Jekyll and Hyde and The Moonstone

In Anna Stiles article Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Jekyll and Hyde” and the Double Brain, Stiles discusses how Stevenson may have been influenced by the “late-Victorian ideas about the brain as a double organ” (894). Stiles argues that these ideas influenced Stevenson’s portrayal of the conflict between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stiles also, however, discusses the relationship between the Gothic and the format of the text as a case study.  Stiles highlights that “the Gothic emphasis on psychological interiority and emotion may seem at odds with the eminently rational aims of the scientific case study” (888).

Despite these seemingly disparate genres, Stiles points out that the elements of the Gothic and scientific case study are actually interconnected.  The text’s format adheres to the traditional conventions of a case study while implementing Gothic elements and using subjective narrative voice to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Ultimately, Stiles argues that the combination of these two genres parallels the double brain of Dr. Jekyll; Stiles states, “ The logical, left brain perspective of science combines with the primitive, emotional, right-brain perspective of the Gothic, demonstrating how Stevenson incorporates the polarities of the dual-brain theory into the literary form of his famous novella” (891).

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reminded me, in many ways, of Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. They both have elements of mystery and Gothicism and they both take the form of a case study that relies on both science and subjective narrative perspectives. The idea that Stevenson combines both aspects of science and with the romantic elements of the Gothic reminds me of The Moonstone. In my last blog post, I questioned the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity in the text. I also relayed Lewis Robert’s article, “The ‘Shivering Sands’ of Reality: Narration and Knowledge in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone,” that explored this question; Roberts states, “For Collins, realism is not only a process of scientific discovery in which everything can be explained, in which all secrets will be revealed and all revelations will be apparent; but also, realism is a state of recognition of the complexities and the mysteries involved in ‘knowing’ anything” (177). Roberts highlights the interconnectedness between the binaries in the text; Stiles argues a similar point.

For me, there is a key difference between the two texts.  In The Moonstone, the multiple views of narration seems to add to the mystery, while in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, both “Dr. Lanyon’s narrative” and “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case” literally solve the case and answer the mystery.  I wonder if this difference highlights a difference in views of Stevenson and Collins concerning the relationship between subjectivity and science.

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2 thoughts on “Jekyll and Hyde and The Moonstone

  1. Jason Tougaw

    Interesting questions about the similarities and differences between Stevenson and Collins in terms of subjectivity and epistemology. It’s true that we discover how Jekyll becomes Hyde at the end of Stevenson’s novel, but there’s a lot we don’t know about the chemistry of his tincture. It seems significant that the tincture only worked because of an unidentified impurity in one of its ingredients. Therefore, the experiment can’t be duplicated.

  2. Laura Gonzaga

    I really like the article you introduced in reference to the “late-Victorian ideas about the brain as a double organ” (894). Dualism is an essential theme in the novel and viewing the brain as a “double organ” seems to provide a rational explanation as to why people might experience character changes. Dr. Jekyll asserts that “man is not truly one, but truly two,” reinforcing the idea that within us all there are two separate and distinct natures – the good and the bad. I think the internal struggle between our “good” and “evil” sides is something we all have experienced to a certain extent in our lives as we are all capable of embracing both these qualities.

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