Student Question

What are the differences between the concerns in The Picture of Dorian Gray and Jekyll and Hyde?

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The primary interest of the main characters in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,is their preoccupation of keeping a social mask that shows to the world a flawless, innocent and even trusting face that will help hide the debauchery of heart and soul that exists within their bodies.

Dorian Gray and Henry Jekyll are man whose gifts bid them to be accepted into high society. Dorian is a dandy, the grandson of an aristocrat, a charmer, and an intelligent man who possesses everything he needs to be deemed "an eligible bachelor" of the highest class.

Henry Jekyll is an overachiever: Doctor, genius, professor, and philanthropist. He is the epitome academic and financial success. All who know him admire his wits and even tolerate his quirks. In the surface, there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in a man like Henry Jekyll. Why would there be? He spends his lifetime doing good for others.

However, both Gray and Hyde share a curiosity to experiment with sensation. They would do anything in order to experience something new, and out of the ordinary. They also share many weaknesses of the flesh, and many sins of the heart. Moreover, they do not regret them- they just need to figure out how to hide them.

In Gray's case, he simply leads a double life whose energy helps feed the dark forces living within his picture, and which make the picture, and not Dorian, show the true face of sin. As long as Dorian's face shows purity, he is expected to be pure no matter what he does.

Jekyll creates a potion that would enable him to become someone else within the same body: Mr. Hyde is able to do as he pleases while forgetting about it in order to avoid a guilt trip. Both men are doing nothing but deceiving themselves. None of them gets away with it- Fate catches up with those who pretend that it does not exist, or those who try to control it. It is because of their weaknesses that they cannot be strong enough to defend themselves against the coming ruin of showing the world a mere mask.  

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