Week 2 Class 1: Modern Literature: Murder, Money and Mystery

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After reading / watching the novella / YouTube Movie / Musical of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, what do you think is the social commentary? And what specific scenes or quotes make you think so?

The social commentary of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is that the story tries to lead to discussion of the phenomenon of dualism and religion.

DUALISM

Dualism refers to the hypothesis of having the universe composed of two opposing elements. Here in the story, it probably refers to the phenomena on mental and religion dualism. These two theories admits that the good and the evil are the elements of the universe. Although these two elements are opposing each other, they coexist and there will never be an absoloute winner.

Dr. Jekyll may appeared to be so great in the people’s eyes, he has great academic history, being rich and kind. However, he, as a man on universe, still has to face the duality – the evil side of himself and need to set his evil free by transforming himself to Mr. Hyde.

“With every day and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and intellectual, I thus drew steadily to that truth by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”

Written by Dr. Jekyll, the above words are the best evidence that the story aims at starting up a discussion of dualism. Just because Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the dual, failed to coexist, the story ends with the death of the main character.

THE STORY AND THE VICTORIAN PERIOD SOCIETY

Furthermore, the story was first published in the late Victorian Period and it is strongly believed that the story reflected major issues within this period: the economy, science, and social behaviors.

Economic Growth

The Victorian Period was a period where economy was growing rapidly, just like the city of London depicted in the story. Under the motivation of industrial revolution, the English economy took off and it was the time when the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was born. At the beginning of the story, Stevenson took rows to describe the streets Mr. Utterson was strolling down.

The street was small and what is called quiet, but it drove a thriving trade on the week-days. The inhabitants were all doing well, it seemed, and all emulously hoping to do better still, and laying out the surplus of their gains in coquetry; so that the shop fronts stood along that thoroughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen.

Simple words, but more than enough to reflect the economy.

Science

Many major scientific breakthrough actually happened within the Victorian Period.  Thomas Graham, as known as the Father of Colloid Chemistry, discovered a law related to gases and named after him. Charles Darwin shocked the scholars with Origins of Species within that period. Scientists devoted themselves for the community just like Dr. Jekyll in order to bring changes like how Dr. Jekyll tries to make potions to change his appearance.

Social behavior

In the Victorian Period, the society was highly stratified. Many upper class people had double identities, they might appear to be kind, full of knowledge but the their evil sides were yet to be revealed and they had engaged in serveral unaccepted behaviors. For example, in 1880s, a married son of an industrialist gentleman had an affair with a young woman. To reflect the dark side of the upper class, as known as the wealthy and educated, the writer Stevenson built the image of Dr. Jekyll, the ‘charity man’ who is nice, rich and generous to represent the upper class, but reveal the irony by enabling Dr. Jekyll to do unacceptable things through another identity – Mr. Hyde.

 

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