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...