Emotional Aspects of Mary Reilly

Emotional Aspects of Mary Reilly

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Emotional Aspects of Mary Reilly

Throughout her tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Martin maintains some emotional aspects of the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, while discarding and replacing others. Although the subtleties of the emotions in Stevenson's novel are deeper than those of Martin's, they may still be found spotting the plot in all of the different characters. Stevenson's primary characters, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll, and Mr. Utterson, display the strongest emotions, and can be most easily documented and interpreted. Martin, on the other hand, swaps out Mr. Utterson as the primary character and replaces him with Mary Reilly, a housemaid living with Dr. Jekyll. Unlike Stevenson, Martin provides a very grand emotional display. Mary is plagued by several distinct emotions, and the thoughts and feelings of Dr. Jekyll are brought to light far more vividly than in Stevenson's text. By utilizing a deep connection to emotion in her novel, Mary Reilly, Valerie Martin nearly transforms the genre of the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into a psychological thriller.

Mary Reilly's emotions play the strongest role in Martin's novel. Since the Mary Reilly character does not appear in the original novel, it is difficult to compare her emotional characteristics to those found in Stevenson's novel; her point of view, however, can be loosly juxtaposed to the overall style of the narrators involved in Stevenson's novel. As previously noted, the emotions expressed by Stevenson are mostly implied, but they nevertheless carry a great deal of importance to the novel. As the Stvenson novel is told exclusively by upper-class characters and a narrator viewing only those upper-class characters, a great deal of detail is left out. The thoughts and feelings of Utterson, Lanyon, and Jekyll are all downplayed in a sort of "gentleman's modesty". Jekyll does not even reveal his chemically separated counterpart to anyone until desperate circumstances reqire that he release the information to Lanyon. Utterson masks his concern with his professional attitude, and Poole, Jekyl's butler, does the same. All of this masquerading begins to come to an end when at last the true identity of Mr. Hyde is brought to light. Until this point, the reader has only a few hints and his/her own thoughts to be guided by. In a plot-turning scene set in the street below Dr. Jekyll's open window, Jekyll tries to speak with Utterson and Enfield as they pass by:

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"But the words were hardly uttered, before the smile was struck out of [Jekyll's face] and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below. They saw it but for a glimpse, for the window was instantly thrust down; but that glimpse had been sufficient, and they turned and left the court without a word. In silence, too, they traversed the bystreet; and it was not until they had come into a neighbouring thoroughfare...that Mr. Utterson at last turned and looked at this companion...'God forgive us, God forgive us,' said Mr. Utterson" (40-41, Stevenson)

It is not explicitly declared, but the event witnessed by Utterson and Enfield is assumed to have been the begining of the phsyical transformation from Jekyll to Hyde. This brief section of the novel is one of few explicitly announced emotional passages. In contrast, the primary conflict in Martin's novel is actually based upon Mary's emotions.

Mary's emotions fall into two main categories: repressed feelings against her father, and repressed romantic feelings for Jekyll. It is of great importance to note that both of these involve some form of unhealthy emotional repression. This theme is one which was carried over from the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the original, the community of upper-class characters is the party which suppresses emotions. In Martin's novel, it is primarily the narrator, Mary, who denies her emotions. This theme is used in both novels to raise the level of suspense, and both finally result in an explosion of emotion. Mary's memory of her violently abusive father is introduced at the very begining of the novel. At this begining, Mary's feelings concerning her father would be described as fearful more than anything else. On page 41, Mary realizes during her rumination that her father is likely still alive somewhere. She writes, "And it come back to me again, as it did so hard this afternoon, that my father is alive still, even if only in my own poor head, that he was gone for a while and that somehow Master's kindness and interest has brought him back to life for me". The statement that her father had been brought back to life for her implies that that particular emotion had been suppressed for a long period. Again we see a similarity to Stevenson's novel enhanced by an infusion of emotion. Mary's fear of her father later on turns to hatred, and her release of emotion acts as a preview of how her suppressed romantic emotions toward Jekyll might later unfold. After attending her mother's funeral, Mary is informed by the former landlord that her father had appeared and expressed interest in making ammends with Mary. In a response of rational but slightly spiteful behavior, Mary rejects the landlord's attempts at a reunion and implores, "Promise me, sir, that you will not tell him where I lodge" (202). Just as Jekyll loses grip on his emotions during his uncontrolable transformations into Hyde, so too does Mary with her romantic attraction towards Jekyll. On page 245, Mary records an interaction between herself and Dr. Jekyll: "He held me so for a long moment while my heart was breaking and my eyes flooded over with tears...'My dear girl. How I have come to trust you as I trust no other.' When he released me I covered my face with my hands, for the tears were streaming down and I could not speak but only sob a word or two, 'Please, sir". Even when Mary experiences this outburst of fear for her master's safety, she continues to deny the importance of emotional expression, in much the same way that Utterson and Enfield did after witnessing the terrifying aforementioned physical transformation of Jekyll into Hyde. At the close of Martin's novel, Mary's suppressed romance with Jekyll finally reaches an uneasy climax. Mary creeps into the cabinet to locate Jekyll, and makes the discovery that Mr. Hyde truly is a transformation of Jekyll. Upon finding the body of her beloved master, Mary writes that she "lay down beside Master, covering us both with my cloak as best I could, for the floor was cold. I rested my head upon his chest and put my arms about his neck. I could hear my own heart in my ear and it seemed to be beating against his still one" (256). Mary's final emotional collapse parallels that of Dr. Jekyll in both novels, when he ultimately loses control over Mr. Hyde--a result of his yearning for freedom.

Jekyll himself is also the host for a significant emotional difference between Martin's novel and Stevenson's original. In the original, there is very little insight on his own thoughts. Martin takes advantage of the narrator shift, and uses it to give a more intimate understanding of "what makes Jekyll tick." Stevenson's outsider's view of Jekyll leaves more of the details to the imagination, while Martin allows him to become a far more important piece of the novel. Rather than simply seeing him as an emotionally distrubed man with failing health, the reader is able to look on as he reaches out to Mary during his eventual collapse. In a moment of openness, Jekyll confesses to Mary, "'I was thinking how dear your face is to me, Mary,'...'And how sad it would make me if I were never to see it more..." (221). Just as Mary's emotional confusion, this excerpt from Martin's novel aids the modern reader in feeling more for her characters than for Stevenson's. Stevenson's original novel certainly does not lack in emotion; Martin merely takes a different approach at engaging the audience.

With the emotional "enhancements" Martin has made to the traditional tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she was able to impart a deeper understanding of the desperation felt by its main characters. Mary's mental turmoil, her desire for romance, and Jekyll's futile attempt at an outreach all strengthen the novel by intensifying the conflict. Valerie Martin's redesigned novel accomplishes the daunting task of holding a candle to that of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson. Not only does it do this, but it uses emotions to put a spin on the plot worthy of a direct comparison to the original.

Works Cited

Martin, Valerie. Mary Reilly. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories. Philedelphia: Running Press, 1994. 10-77.
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