Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are two horrific tales of science gone terribly wrong. Shelley?s novel eloquently tells the story of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a living monster out of decomposed body parts, while Stevenson?s novel describes the account of one, Henry Jekyll, who creates a potion to bring out the pure evil side to himself. Although the two scientists differ in their initial response and action to their creations, there are strong similarities between their raging curiosity to surpass human limitation, as well as their lack of responsibility concerning their actions. These similarities raise an awareness of human limitation in the realm of science: the further the two scientists go in their experiments, the more trouble and pain they cause to themselves and to others.
In Frankenstein, Victor is extremely excited about his creation, but once the monster becomes animated with life, he is horrified and abandons his work. Dr. Frankenstein, upon seeing the reality of what he had created, had a moment of realization, ? . . . when those muscles were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as Dante could not have conceived? (Shelley 57). In the previous quotation, we, the reader, see Victor?s utter shock and abandonment of the project. When Victor notices the creature?s muscles twitching, his eyes are opened to what he has really done: ?Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance? (Shelley 57). He had not thought about the consequences of creating a being, only the actual task.
Unlike Dr. Frankenstein?s abandonment, Dr. Jekyll finds his experiment intriguing eve...
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...ankenstein is horrified of what he is done, whereas Jekyll seems to be virtually proud of his scientific accomplishment and murderous ruse. Both scientists discover that all of their pride and knowledge cannot conquer the unknown and unimaginable. For this and other reasons, despite their differences, Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll are both captivating literary characters that attempt to create and conquer the human mind. By investigating their similarities, we, as readers, critics, and scholars, can more fully understand the mode of scientific thinking and rationale in the nineteenth century. We also observe the consequences of two characters that overstep the bounds of reality and human conscience.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Penguin, 1983.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York, Penguin, 1978.
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