressive instinct, and having no moral or social mores that need be followed. He takes pleasure in violence and similar to the death instinct ultimately leads to his own destruction. Dr. Jekyll is then the ego; he is conscious and rational, and is dominated by social principles. He has a difficult time juggling between the demands of the id, represented by Mr. Hyde, and the superego as represented by the proclaimed and implicit morals of Victorian society which prided itself on refinement and goodness, and is shocked by the seeming nonchalance with which Edward Hyde indulges in his debaucheries. In the novel, Dr. Jekyll gives in to his impulses and after initial pleasure soon cannot control their power. Rather than let Mr. Hyde go free and realizing that Hyde needs Jekyll to exist, he decides to end his own life.”
    I agree with the conclusion of the study that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is a commentary on the good and evil that exist (and coexist) in all of us and that it’s aim was to expose “the hypocrisy and double standards of the society. It is also an interesting study into the mind of the author and into the theories of dualism. Finally, it can be seen as a remarkable study into human psychology that presaged the structural personality theories as detailed by Freud.”

    WORK CITED

    A Study in Dualism: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Indian Journal of Psychiatry, July – September 2008. Shubh M. Sing, Subho Chakrabarti.

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  6. Robert C. Derosa

    Robert C. Derosa
    Criticism of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    Doane, Janice, and Devon Hodges. “Demonic Disturbances of Sexual Identity: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr/s Hyde.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, vol. 23, no. 1, 1989, pp. 63-74. JSTOR.

    This critical article makes a very interesting statement about The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: that it is a collaboration between the masculine and feminine imagination which subverts the identity of each one. Feminist critics such as Elaine Showalter mention the idea of the split personality – not between good and evil but between male purpose and female passivity, and say that men have more gender integrity than women. According to this piece, Stevenson’s story reinforces this fiction of male identity – and classifies it as a male story.
    Stephen Gwynn says it is a story of a community of monks, and Irving Saposnik says it is male-centered and seen from a male perspective. Saposnik also says that the story is an alliance between the masculine and the feminine which rests strategies to keep the categories distinct. Stephen Heath connects Stevenson’s notions of masculinity as hidden, perverse, and violent to Freud’s remarks on the social effect of male perversion: men are healthy but from a social point of view immoral to an undesirable degree. In the story, the article states that Hyde represents this transformative power which is at once a brutal, violent force – yet feminine at the same time. It goes on to mention that Hyde is an hysteric who speaks the feminine from within the masculine and who wrestles against the approaches of hysteria. William Veedeer says that the story is a representation of the male anxiety, and reflects a social movement when patriarchy weakened and boundaries blurred. He also said that the oedipal rage motivated the actions of the male characters in the story; that the men create a close-knit society which replicates mother-child mirroring each other; that their bonds are homosocial and homoerotic.
    Though the story contains no major female characters, it does include a number of minor ones who are aligned with monstrosity and deviance, according to the article: the little girl improbably at large in the night; the women, “wild as harpies,” who attack Hyde. Jekyll makes a response to Hyde about sharing a cultural fear of wild women. He describes his fears as unmanning and says of Hyde that “that insurgent horror was knit to him closer than a wife.” Jekyll and Hyde want to get out of the “entrapped” house, which is usually a wife’s place.
    Doane and Hodges state that Stevenson, like others, wrote about what they feared and desired: a transgression of the boundaries of masculine and femininity identity. They also said that in Jekyll and Hyde, we see just how ineffective is that suppression of “other.”

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