The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

1505 Words7 Pages
During the latter portion of the nineteenth century, Robert Louis Stevenson published his novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The fin de siècle saw the rise of different thoughts and ideas surrounding science and society. These concepts and interpretations sparked the discourse surrounding the theory of degeneration; which was the concern that civilization would fall to a lower state of being. This chapter will be reading multiplex personality as a manifestation of this broader cultural fear. Stevenson’s story played upon the changes society was facing during this time and the interest in scientific explanations for mental illness. He creates the character of Dr Jekyll, a scientist who invents a potion to unlock his inner,…show more content…
The theory of degeneration sparked public discourse and fear of falling civilization. Julia Reid says the fin de siècle was famously haunted by the fear of degeneration. With its roots in pathological medicine and biology, and drawing on the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection, the theory of degeneration amounted to a reassessment of progressive narratives of evolution, and a recognition that life did not always advance from the simple to the complex. This collapse from the complex to the simple is also mentioned by British zoologist Edwin Ray Lankester. In 1880, he wrote on the topic of degeneration in which he defined the term as ‘a gradual change of the structure in which the organism becomes adapted to less varied and less complex conditions of life.’ Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde is a form of this concept degeneration. While Jekyll does enjoy the transformations, he soon realises that he must choose between the two personalities. He could feel Hyde gaining more control, and soon the transformations were happening without Jekyll drinking the potion. This loss of control symbolises the feared downfall of society in the fin de siècle. Jekyll says, ‘the powers of Hyde seemed to have grown with the sickliness of Jekyll’ , which also represents the deterioration of society. Stevenson’s use of the words “powers” and “sickliness” show the dynamic social class during this period. Jekyll becoming weak made Hyde
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