Williams, R., 2009. Marxism and literature. Oxford: Oxford
Wilde, O., 2010. The picture of Dorian Gray. London: Penguin
Stevenson, R., 1994. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London:
Rankin, I., 2018. Ian Rankin on The Strange Case of Dr
Jekyll and Mr Hyde online. the Guardian. Available from:
Accessed 26 Jan 2018.
Nordau, M., n.d. Degeneration.
Lacan, J., Sheridan, A. and Bowie, M., 2008. E?crits.
Goldstein, P., 1990. The politics of literary theory.
Tallahassee (Fla.): The Florida State University Press.
Eagleton, T. and Milne, D., 2006. Marxist literary theory.
Malden, Mass. u.a.: Blackwell.
Duggan, P., 2018. The Conflict Between Aestheticism and
Morality in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray » Writing Program » Boston
University online. Bu.edu. Available from:
26 Jan 2018.
Derrida, J., Lacan, J., Muller, J., Poe, E. and Richardson,
W., 1997. The purloined Poe. Baltimore u.a.: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.
Barry, P., 2017. Beginning theory. 4th ed. Manchester:
Manchester University Press.
Wilde, O., 2010.
The picture of Dorian Gray. London: Penguin Books.
1994. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London: Penguin.
Rankin, I., 2018.
Ian Rankin on The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde online. the Guardian.
Accessed 26 Jan 2018.
Nordau, M., n.d.
Duggan, P., 2018.
The Conflict Between Aestheticism and Morality in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of
Dorian Gray » Writing Program » Boston University online. Bu.edu. Available
Accessed 26 Jan 2018.
Derrida, J., Lacan,
J., Muller, J., Poe, E. and Richardson, W., 1997. The purloined Poe. Baltimore
u.a.: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.
Barry, P., 2017. Beginning theory.
4th ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Furthermore, to conclude, Both Wilde and Stevenson seem to
be stating that the existence of doubles was inevitable due to social pressures
and these doubles had psychological consequences that manifested in different
forms. “Each of us has heaven and hell in him” (Wilde 2010, pg150) “all human
beings as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil.” (Stevenson 1994,
pg73). The co-existence of dark and light was natural but the temptation to
overly indulge, born out of excessive restraint, as if bingeing in secret thus
it created an imbalance that had rippling effects.
In Wilde’s text it’s the transition to the sheltered life signified
by the ednic setting of Basil’s dwellings into the darker shady parts of London
such as the opium dens. Wilde at the beginning uses floriography to create the
mise en scene which cocoons the easily tainted Dorian who needs Basil (who is arguably
his super ego) to overt his gaze from the bad, “Just turn your head a little
more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy” (Wilde 2010, pg20). The direction in which he is urged to turn his
head can be read as a biblical allusion as good is aligned with the right hand
of God. However, Lord Henry (the id) is more influential, potentially because of
his higher social stature (Marxism). Thus, it results in Dorians demise as he
has expeditions into seedy places “exquisite poison in the air…grey monstrous
London…Sordid sinners” (Wilde 2010, pg48). The
setting is anthropomorphised making it more eerie and it foregrounds the heights
of indiscretions that Dorian will reach “There were opium dens where the memory
of old sins could be destroyed by the madness of sins that were new.” (Wilde
2010, pg176). One may say that this
outcome was inevitable as, according to Hegel’s idea of the dialectic which is
part of Marxism, conflicting forces forge new ideas or situations thus Dorians
natural innocence would have to morph into a sinful character linking back to
the previous assertion of Marx of being products of given situations (Barry
Another way in which doubles are portrayed is through a form
of pathetic fallacy whereby the protagonists’ essence manipulates the appearance
of their surroundings. In Stevenson’s text, the way in which the scientific infiltrates
the domestic “The quiet lamplight, a good fire glowing and chattering on the
hearth, the kettle singing its thin strain…never to the fire, the things laid
out in the quietest room…but for the glazed presses full of chemicals” (Stevenson
1994, pg56) shows the dichotomy between the natural and the synthetic. The description gives a sense of normalcy
however the semiotics juxtapose the deeds. The commingling of the scientific which
arguably was a method for Dr Jekyll to play God by attempting to alter human
nature itself and the homey environment can be interpreted as a way of Jekyll’s
seamless decent into darkness thus highlighting the binaries of good and evil.
The idea of this moral antithesis is further reinforced by the natural imagery “full
of premature twilight” (Stevenson 1994, pg45). The use of twilight is
significant as it is a time where day and night co-exist almost as if a border
between the two. This also highlights the close proxemics between the two and
the ease of tipping the scale onto one side. “This brief condescension to evil
finally destroyed the balance of my soul.” (Stevenson 1994, pg82) This links to
the Marxist Perspective as well as the psycho analytical reading as we see the
more docile that Dr Jekyll attempted to be to fit the societal mould to more
bored he became which meant Hyde was summoned more and more till the depraved seized
control. Arguably in psychoanalytical terms, Hyde is the id and Jekyll is the
superego but by separating the two he fractures the ego and unleashes a force
like natural disaster. “…All of a sudden he broke out in a great flame
of anger…clubbing him to the earth…hailing down a storm of blows.” (Stevenson 1994, pg30).
“Yes, life had decided for him-life, and his own curiosity
about life. Eternal youth, infinite passion, pleasures subtle and secret, wild
joys and wilder sins- he was to have all these things. The portrait was to bear
the burden of his shame: that was all.” (Wilde 2010, pg102).
The text follows the edifice of a classic tragedy as outlined by Aristotle and
this quote encapsulates the essence of its progression. The form of this phrase
depicts the trajectory of his dianoia and life. It announces his hamartia, a
supercilious and hubris nature instigated by his fixation with indefinite youth
and beauty. After the battering of his soul as part of the Faustian pact he
falls down a path of what Calvinists would describe ‘predestined damnation’ as his
existence spirals into a state of free fall precipitated by the divine.
Similarly, the language in the phrase becomes exceedingly hyperbolic after the hiatus “life had
decided for him-life,” where he accepts the absolution from the burden of
carrying the weight of his sins as the portrait would bear it all. This idea of
his tragic flaw being the cause of his behaviour can be supported by the assertions
of Max Nordau’s degeneration theory which states that ego mania and mysticism
were the two predominant factors that derived the kind of degenerate behaviour exemplified
by Dorian who lives a life of iniquity (Nordau n.d.). However, the analysing of
the Faustian pact and it implications introduces the notion of the other which is
ignored by the Marxism which is one of its criticisms and where it is lacking
within this reading as the other is, arguably, strongly present in Wilde’s
text. (Barry 2017).
Their actions were more so driven by the ideologies set by
those with power. We see the text reflecting a society where, as Marx said, “Men
and women make their own history but not in conditions of their choosing.” (Barry
2017, page 187) Furthermore, this links with the psychoanalytical reading
because this stance likens to Jacque Lacan’s mirror phase where definition of one’s
self is formed through the reflective gaze. (Lacan et al. 2008). Arguably the
protagonists are shaped by the reflection of themselves they see when they gaze
into the societal situation. This may be why Wilde chooses to use the artistic
symbolism of the aesthetic movement to illustrate his message as he is aiming
to usurp the power that political and social constructs had over ones
perceptions, ideas and behaviour. The movement aimed to enjoy art and all
things beautiful as art rather than interlocking it with an undercurrent of
hidden meanings and using it to exercise political philosophy which arguably
used to control the masses. This is can be seen by the lack of control Dorian
starts to feel the more he becomes aware of the consequences of having the
portrait. (Duggan. 2018)
Furthermore, as contemporary readers we begin to see a
rippling effect of the struggling within the upper class trickling into the
lower class and instigating an inner conflict. (Barry 2017) The social
commentary by both writers while being understood and received as a message of
the dangers in overly restricting one’s self and denying the existence of our
innate primal desires, would have received a ghastly critical response from the
Victorian audience due to the desire to maintain the purity they thought to possess.
One may say that we are more understanding due to modern findings that show the
capability of man to fall victim to their darker innate desires such as ‘Stanford
Prison Experiment’ and the cruelty displayed by those with power in Guantanamo
Bay and Abu Ghraib. However to take this stance is to imply they did not know
better which is arguably false as when we look at the commentary of Ian Rankin where he enquired
about ” Whether civilization was just a thin veneer” in relation to Stevenson’s
text and John Hunter (a preceding rendition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from the seventeen
hundreds) where John Hunter (a doctor and surgeon) was a highly venerated host
and member of society by day but procurer of “fresh cadavers” behind the very
home in which he paraded as a honourable member of society, all in the name of science;
we see the purposeful covering up of indiscretions which indicates the knowledge
between right and wrong. (Rankin 2018)
Similarly, in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the diminutive zoomorphic
depiction of Mr Hyde can be read as a accumulative manifestation of Dr Jekyll’s
(and thus Victorian people’s) fears. The use of the traditional gothic portrayal
of grotesque monsters is utilised but the level artistry and meaning is elevated
by incorporation of the psyche. One may assert that Hyde was a projection of Victorian
fears not only to be lacking in physical beauty but that their inner most
grotesquery could be seen on the surface. “Mr Hyde was pale and dwarfish He
gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation he had a
displeasing smile he had …. a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and
boldness he spoke with a husky whispering and somewhat broken voice all these
were points against them but not all of these together could explain the
hitherto unknown disgusting, loathing and fear which Mr Utterson regarded him.” (Stevenson 1994, pg23). The “unnameable malformation” and “unkown
disgust” indicates a subconscious instinctual recognition of a presence that
threatens the very foundation of their lives as Hyde is a representation of
characteristics that could usurp
any noble’s esteemed stature.
Within the texts we see the physical doppelganger being the
most ostentatious symbol of the double. The symbiotic duplicate is a tangible manifestation
the inner most corruption of the protagonists who are arguably social constructs.
Dorian and Dr Jekyll are members of the higher part of society, those who would
arguably be most affected by the stringent moral code as their fall from grace
would be more notable. One may then assert that the texts where aimed at the
bourgeoisie as a social critique about the lack of acceptance of our innate
duality which is heightened by moral monopoly. “Well as soon as you’re dry, you
shall be varnished, and framed and sent home. Then you can do what you like
with yourself” (Wilde 2010, PG 29). The lexical phrasing of this quote is
emblematic of the manner of life the Dorian, and Victorians in general indulged
in. The symbolisms depict the way in which they part took in less than
honourable activities in the privacy of confines (the frame) then glossed over
by a show of refinement (varnished). This runs parallel with the context with examples
of the middle classes going into lower class areas under the cover of darkness
to revel in the carnal wants at peep shows, brothels and dens even if it be for
the brief time frame of the night. The peep shows of the Victorian era
demonstrate a type of unintentional representation as, once more, they were restricted in the extent
to which they could attain fulfilment, being damned to be voyeurs to those who dared
to transcend the boundaries set by the pretentious aristocracy.
In the Fin-de-siècle of the Victorian epoch there was a strong
essence of trepidation that had infiltrated and engulfed the society due to the
scrutiny they perceived from the rest of the world as well as from those at the
pinnacle of the hierarchal society. With the aggrandizement of the empire and
technological progression the Victorians felt a new fear make itself known, a figurative
entity that stemmed from social anxieties. This arguably is explained by Marx’s
model of society whereby the superstructure of ideas, culture, art and religion
(for the Victorians, the definition of morality, right and wrong and the
standard of good living) are determined by the economic base of material
production, distribution and exchange (acquisition by the empire of wealth and
goods) (Barry 2017). This can then be interlinked with a psychoanalytical
reading as both theories contain covert and overt spheres as well as one
(Marxism theory on class and mass control) having an effect on the other (the psychic
of fear). Marxism states that struggles between two classes and the
exploitation of one by the other leads to alienation (Barry 2017), and that would
have had an impact on the Victorians behaviour and psyche. This is arguably
where the social anxieties stemmed, fear of alienation in a society where the wealthy
nobility sat at the pinnacle of the hierarchy ruled with a moral iron fist. To
fall from their grace was to condemn yourself to a form of living death.
Solitude, isolation, out casting. That was the Victorians biggest fear, that
their hidden transgressions, their darker selves would have them deemed
unworthy. Thus, the inception of duality and doubles within multiple facets of