Comparing Anxiety and Drug Use in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Sign of the Four

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Anxiety and Drug Use in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Sign of the Four

The life experiences and writings of the Victorians are peppered with anxiety. External influences such as sweeping change or fear of change can produce unease, as seen in the their anxious attitude toward Darwinism and colonialization, which greatly influenced the political, spiritual, and psychological landscape of nineteenth century England. However, for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll, anxiety springs from an internal source: the human mind and its many urges. For Jekyll, the anxiety is fueled by a desire to set free his evil urges; for Holmes, the catalyst is his proclaimed "boredom" with everyday life.
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Further, his anxiety also stems from an internal inability to create intellectually stimulating situations for himself.

Jekyll's anxiety is also internal but more psychological in nature. The doctor comes from an established family and thus must conceal his bad qualities. He perceives the duality of man within himself, both good and bad, but as a member of society's elite, Jekyll has no room in his life for immoral or socially unacceptable behaviors and urges. As he realizes that "man is not truly one, but truly two," (Stevenson, 43) Jekyll's anxiety stems from an internal inability to create a consciousness that can accommodate his urges. It is interesting that both the well-educated Holmes and Jekyll, one being an intellectual elitist, the other a social elitist, would turn to the dangerous world of drugs to ease their anxieties. But desperation often forces man to make unsound decisions. Jekyll sees drugs as an antidote for guilt; Holmes, as an antidote for boredom. In desperation to alleviate anxiety, two people who should know better choose a dangerous path.

While Holmes and Jekyll choose similar paths, their desired outcomes are very different. Holmes resorts to intravenously injecting either cocaine or morphine to escape from his anxiety of boredom, while Jekyll faces his anxiety
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