Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Author: toneattl

Is Dr. Jekyll “Hyding” Something?

The opinions of Mr. Hyde, as seen through other characters in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, have not been particularly positive. For example, Mr. Utterson declares “I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why” (Stevenson, 5) and later believes, “the man seems hardly human!” (Stevenson, 10). However, Dr. Jekyll’s views on Mr. Hyde are especially interesting and revealing.

When Mr. Utterson first mentions Mr. Hyde to his friend, “the large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes” (Stevenson, 13). Someone tends to “grow pale” when he/she becomes scared, stressed or sickened. In many cases, this paleness results from a feeling of anxiety. Therefore, before even responding to Mr. Utterson’s claim, the reader has an indictment of how Dr. Jekyll will reply.

Even with the new “abominable” (Stevenson, 13) information Utterson has uncovered about Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll refuses to speak more on the subject. He tells the lawyer, “This is a matter I thought we had agreed to drop” (Stevenson, 13). Most people tend to love hearing about gossip, especially when the subject isn’t themselves. However, Dr. Jekyll appears to want nothing to do with it and consistently asks to move onto a new topic. This raises the impression that perhaps Dr. Jekyll already knows what Mr. Utterson is about to tell him. Furthermore, what if the doctor’s lack of curiosity is because he’s actually hiding something?

This idea would go along with Dr. Jekyll’s mention of “my position is very strange—a very strange one” (Stevenson, 13). He goes on to tell the lawyer that “It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking” (Stevenson, 13); which has the reader thinking about whether the doctor’s “affair” is one that Mr. Utterson must see for himself in order to believe.

Once again, Dr. Jekyll urges Mr. Utterson that “this is a private matter, and I beg of you let it sleep” (Stevenson, 13), before finally telling him, “I do sincerely take a great, a very great interest in” (Stevenson, 13) Mr. Hyde. Connected to the last point, perhaps people cannot see Mr. Hyde the same way as the doctor does because he is withholding the truth. Dr. Jekyll has seen something in Mr. Hyde that no one else has, an interesting point considering these two characters have yet to be in the same place at the same time in our novel so far.

Sexuality and the New Woman in Rossetti’s “‘No, Thank You, John'”

              With a sharp tongue, willingness to defy gender roles, and a spark of scandal, a “New Woman” has entered Victorian literature. Christina Rossetti explores this New Woman and her connection to gender and sexuality through her poem, “‘No, Thank You, John’.”

              The poem begins with, “I never said I loved you John,” (Rossetti, 1) a blunt declaration that immediately strays away from the definition of an ideal Victorian woman. Rather than being submissive, our speaker becomes authoritative and directly attacks a man with whose views she doesn’t agree with. In the next line, she mentions that John has “tease[d] [her] day by day” (Rossetti, 2). This statement juxtaposes tradition gender roles and takes a stab at masculinity. Normally, it is presumed that women are the ones teasing and taunting men. This theme is seen in our previous poem, “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, where the Duke’s wife, “thanked men—good!” (Browning, 31) which became the main source of the female downfall. Yet, through the words of Rossetti’s strong, confident, female speaker, we learn that the tables have turned. Therefore, the topic of sexuality is challenged considering the man is now the person pining over his lover, rather than the other way around. This is important for this era because typically females don’t have much power in their marriage or relationships. Browning’s work revealed that women often become the property of their male counterpart once he gives them a “nine-hundred-years-old-name” (Browning, 33) they can’t refuse.

               However, we see a completely different version of women through Rossetti’s poem. In fact, any masculine authority is taken away all together. The only time we hear John’s thoughts are when the speaker is recalling them to the reader. “I have no heart?” (Rossetti, 13) she mentions, bringing up a statement John previously used to undermine her with. By hearing his words coming from her mouth, she completely takes control of the situation, taking his former accusation and making him the victim of the attack instead. Later that stanza, she tells him to “use [his] own common sense” (Rossetti, 16). Here, she commands him and refers to him in a child-like manner. Rather than the male and female being equals, she speaks lower of him as if she is on an elevated plain.   

               The idea of sexuality is perhaps seen best in the endings line, “Here’s friendship for you if you like; but love, –No, thank you John” (Rossetti, 31-32). The speaker asserts that a woman doesn’t have to love a man even though he’s interested in her, she has control over whether or not see wants to love him as well. The ideas of the New Woman ring true through Rossetti’s poem and prove that women are progressing and taking a stand for what they believe.

Parallels Between Lucy And Dracula

            At first glance, it doesn’t seem likely to have a lot in common with a vampire; however, Dracula by Bram Stoker has created a parallel between Lucy, a human, and Count Dracula, a vampire.

            Firstly, the number three is connected to both characters, which creates a parallel. Lucy has three suitors anxious to marry her. She asks Mina in a letter, “why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” (Stoker, 67) in response to the three proposals she received in one day. Similarly, as revealed in Johnathon Harker’s journal Dracula has “three young women, ladies by their dress and manner” (Stoker, 44).

            Additionally, both Lucy and Dracula rely on blood to survive. Dracula depends on drinking blood, which leads him to Lucy as his next victim. As a result, Lucy then must receive the “transfusion of blood at once” (Stoker, 131) in order to survive. This idea that “the blood is the life! The blood is the life!” (Stoker, 152) is repeated by Renfield, Dr. Seward’s patient, later on in the text.

            Ultimately, these parallels prompt a deeper meaning in the novel. Considering the parallels are drawn between a human and a vampire, perhaps it shows that anyone is capable of being a monster. As mentioned before, the women connected to Dracula appear as beautiful ladies. Johnathon “somehow [knew] her face” yet, “there was something about them that made me uneasy” (Stoker, 44-45). These women have no problem passing as human beings. Despite the fact that “all three had brilliant white teeth” (Stoker, 45) they otherwise had ordinary outward appearances.

            Likewise, Lucy can arguable been seen as a monster, but in a different way. Lucy received “three proposals in one day!” (Stoker, 64). Yet, she can only marry one of her three suitors. Therefore, she becomes a monster in the sense that she must break the hearts of two well-deserving men. Lucy even admits to her immoral behavior stating, “here was I almost making fun of this great-hearted, true gentleman” (Stoker, 67). While Lucy’s actions aren’t as life-threatening as Dracula and his fellow vampires, her refusal still causes “a man like that [to] be made unhappy” (Stoker, 68) because of her decision.

            In the end, what I’m really try to say here is that these parallels reveal that the supernatural is not so far removed from humanity.

Brief But Lasting Impressions

While Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle on the surface are very similar, such as including a crime needing to be solved and a murder mystery in the works, the differences are even more apparent between the two novels. Immediately, readers can see that the methods of detectives Robert Audley and Sherlock Holmes are strikingly different. Already, within the first few pages, Sherlock Holmes is connecting pieces together; while Robert Audley managed to beat around the bush for the majority of our previous read.

Therefore, it is best to cite a similar detail that brings the two novels together. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, readers first learn about Sir Charles Baskerville when they hear of his death. Barely anymore information is given about the man that doesn’t surround this incident. Yet, “though Sir Charles had resided at Baskerville Hall for a comparatively short period his amiability of character and extreme generosity had won the affection and respect of all who had been brought into contact with him” (Conan Doyle, 16).

This instance immediately reminded me of Lady Audley. Though she was only seen in glimpses by many around her, she was still loved and admired by all, initially. For example, “she had appeared at several public balls at Chelmsford and Colchester, and was immediately established as the belle of the country” (Braddon, 56). Lady Audley was only seen at these public affairs for a brief time, yet she left a favorable aura, much like the brief stay Sir Charles had amongst his company. With that being said, it will be interesting to see if the opinion readers have of Sir Charles changes as the plot progresses, as they did with Lady Audley.

Animal Instinct About Lady Audley

“Lady Audley happened to enter the room at this very moment, and the animal cowered down by the side of his mistress with a suppressed growl. There was something in the manner of the dog which was, if anything, more indicative of terror than of fury, incredible as it appears that Caesar should be frightened of so fragile a creature as Lucy Audley” (Braddon, 107).

 

This passage continues to reveal that Lady Audley’s true personality might not be the one she outwardly portrays to others.  The words, “cowered,” “terror,” and “frightened” (Braddon, 107) are all used to contrast and question the reaction of Alicia’s Newfoundland, Caesar, with Lady Audley’s “fragile” (Braddon, 107) persona. This juxtaposition of the aura Lady Audley gives off and the appearance she wishes to convey to others, raises questions of whether or not Lady Audley is genuine in her being. Lady Audley was previously described as having “the innocence and candour of an infant” (Braddon, 55) which makes  it strange that an animal should be fearful of a person as “fragile a creature as Lucy Audley” (Braddon, 107). The binary of sincerity vs. façade is once again brought up. This passage further reveals that Lady Audley is not as innocent as she wants people to believe. Caesar is “terror[ified]” when she enters the room after previously “roll[ing] his eyes” (Braddon, 107) and appearing calm. It was only after Lady Audley’s entrance that his personality changed. It is unknown what specifically sparks the change in the dog, but the reader can infer that the presence of Lady Audley has caused a disturbance. Dogs are often said to be a good judge of character, which makes the reader even more skeptical of this scenario. In the next chapter, Robert Audley also mentions “a change!” (Braddon, 121) that Lady Audley has brought about. As the novel progresses, readers continue to see the responses of and to Lady Audley that seem odd and out of place. This adds to the question of who Lady Audley actually is and what is her secret?

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