Genre, Scientific Censuring, and Gender roles
The theme of science begins to be discussed through literature in the late Victorian era to the early Edwardian period. Two novels are both rich in not only scientific influence, but how the Britain’s dealt with and viewed science as a society. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells are two famous and historic pieces of literature tat can be looked at to view the influence of science and the impact it had on the society at that time. One novel is being classified as science fiction, while the other had been referred to as gothic literature. One can say that science was seen as the work of mad men and these two novels censure science to a certain degree.
We shall first look at and examine the earlier of the two novels, which is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson. Stevenson tells a very cautionary tale of science in this work. Dr. Jekyll is an educated man of science who is respected and helps people of the community. Mr. Hyde is the opposite and characterized as a monster-like man: “It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut.”(Stevenson 9) and again “And the next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under his foot, and hailing down a storm of blows,…”(Stevenson 22). Stevenson writes about the “citadel of medicine, where his friend, the great Dr. Lanyon, had his house and received his crowding patients” (Stevenson 13). The author portrays the Dr. Lanyon as being great, as physicians were seen as great persons of the community and well respected. Mr. Hyde is representative of the dark side of the scientific field. New technology and new medicines can be great healers, but the author is saying that if we alter with God’s work and the nature of human life, it can turn on society.
There is a general moral strategy to this novel penned by Stevenson, and that is “to describe an evil that wears the face of science and then show how to combat it. This story is meant to warn the audience of the irresponsibility of scientists in fooling with random uncertainties, discontinuities, and relativism (Toumey 412-13). This story can thus be classified as a vehicle for not only damming science, but underlying a certain evil within it. Herein lays the first similarity between the two novels.
While both novels are from somewhat different genres of fiction, they share a common ground: scientific knowledge. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s knowledge of science is what creates the monster Mr. Hyde. In The War of the Worlds the knowledge of science helps the narrator out in many instances, however not all. The narrator is obviously an educated man; we learn this from the very beginning when he is writing the treaties. He is intrigued at first and says: “It would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might learn a thing or two” (Wells 37). We also see how intelligent he when analyzing alien remains as he states: “The pulmonary distress caused by the denser atmosphere and greater gravitational attraction was only too evident in the conclusive moments of the outer skin” (Wells 125). The narrator obviously knows more than an average person or an uneducated one. He always seems to make better decisions than the other characters he runs into. Wells does seem to be painting a cautious picture of knowledge though. The War of the Worlds has very little magical elements if any. Some may consider the aliens to be “magical” rather than science fiction, but the story also may be seen as being scientifically plausible. The fact that it is plausible makes it part of the science fiction genre rather than fantasy. There is a lot of science jargon used and the narrator uses his knowledge of science. For example: “The results of an anatomical examination of the Martians…I have already given” (Wells 180). He also says that although his...
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Toumey, Christopher P. " The Moral Character of Mad Scientists: A Cultural Critique of Science." Science, Technology, & Human Value 17(1992): 411-437.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2003.
Miyoshi, Masao. "• Dr. Jekyll and the Emergence of Mr. Hyde." College English 27(1966): 470-480.
Wells, H.G... The War of the Worlds. New York, N.Y.:The Modern Library, 2002
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