R.L. Stevension's Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde as a Critique of Victorian Fantasy with Science and Experiments

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Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in January 1886. It recounts the horrific tale of a scientist whose experiment backfires and leads him to his own end. It was the author’s masterpiece and sold around 40,000 copies in six months in England and became a popular sensation in America. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a novella written in Bournemouth and set in London was one written in the late nineteenth century in the backdrop of the scientific progress. It is evident that literature has always mirrored life and many a times literature has imagined possibilities that science later on could turn into realities. So does the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which aims at portraying the possibilities of what a nineteenth century scientist could seek to find. The nineteenth century saw the rise of scientific developments. There were developments in every field of scientific study. These developments generated awe in the minds of the people. They began to think that everything was possible through science. All the experiments and scientific research came in view of The Royal Society. Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking book The Origin of Species in the year 1859. He declared that it was evolution that created the difference in Species and not some god. The book was chiefly a scientific one and it created ripples in the intellectual circles. Some accused Darwin of taking morality out of nature and others supported his view. All these debates were instrumental in making his theories famous. Many intellectuals and philosophers came up who put in their faith in the omnipotency of science. The believed that there were many discoveries those were still to be made. There was knowledge waiting to be discovered. Experiments were conducted in every field of science in a hope of making some discovery or invention. While astronomers explored the solar system and the universe, the medical scientists explored the world of germs and microbes, discovering a whole range of diseases. The human body too was open for explorations. The whole trend was towards professionalization of science. Science was once the domain of gentlemen of independent means and it was during this time that science moved into universities. The experimental nature of science was widely explored. Alchemy or the modern day Chemistry was one of the fields researched widely. Alfred Nobel invented explosives such as dynamite and nitro-glycerine in 1867, which were capable of mass destruction. Nobel himself lost his brother to an explosion in his dynamite factory. Many inventions were made; many were constructive and many others were destructive. Now, coming to the present paper; through this paper I would like to suggest that Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be read as a critique to this particular rise in the trend of conducting scientific research and making inventions in the Victorian period. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be placed among the texts which featured mad-scientists and their inventions which prove to be disastrous. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley also talks of a similar story where Dr. Frankenstein tries to create life and creates a monster instead. Dr. Jekyll in Dr .Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, creates two separate identities: a bad and a good one, out of his own self. Soon after, his bad self, Mr. Hyde is freed from the influence of his good self and disaster ensues. The end of Dr. Jekyll comes when the “Evil” of his personality overcomes his “Good”. R. L. Stevenson’s text thus suggests that scientific inventions may not always lead to positive results. And when experiments go wrong they may lead to grave results. Uncensored and possibly dangerous experiments may prove to be fatal or harmful to the society. Even when the scientist’s intention may be good, the final result may not be good. Dr. Jekyll’s intention was not to give a free will to his evil nature but to create two separate...
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