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Comparing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Sign of Four

Powerful Essays
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde “has left such a deeply painful impression on my heart that I do not know how I am ever to turn it again” -- Valdine Clemens

That which is willed and that which is wanted can be as different as the mind and the heart. The Victorian age in English Literature is known for its earnest obedience to a moralistic and highly structured social code of conduct; however, in the last decade of the 19th Century this order began to be questioned. So dramatic was the change in thought that Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (published in 1883) and Doyle's The Sign of Four (published in 1890) can be used to display this breaking away from strict social and moral standards. Stevenson's character Mr. Utterson can be used to personify the earnest social morality that the Victorian age is known for, while Doyle's protagonist Sherlock Holmes personifies the shift to more individualistic pursuits. In their search for answers, Mr. Utterson and Sherlock Holmes exhibit very different motivations for investigating: the fulfillment of social and moral obligations, and personal satisfaction, respectively. This can be shown by comparing and contrasting these two characters' reasons for getting involved, their methods of dispensing information during their investigations, and their results at the cases' conclusions.

The characters' actions in the first paragraphs of each of these works is very revealing; Sherlock Holmes is injecting himself with cocaine and Mr. Utterson is described as having resisted the theater (that he enjoys) for over twenty years. From these beginnings, it is obvious who the pleasure seeker is and who adheres to a strong sense of morals. Although Mr. Utt...

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... Valdine. The Return of the Repressed: Gothic Horror from The Castle of Otranto to Alien. Albany: State University of New York, 1999. Print.

Doyle, Conan. The Sign of Four in The Complete Sherlock Holmes Barnes & Noble, Dayton, New Jersey, 1988.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales Of Horror. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Works Consulted

Charyn, Jerome. “Who Is Hyde?” Afterword: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bantam Books. Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1981. 105-114.

Hume, David. “Of Moral and Social order.” An Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels and Robert C. Solomon. 4th ed. Harcourt College Publishers, 2000. 348-352

Mighall, Dr. Robert. A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction: Mapping History’s Nightmares. Oxford University Press, 1999. 166-209.
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