Mary Shelleys Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevensons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are two horrific tales of science gone terribly wrong. Shelleys novel eloquently tells the story of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a living monster out of decomposed body parts, while Stevensons 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 Victors utter shock and abandonment of the project. When Victor notices the creatures 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. Frankensteins abandonment, Dr. Jekyll finds his experiment intriguing even after the initial experiment had occurred. Dr. Jekyll claims, I knew myself, at first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine (Stevenson 107). Here, Henry Jekyll displays his awe and wonder of his new discovery. He feels a sense of power and overwhelming wickedness. From the quotation, it seems appropriate to conjecture that Dr. Jekyll was enthusiastic about testing out his new creation, as if he were a child and it a toy. Here, is another difference between the two doctors.
Dr. Frankenstein (after realizing what he has done) halts all of his experiments and does away with his laboratory-anything to get his mind of his terrible creation. He travels around, always watching his back expecting his creature to be there. Dr. Frankenstein has many qualities of the classic Byronic hero; a character that shows romanticized sorrow and pity for himself. . . . I am a blasted tree, he says, the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit what I shall soon cease to be-a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others and intolerable to myself (Shelley 153).
In this quotation, he shows romanticized self-pity and remorse for what he has created. Victor calls himself a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity. By this he feels his life is over; he can no long face the world a decent man. Dr. Jekyll, on the other hand, like a child, is thrilled with his new discovery and wishes to tamper and explore even further with his potion. Dr. Jekyll, unlike the remorseful Victor Frankenstein, shows no sign of abandoning his work: . . . I was conscience of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome (Stevenson 108).
As Dr. Frankenstein had a realization that his actions were wrong, Dr. Jekyll does not. I stretched out my hands, exulting in the freshness or these sensations, he says (Stevenson 107). To Jekyll, the experiment is similar to starting a new life. He was thrilled with the idea of being someone else, or another part of himself. Despite the differences in initial response and action toward their creations, the two doctors have an unparalleled curiosity and ego to surpass human limitations in the scientific realm. Dr. Frankenstein says, [life] and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world (Shelley 52).
Here it is obvious that his educated curiosity had propelled him into uncharted scientific territory. Not only his curiosity, but also his pride motivated him: . . . many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs (Shelley 52). Like Frankenstein, Jekyll too had a strong curiosity. In his Full Statement he says, . . . I learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these daydreams, on the thought of the separation of these elements (Stevenson 105).
Along with an unquenchable curiosity, Dr. Jekyll has an ego. He has hesitations about drinking the potion, at first, but his high self-regard impels him to carry on with his experiment: But the temptation of a discovery so singular and profound at last overcame the suggestions of alarm (Stevenson 106). Along with an abundance of curiosity and pride, the two doctors also lacked responsibility for their actions. For instance, in chapter 7 of Frankenstein, Justine is accused of Williams murder. Victor knows that his creature killed William, but remains silent.
He states, My tale was not one to announce publicly; its astounding horror would be look upon as madness by the vulgar. Did anyone indeed exist, except I, the creator, who would believe . . .? (Shelley 77). Frankensteins lack of responsibility caused the death of two innocent people. Similarly, Dr. Jekyll had a responsibility to tell the truth about the murder of Sir Carew. Instead, he burned evidence and took refuge in his laboratory. While, Frankenstein didnt speak the truth, Jekyll didnt bother with it.
He didnt make an attempt to clear himself or Mr. Hyde. In fact, he showed no remorse: Nor can I truly say I wearied of this beneficent and innocent life; I think instead that I daily enjoyed it more completely (Stevenson 117). More than irresponsibility, this quotation implies irrationality and pure evilness. Although Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Henry Jekyll have some strong similarities, they are distinct and unique characters. Frankenstein 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.