Victorianism Versus Modernism

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Matias Gutierrez
Mrs. Smith
World Literature
21 December 2012 OLD*******8
Victorianism in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Modernism in The Metamorphosis Victorianism is about how the individual could improve the society. They believed that a good individual could make the society better as a whole and therefore improve life. Victorians focused on science and the desire for extremely realistic portrayal of life in both literature and art. Some aspects of Victorian thinking were retained while others were discarded in a new movement called Modernism. Modernists focus on the individual but have the view that humans are beings without free will and that they do not look for guidance within them, but instead are driven by factors outside of them. According to Modernist thinking, an individual is molded by the external factors that surround him. Therefore the way the society already is will affect the individual and Modernism tries to portray the effects of this. Each style captures something about the individual in the society. As mentioned above, Victorianism and Modernism both focus on the individual and the society. An example of this from a Victorian perspective is, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson. This novel zooms in on the view of the morality in people and society, incorporating science as well. Both of these aspects were vital to Victorian thinking. Victorian period began during the reign of Queen Victoria, which lasted between 1837-1901. During this period the sciences went through a major revival. Both of these ideals are demonstrated in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This novel accurately captures the ideals and behaviors occurring at the time with extreme detail and realism. “A certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. It was two stories high; showed no window, nothing but a door… The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained” (2). Victorianism’s desire for the utmost detail on even the most routine things was demonstrated in most novels during the period. The extreme realism creates a better picture of society and how things are occurring during the lives of the individuals living then. The notion of morality and science were also in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is a story of a respected doctor’s attempt to separate the two different aspects of human nature, good and bad. Dr. Jekyll who is depicted as a moral and decent gentleman, who participates in charity work and has the reputation of being a courteous doctor, personifies the good aspect. His experiment is to try to purify his good-natured self from his “wild and depraved” side. His experiment goes awry instead Jekyll liberates his primal, deprave and criminal side taking the name of Mr. Hyde. Hyde is a “troglodyte,” a primitive creature who asks on instinct instead of conscious and moral decisions. His reputation as an animal grows as he commits crime after crime. Hyde takes his immorality to the limit. He is the complete opposite of Jekyll. The scene when Hyde takes the potion to transform him backs to Jekyll, “He put the glass to his lips, and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change—he seemed to swell—his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter—and at the next moment …pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll!” (40). (Stevenson) This scene demonstrates that alchemy and science were heavily pursued during this time. Science was on the rise again during this period and Dr. Jekyll was testing everything that science could do for the society and through his testing...
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