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Comparrison Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, And The Picture Of Dorian Grey

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The term gothic fiction implies a British literary genre from the late eighteenth, and early nineteenth century. The modernized term seems to have been generalized into anything that is dark, gloomy, or depressing. Gothic novels often time posses an emphasis on portraying the terror, a prominent use of supernatural circumstances, the presence of highly stereotyped characters, and the attempt to display techniques of literary suspense. There are also other parallels among this vastly popular genre. Gothic novels often time describe the city of London in corresponding ways. Also a common theme amongst gothic literary works is the duality of human nature, or the quality or characteristic of being twofold. These mutual themes are apparent in two of the genre’s classic works: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both novels entertain the common theme of duality of the main characters in the book, and also correspondingly go about depicting the vast city of London, England.

Both The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde go about depicting London in the same manner. The persistent theme of duality

shows the indisputably dismal city, in terms of class, and the vast differences geographically from the East and West sides of the city. Representations of the poor quality of life in London were apparent in both novels. The portrayal of the city which is “dark like the back-end of evening” (Stevenson 30). at nine in the morning, and is littered with gin palaces, shops selling penny dreadfuls, “and many ragged children huddled in doorways, and many women of different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass”( Stevenson 31). The location of Hyde’s house in Soho, which is amongst the higher class of London, is almost symbolic of the location of Hyde within Dr. Jekyll. While Hyde is described as “something displeasing, something downright detestable.” (Stevenson 15), and “wicked-looking” (Stevenson 31); Dr. Jekyll, on the other hand, is depicted as “well-made.” and “smooth faced.” (Stevenson 26). The vast differences between the two show Stevenson’s intentions of stereotyping the different classes throughout London. The Picture of Dorian Grey, written after Stevenson’s novel, shows the city more clearly divided in class terms.

While Dorian Grey is living in the West region of London, his criminal side is often seeking debauchery and self-indulgence in the darker side of East London. Dorian’s early expeditions into the underbelly of London are similar to that of Dr. Jekyll. Dorian Grey stated, “I felt that this gray, monstrous London of ours, with its myriads of people, its sordid sinners…must have something in store for me…The mere danger of it gave me a

sense of delight.” (Wilde 84). While in Stevenson’s novel Dr. Jekyll says, “ There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet…I was conscious of a heady recklessness…an unknown but not

innocent freedom of the soul…the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine.” (Stevenson 72). Like Dorian, Mr. Hyde seeks out his darker side in the East side of London, but Wilde goes about depicting Dorian’s adventures more explicitly. One such example is the fact that Dorian is depicted as an opium addict, and while undergoing drug withdrawal sees the city of London in a horrific manner. “The streets like the black web of some sprawling spider…ugliness was the one reality. The coarse brawl, the loathsome den, the crude violence of disordered life.” ( Wilde 185-186).

As both novels make it clear, stereotypes were common between different social classes. During the time period, a vast social gap existed between the rich and poor. Often times the poor were grouped together in ghettos, where crime flourished. Wilde’s novel was one of the first to display corruption and such behaviors as theft, murder, and drug use among the upper class, but it was the hints of homosexuality among the characters which upset the public by far. Wilde removed many of the references of homosexuality, and added an additional six chapters; after the book was pulled from the shelves due to the public’s response.

An additional parallel between the novels is duality and human nature. Both characters posses a dark side, in which they pursue their personal pleasures. Although similar, the two characters go about this in diverse manners. In Stevenson’s novel the Jekyll-Hyde transformation is a physical one. After consuming a potion, Dr. Jekyll seems to separate the evil within himself into another personality all together, While Dorian Grey goes about doing as he pleases, free from the responsibilities of his actions, due to

his mystical portrait. Dorian Grey’s portrait prevents him from suffering the mortal consequences for his deeds, including the natural process of aging. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde there is not only two identities, but two individual persons. These individuals are aware of one another’s existence, and set out to protect one another. This scenario does not last long. Jekyll seeks to separate the good and evil within himself, and believes he has ejected the evil completely from himself. Dr Jekyll can prosper without the burden of shame, while Mr. Hyde can go about himself, fulfilling his desires without restrictions. As the story develops Jekyll’s conscious becomes “slumbered” (Stevenson 53), while Hyde grows in stature, and malice. Hyde’s actions become more pre-meditated and more sadistic. The duality of human nature is more specified in Stevenson’s novel, because both good and evil are personified as different persons. While in Wilde’s story the character’s evil was amplified by the absence of the consequences.

Both of the main characters ultimately seek out the same goal. To live freely, and find the beauty in sin, but do not want to have the guilt on their conscience. Dorian Grey goes about this is a more effortless manner. He simply realizes his soul in his portrait wears the burden of his sins, so he sets out to live freely. Dr Jekyll feels that evil is

inevitable

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