Is there another theme in Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde that goes beyond good and evil? If so, what is it? How can Jekyll be compared to people of his time in Victorian society? What did he represent in this society?
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Science competed with religion during the Victorian period as a way to explain life. This had begun a century earlier, but was taking on new importance as industry and science made new discoveries. One important aspect of science was Darwin's theory of evolution, which argued human beings had evolved from less complex organisms. Other scientists and social critics looked at poverty in the city and what they perceived as the decline of the British empire, and concluded that humankind were not evolving into something better but degenerating into something worse--Max Nordau was one person who wrote about degeneration. Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde reflects this controversy and suggests that the ability to degenerate is indeed very possible, and that science had the possibility of doing just this: ripping humans from the civilization they had built upon religion and turning them into primitive creatures, primitive in terms of not using religion for their foundational beliefs. Jeckyll can be seen as a reckless scientist, pursuing knowledge without contemplating the significance of God, not unlike the scientist in the novel Frankenstein written in the previous century.
Freedom is a theme in this story. Jekyll experiences a level of freedom by turning into Hyde. He is able to indulge his inner passions and desires that go against Victorian society and expectations.
Supernaturalism is another theme in this work. Jekyll goes against the natural law to create Hyde. Jekyll is in effect "playing god" by creating an alter-ego that reveals his dark side. This goes against the laws of God.
Jekyll goes against the typical Victorian expectation of gentlemanly behavior. One is expected to be reserved, scholarly, and religious. Jekyll realizes he has dark desires and great intellect, and with a certain element of smugness, creates a potion that will allow him to be someone else. While rationalizing that his experiment is in the name of learning, he recognizes that he wants to experience life outside of what he is expected to be. Most in this society would never take so much pride or hubris to experience this.
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