The Societal Norms of the Victorian Era

The duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde represents the implications of a highly judgmental society in the Victorian era. Throughout the Victorian era, England was predicated on class and social status. Peers judged each other constantly by these aspects, and it made people act differently compared to their true nature. For instance, Dr. Jekyll stated, “I was born in the year 18— to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellowmen, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honorable and distinguished future” (Stevenson, “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”). From a young age, Dr. Jekyll was clearly concerned about the opinions of his peers, especially since he came from wealth. It shows how concealing his true nature resulted in his duality of life.
The judgments made people live two different lives in the public and private spheres. On the one hand, there would be well-respected citizens like Dr. Jekyll. On the other, there would be a person full of temptations and bold actions like Mr. Hyde. For instance, Dr. Jekyll said, “The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed” (Stevenson, “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”). Dr. Jekyll is saying part of himself or his own nature, has been suppressed, and due to the suppression of his nature, he has ended up creating an evil half of himself. The suppression of one’s true nature that Dr. Jekyll experienced was not uncommon in the Victorian era. It is the reason many people live dual lives in private and public spheres. Duality can not only explain Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but also the duality of many gothic characters through the social norms and class of the Victorian era.

A Sense of Danger

Dracula has been popular since the day it came out because of the threat of death in the battle of good versus evil. Lots of people adhere to scary movies or Halloween for similar reasons. The first step is having a sense of darkness, and in Dracula, the dark figure is Dracula. When characters are around these dark figures, like a vampire that drinks people’s blood, it gives the reader anxiety and pushes them to keep reading to find out if the character can survive. For example, when Jonathan Harker contemplated his escape from imprisonment, he stated, “I determined then and there to scale the wall again and gain the Count’s room. He might kill me, but death now seemed the happier choice of evils.” (Stoker, Chapter 4). In these moments, the reader is glued to the book because people tend to imagine what they would do in the same situation. For example, readers might ask themselves, how would I escape? or I wonder if Dracula will catch him. 

The thought of not knowing what will happen next is what allows Dracula and many other stories like it to succeed. However, in order to establish the anxiety that keeps readers attacked, there has to be a display of evil to begin with. For instance, in Dracula’s attack on Lucy, Dr. Seward states, “the flowers which had been round her neck we found upon her mother’s bosom, and her throat was bare, showing the two little wounds which we had noticed before, but looking horribly white and mangled” (Stoker, Chapter 12). The reader is constantly exposed to the descriptive language of Dracula’s attacks, allowing them to have a great sense of the danger Dracula poses. Moments of violence from Dracula and other vampires create suspense and uncertainty for the reader, which allows the Novel to become exciting and popular. 

Motivation Through Faith

Van Helsing takes his role as a leader throughout the book and is the perfect opposite of Dracula. Whether he uses his knowledge of hunting vampires or saving humans, Van Helsing always seems to be at the front of goodness. Van Helsing believes it is the job of men to stop evil. For instance, Van Helsing said, “A brave man’s blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble. You’re a man and no mistake. Well, the devil may work against us for all he’s worth, but God sends us men when we want them.” (chap 12; p 160). This passage certainly indicates Van Hesling’s idea of gender roles, but it also represents the influence religion has on him. Firstly, he uses “devil” and “god” in the same sentence, which reflects how much he thinks about the duality of each. Van Helsing uses religion to create his moral code, and that code helps him lead others in the fight against evil. Not only does it help him navigate morality, but religion also helps characters physically defend themselves against Dracula. Van Helsing uses religion to motivate him in his pursuit of destroying evil and uses it as his defense throughout the book.

The fact that Van Helsing is motivated by Christianity makes him the perfect foe for Dracula. On one hand, there is an evil creature that is dead and feeds itself on the blood of humans. The creature is so dark it cannot even survive in sunlight. Dracula is the closest creature to a devil that anyone could conceive at the time, and on the other side is someone who is the complete opposite. He is a leader and healer motivated by God that is set to destroy evil, even at the cost of his own life. The only way to have a story with such a monster is by creating a great hero, and with the background of vampires, the hero in Dracula had to have religious motivations. The theme of good versus evil, or God versus the Devil, is critical for the book and is seen almost everywhere.

Everyone Loves a Puzzle

“Dr. Grimesby Roylott’s chamber was larger than that of his step- daughter, but was as plainly furnished. A camp bed, a small wooden shelf full of books, mostly ofa technical character, an arm-chair beside the bed, a plain wooden chair against the wall, a round table, and a large iron safe were the principal things which met the eye. Holmes walked slowly round and examined each and all of them with the keenest interest.” (Doyle, p. 145).

The passage explains Holmes as he examines Dr. Grimesby Roylott’s chamber. Roylott has already built up a strange reputation throughout the story, and this is one of the first times Holmes has really started to examine his belongings. Everything about Roylott’s room would suggest nothing alarming. He has a large, neat room that is described as “plainly furnished”(Doyle, p. 145). Nothing about Roylott’s room would stand out to the average person. For instance, everyone sees the furniture, a bookshelf, and thinks nothing of it. Contrarily, Holmes walked slowly through the room and examined every object as if it were the clue that would solve the mystery. Instead of seeing a plain room, Holmes finds objects that seem normal but are really out of place after his examinations.
The passage does more than just explain how Holmes examined Roylott’s room. It highlights the exact reason people find Holmes interesting. Everyone loves to solve the puzzle. Nobody is better at solving the puzzle than Holmes. The passage gives a scenario in which the regular person would think nothing of, but since Holmes takes an interest in Roylott’s room, the reader grows suspicious. Now that Holmes has helped the reader by directing their attention, the reader is now actively trying to solve the case with Holmes. Holmes engages with the audience in this manner numerous times throughout the book, and it keeps the audience enticed with the story. It is passages like the one above that give the Sherlock Holmes stories so much success because they allow the audience to play detective with Holmes.

A Bad Detective

Quote: “My poor little Alicia,” said Robert, as tenderly as if he had been addressing some spoiled child, “do you suppose that because people don’t wear vinegar tops, or part their hair on the wrong side, or conduct themselves altogether after the manner of well-meaning maniacs, by way of proving the vehemence of their passion—do you suppose because of this, Alicia Audley, that they may not be just as sensible of the merits of a dear little warm-hearted and affectionate girl as ever their neighbors can be? Life is such a very troublesome matter, when all is said and done, that it’s as well even to take its blessings quietly. I don’t make a great howling because I can get good cigars one door from the corner of Chancery Lane, and have a dear, good girl for my cousin; but I am not the less grateful to Providence that it is so” (Braddon Ch. 16).  

The passage is Roberts’s response to Alicia after Alicia mentions her intentions of potentially marrying Sir Harry Towers. The demeaning manner in which Robert addresses Alicia sticks out the most in the passage. The passage explicitly states, “as if he had been addressing some spoiled child” (Braddon Ch. 16). Robert’s attitude is shown by how he addresses Alicia. For example, when he says, “My poor little Alicica”, or “Do you suppose because of this, Alicia Audley,” he treats her the same way a parent would address their child. Roberts’s mannerisms not only show he responded most rudely but also relate to how bad of a detective he is. Throughout the novel, Alicia makes numerous attempts to show Robert her true feelings. Alicia has the chance to marry a wealthy man, but she still wants to be with Robert, and she is giving Robert one more shot. Robert, like many other times throughout the book, has no idea what is really going on. His below-average detective skills do not pick up Alicia’s intentions, so he treats Alicia as no more than his little cousin. It might be crazy, but this passage might show a growing frustration from Robert. Robert has a lot going on in his life, and since his feelings for Alicia are not mutual, he probably feels like Alicia is distracting him in a way. He cares about his cousin but does not want to deal with her drama. Therefore, he grows frustrated with her and does not treat her respectfully.