Comparing Dual-Self Characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Study in Scarlet and Sign of Four
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Dual-Self Characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Study in Scarlet and Sign of Four
The character, Jekyll/Hyde, from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Lewis Stevenson, and the characters Bartholomew and Thaddeus Sholto from A Study in Scarlet and Sign of Four, written by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, exhibit dual-self characteristics. The Jekyll/Hyde and Sholto twin characters have many strong similarities as well as distinct but related differences. Interestingly, many of the areas of differences are ultimately the most vital aspects of the characters.
The premise of the dual self quite probably has its roots in the waking field of science and the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species. There was an upsurge in discoveries that made people of this time-period realize that there was a great deal they didn't know or understand. Also adding to this anxiety was the prevalence of disease, an aging Monarchy, and the shifting hierarchy among the classes. Changes in society and the fears that plague a society eventually find their way into literature, as witnessed in both of these texts.
When Mr. Utterson and Dr. Jekyll are first together in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson describes Dr. Jekyll as, "-a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast, perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness-- (12)." We are also told that Dr. Jekyll has a handsome face (13). Through the text, we learn that Dr. Jekyll was a hardworking, likable gentleman with a deep interest in science.
Unfortunately, Dr. Jekyll had a strong desire to "perfect" himself by splitting his good qualities from his bad by separating himself into two separate identities:
It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both [. . .] If each, I told myself, could be but housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.