This paper’s main goal is to compare and contrast Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. ” In order to do so, the Romantic Literature and Victorian Gothic Literature will be defined and pin-pointed alongside the presentation of the novels in order for the reader to understand the similarities and the differences of both classic works. Romantic Literature is an intellectual movement which originated in Western Europe during the 19th century.
It was a form of revolt against aristocratic, political and social norms rooted from the Enlightenment period. It was also a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature in art and literature. Romantic Literature introduced another form of aesthetic experience such as horror, trepidation and awe through untamed nature. (Abrams, 26) The theme that is commonly found in Romantic Literature and evident in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is the respect for nature. However, British author Shelley pushed it further by writing about the human psychology.
There was a fascination on the topic during that period. The novel infuses some of the elements of Romantic Literature and the Gothic novel. Gothic fiction combines horror and romance. Amidst the terror and the doom brought out by the monster Victor created, the novel had elements of the importance of family, friendship (between Victor and Clerval, as well as Victor and his surrogate sister Justine) and love (between Victor and Elizabeth. ) Unfortunately, “Frankenstein” has a dark theme and Victor’s loved ones are eventually murdered by the monster one after the other.
”Frankenstein” has the prominent feature of Gothic fiction which is psychological and physical terror. The beginning of the story is an allusion Romantic Literature taking flight from Enlightenment as seen through Victor’s personality. (Schor, 270). He is curious and intelligent and he shuns the modern teaching of natural science. Therefore, he leaves his family in his native Geneva and concentrates on modern science. He constructs a man from various organic human parts and stimulates the functions of the human system. He wanted the creature to be beautiful but is disgusted when it awakens and is ugly.
He escapes from his creation, only to have it destroy his life. ”Frankenstein” is considered to be the first science fiction novel. However, since the lack of depiction on how it was created, most contemporary readers concentrate on the moral issues that are discussed in the book. It also serves as the warning against the Industrial Revolution. Victorian Literature is the literature that was produced during the reign of Queen Victoria. This is associated to the Victorian era. It is also the link and the transition of the romantic writers and the writers of the late 20th century.
It was around this time when mysterious and supernatural aspects in literature started emerging. These are often centered on “normal” characters that have double lives. (Baker, 264) A fine example is that of Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego Edward Hyde in Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. ” ”Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” presents a new level of Victorian literature in a Gothic sense because of its creative phase. The gothic elements were dominant in the novella.
The formal relationship between Victorian and Gothic literature was serialized by the working class audience because of the rough and contemporaneous sensations that have been serialized in the works. Unfortunately, the Victorian Gothic presents the contemporary fears such as ethical degeneration. ”Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is known for the accurate portrayal of split personalities and the psychopathology behind it. Because of this work, “Jekyll and Hyde” has become part of our vocabulary. It indicates bipolar and wild behavior. (Hicks) Despite its Gothic flair, “Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” maintains its qualities that reflect Victorian Literature through the fact that it is written for adult readers. It still shows the ideal lifestyle of individuals as they work hard and persevere to the love and luck that they wish to achieve in the end. There is the need to improve individuality despite nature’s course with a central moral lesson. There are similarities between the characters of Frankenstein (the monster in the novel) and Hyde. They struggle with the inner conflict of what is good and what is evil in the sense of humanity.
Both characters depict the dichotomy of the 19th century’s concern on social conventions and the individual’s instincts. Both present the consequences when people follow their carnal instincts. (Frankenstein and Hyde are murderers. ) These societal concerns are highly regarded during the periods of Romantic Literature and Victorian Literature. Shelley and Stevenson were interested in the presentation of the mental condition that separates from the moral and the sinful. Frankenstein wants to have his revenge whereas Hyde takes pleasure in his nightly murders because of his lustful nature.
Therefore, there is the difference between the Romantic Literature and Victorian Literature’s take on religious morality. These novels also tackle the closing decades of the 19th century with a view point from the Darwinian perspective. Both Romantic Literature and Victorian Literature examine the biological influences on human morality through the regressive animalistic instincts of Frankenstein and Jekyll’s multiple personality which results to Hyde. Romantic Literature, since its main focus it nature, believe that an individual, in the novel’s case a monster, has the instinct to follow its primal emotions.
This is revenge. Whereas in Victorian Literature, in the form of the split personality of Dr, Jekyll, demonstrates that man will always return to its nature, despite the rules of science and society. A difference between Shelley’s work to Stevenson’s is that some critics claim that the latter has schisms that exist in British society. The novel includes the conflicts of the social divisions in the Scottish society. If Shelley’s work remained true to the Romantic theme of family and nature, Stevenson’s novel discussed Victorian Gothic literature and tackled the political and religious forces of the time.
For the reader, “Frankenstein” provides the need to protect the family against an opposing force. There is the need for Victor to go back to Geneva and protect his family from his own creation. In “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, the antagonist in the story is also the protagonist. Readers are aware that Dr. Jeryll and Mr. Hyde are only one individual. It only comes to show that everyone has the innate goodness and badness. Therefore, if Shelly’s “Frankenstein” was a way to embark on another literature approach from the norms of Enlightenment, Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was also the allusion to the dualistic nature of Scotland at that time. That was why these books were accepted by the society when it was published and eventually became classic reads of today.
Schor, Esther, The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley, Cambridge University Press, 2003 Hicks, David, “Grim Treasures”, World and I, Vol 14, August 1999 Abrams, MH, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature, Norton, 1973 Baker, Joseph E, The Interpretation of Victorian Literature, Princeton University Press, 1950
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