How Duality Is Shown Throughout Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dr. Jekyll and MR. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Just as the differing appearances of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde play upon the theories emerging from Charles Darwin’s work, so their differing personalities explore contemporary debates about moral behaviour and the possible plurality of human consciousness. By literally splitting the consciousness of Dr Jekyll into two – the decent side that attempts, and largely succeeds, in suppressing desires that run contrary to the dictates of society; and the amoral side that runs riot in an attempt to gratify animal desire – Stevenson explores in a heightened fashion the battles played out in every one of us. As Dr Jekyll observes ‘I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both’. Through Hyde, the respectable Dr Jekyll is freed from the restraints imposed by society – ‘my devil had been long caged, he came out roaring’. In his confession at the end of the book, Jekyll observes that, ultimately, he will have to choose between being Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde. To become the latter would mean giving up on noble aspirations and being ‘forever despised and friendless’. To become Jekyll, however, means giving up the sensual and disreputable appetites he can indulge as Hyde. In spite of the curious circumstances of his own case it is, as the melancholy Jekyll observes, a struggle and debate ‘as old and commonplace as man’.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 5-6). As a further sign of their kindness, Caroline and Alphonse Frankenstein adopted Elizabeth Lavenza, a first cousin of Victor, and they were raised together as playmates and intended spouses. Victor and Elizabeth spent much of their childhood close and that blossomed into a close friendship in early adulthood. She was “docile and good tempered,” but her feelings were “strong and deep” (The Annotated Frankenstein 89). Her grace and imagination appealed deeply to Victor, but she still struck him as “the most fragile creature in the world” (The Annotated Frankenstein 90); yet, in that dissimilarity there was also appeal.
In one way or another, these led to the Shelleys’ and RLS’s lives becoming intertwined in an odd combination of life imitating art – and, however imperfectly, of art imitating life.
Oates, Joyce Carol. “Jekyll/Hyde.” Novels for Students 11 (2001). Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan J. Wolfson, and Ronald Levao. The Annotated Frankenstein. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2012. Print.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Essential Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Ed. Leonard Wolf. New York: IBooks, 2005. Print.