How Hyde, hides away

In the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, looking through the lens of how mental health was dealt with in the 19th century, Mr.Hyde’s name is apparent wordplay for the perceived danger of mental illness and how it has to be hidden from society. So far in the text, Mr. Utterson wants to stay out of the situation to protect Jekyll and conceal his condition; however, he is still very curious and begins to realize that the two men are hiding a secret. When Utterson’s clerk compares handwriting samples, he says, “There’s a rather singular resemblance; the two hands are in many points identical: only differently sloped” (Incident of the Letter). With this realization, they both suspect that there is more to Jekyll and Hyde than meets the eye, but to protect his friend’s status, he shuts the mini-investigation down with “I wouldn’t speak of this note, you know” (Incident of the Letter). Utterson has an underlying yearning to know more about Jekyll and Hyde. Still, he does not want to implicate or be associated with anyone considered abnormal by Victorian standards. As we know from other 19th-century texts, such as Lady Audley’s Secret, locking up individuals who defy social norms, such as having perceived or exaggerated mental health conditions, was commonplace, and that could be why Utterson wants to remain silent. All of these quotes further emphasize the careful choice of Hyde’s name to continually reinforce how severely stigmatized mental health was in the 19th century. In this context, the word “hide” means to conceal a secret, and Hyde himself is secretive, mysterious, and viewed as a pariah by those interacting with him. The 19th-century ideas surrounding mental health made seeking help and discussing preventive measures difficult, if not impossible. 

Lucy’s death is Mina’s gain: How the group learned from failure

As the book progresses, the group’s methods change with the prior knowledge they gained from their failed scientific attempts to stop Lucy’s transformation to more religious methods to stop Mina’s vampirism. When Lucy was turned into a vampire, she fell ill suddenly, and everyone else desperately tried to save her while lacking the knowledge to identify what was happening to her. This time, the group knew and could discover and then attempt to reverse Mina’s transformation. They do this with Van Helsing’s assistance, “As he had placed the Wafer on Mina’s forehead, it had seared it—had burned into the flesh as though it had been a piece of white-hot metal” ( Chapter 22). As prior experiences have influenced them, they used a Catholic method as their determinant, and the pain Mina is feeling is the confirmation to everyone that her transformation is in progress. Whereas with Lucy, they used a medical approach that failed spectacularly. Going back to Mina’s current fate in the second half of the quote, Jonathan states, “My poor darling’s brain had told her the significance of the fact as quickly as her nerves received the pain of it, and the two so overwhelmed her that her overwrought nature had its voice in that dreadful scream.” (Chapter 22). This further reinforces their suspicions and has them all accepting that Mina is becoming a vampire, and now they have to try new methods to save her from Lucy’s demise.

19th century gender roles and how they royally screw over women

My claim about Dracula is through the lens of the 19th century, and it is that when women are perceived to have power, which is equivalent to control over their future, it eventually backfires and leads to a perception of malignance by society. In other words, when a woman has the slightest power, she is seen as dangerous and a threat to social construction. This is also a direct commentary on how 19th-century gender roles stifle women. Lucy is an example of this. She starts in the book with excitement about her newfound power, illustrated by this quote: “Oh, Mina, I am so happy that I don’t know what to do with myself. And three proposals!” (Chapter 5). Marriage in the 19th century is often the only way women can begin to feel powerful. Marriage meant that women were socially protected and, in some cases, elevated to a higher social status. In Lucy’s case, she chose Arthur, who is a Lord, so she gets both benefits of marriage. However, as the novel continues, she falls ill, and her agency over her body and mind slips away until she meets her untimely end. This is a direct attempt to strip her of her last choice: to live. While she had perceived control over her decisions with the marriage proposals, I argue that she never had agency over all aspects of her life. Her sickness is a metaphor for how society punishes women when they have power over themselves. As the text continues, Lucy is lying on her deathbed; she is seen with “Pale gums, drawn back made the teeth look longer and sharper than ever” (Chapter 12). This is a direct characteristic of vampirism and illustrates how even though she is portrayed as a frail young woman, she bores the mark of her punishment in the form of fangs. This is further evidence that women who do not fit stereotypical gender roles are seen as participating in horrifying breaks of social conventions. It also suggests that if a woman desires to have agency, they must be seen as less than human by society. 


Helen’s Deception

For this second blog post, I focused on Lady Audley’s secret and this quote, “‘Do you know my dear Miss Graham’ said Ms. Dawson, ‘I think you ought to consider yourself a remarkably lucky girl.’ The governess lifted her head from its stooping attitude and stared wonderingly at her employer, shaking back a shower of curls. They were the most wonderful curls in the world-soft and feathery, always floating away from her face and making a pale halo round her head…” (Chapter 1, pg 13)

When we first began reading this novel, I thought nothing was amiss with this quote; after all, Ms. Dawson is just complimenting her on how lucky she is that Sir Michael Audley is interested in her, when he could pick any other woman. Then I thought that Lucy’s confusion, highlighted by the “…Stared wonderingly at her employer” was due to her surprise that he seemingly wants to be with her. Now, with hindsight and having finished the story, while it could be true that Lucy (previously known as Helen Talboys) is surprised and doesn’t know what to do with Michael Audley’s desire, she is also wondering briefly why anyone would think she was lucky. After all, from Lucy’s perspective she isn’t very fortunate: her husband George left her to travel to find fortune overseas, leaving her with a young boy and in poverty. Her situation became so dire that she had to fake her death and assume a new identity after his abandonment. The second part of the quote draws attention to her looks: at first glance, the line, “They were the most wonderful curls in the world-soft and feathery, always floating away from her face and making a pale halo round her head” seems like a description to illustrate why Michael is attracted to her. The knowledge that Lucy has been lying about her identity and falsely using her childlike appearance to disguise the fact that she is this ambitious, cunning woman changes the interpretation of this reference. Throughout the text, she constantly seems to act angelic, even going as so far as to use words like “floating” and “halo” which further emphasizes her protected image of innocence . This is extremely ironic, as she is the exact opposite in reality because of her multiple deceptions throughout the story. These lines accurately foreshadow what occurs in the rest of the book. When we did the first discussion in class, even without the future knowledge of Lucy’s past, it was evident that she was hiding something, that the narrator was drawing our attention to her looks for a reason, and that it was not just a random description to add images to the lines.  

The possibility of Robert’s narration

“We hear everyday of murders committed in the country. Brutal and treacherous murders; slow, protracted agonies from poisons administered by some kindred hand; sudden and violent deaths by cruel blows, inflicted with a stake cut from spreading oak whos every shadow promised peace” (51). 

In class, we talked about the narrator possibly being Robert, and if that’s true, he seems like he put a lot of thought into this. He seems like he is going to or has committed a murder in the country in the past; if he has, he is describing what exactly he did word for word, therefore exposing himself. He comes off as a kind-ish person until he gets angry, which is where the “cruel blows” line could come from. Yet the first line suggests that even in anger, there is some enjoyment in the very act of murdering someone, almost like the art of it via describing the process. Furthermore, the repeated references to the kind of “sudden and violent deaths” and the different ways that they can be committed showing that he has put thought into the effectiveness of these methods. One section of the quote that attracted my attention was “Protracted agonies from poisons administered by some kindred hand.” If we are going with the idea that Robert is the narrator, he is saying that he has the intention or thought to poison someone, and that person would not expect it because it would be from a “Kindred hand.” Contrasting this, someone dying from a “Stake cut from spreading oak.” indicates his descent into more madness than a cold, calculated, murderous plan. Lastly, I honestly think that the last line shows his regret, that he reflected on either his past brutal endeavors or his dark,  murderous thoughts and how either one frightens him.