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Duality in Many Late-Victorian English Writers’ Works

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    Course: English 104 Professor: Kathleen McKalister Student: Jeanne Reeser Assignment: Formal Essay Duality In many late-Victorian English writers’ works, there appears this reoccurring theme of a “double” or “split personality” residing in one character. The “double” or “split personality” usually coincided with a specific historical event or social attitude during the time that the novel was written. The theme of the double in the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as in the contemporary film the Fight Club, represents certain historical events/social attitudes.

    In the following the theme of the double of Self-restraint (west/colonizer) versus Self-indulgence/Decadence (East/Colonized) is presented in the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, while the theme of the double of Capitalism (Representing Materialism) versus Socialism is presented in the film Fight Club and finally how this novel and this film differ as well as share similarities in the representation of the theme of the “double” or “split personality” in these three areas: the double is represented by a male, Fight Clubs duality differs in that it represent a historical ideology, and which were produced during two very different times.

    In the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the theme of the double that is present is Self-restraint versus Self-indulgence embodied in the person Dr. Jekyll. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote/published the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, around the year 1886 or during the Late Victorian era. During this era the society is dominated by this idea of self-restraint, self-restraint was seen as the mode in which one could have a successful life in the Victorian Era. Certain things such as drinking gin, going to the theater, etc. were seen as “evil” or acts of Self-indulgence in the Victorian Era and one must restrain himself/herself from these things.

    On the first page of the novel the word “undemonstrative” appears when describing Mr. Utterson the lawyer; this word is the essence of the Victorian culture. Everyone was very undemonstrative and polite in social interactions. Another good representation of the social attitude of the Victorian Era/period is a quote describing Queen Victoria (taken from an article in English class), “A powerful iconic image of queen Victoria features her covered from neck to toe in a heavy, but lacey and “feminine” gown that conceals all of the features of her body, her face is averted and expressionless. Stevenson’s life was somewhat of a paradox and deemed social unacceptable by many, tension arises in Stevenson life because of his parents expectations coupled with societal expectations of him and what he ultimately pursued throughout his life. According to Marget Livesey in her article, “The reason Stevenson’s is preoccupied with duality can be seen in even a brief examination of his life. ” (2) This reoccurring theme of duality or the double in many of Stevenson’s works is born out of this tension. In the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr.

    Hyde, the man Dr. Jekyll is split into two men, one representing self-restraint, the other by the name of Mr. Hyde represents self-indulgence. The novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde doesn’t challenge a prevailing ideology of the time but rather presents two sides of a prevalent social attitude toward proper male character. According to Cohen, “…political and economic assumption that (male) “character” unproblematically represents the embodied attributes of a male person and a gender ideology that qualifies masculinity as proper male character. (Cohen 2) Cohen states that there are certain “class-defined, nationally inflected gender attributes” that if men possessed in that society were considered, ““real” (a. k. a bourgeois English) men”. These “class-defined, nationally inflected gender attributes”, could all be boxed in a container called and labeled Self-restraint. The first part to the double appears as the social attitude of Self- restraint, it is mentioned on the first page, when Mr.

    Utterson declines from attending the theater, “…though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years. ” Here we see that Utterson doesn’t attend the theater because it is most likely viewed as culturally “unacceptable”. He also only “drank gin when he was alone. ” this could imply that theater and the indulgence of gin as well as other things were seen as unacceptable to the social norms of the Victorian era. Ultimately in the novel, Dr. Jekyll is seen as the model of Self-Restraint.

    The first element of self-restraint is seen on page 6 of the novel, Henry Jekyll is an educated man, “…Henry Jekyll, M. D. , D. C. L. , LL. D. , F. R. S. , &…. ” According to Livesey in her article, education was consider a “characteristic of real men”, “His parents were proud of his precocious literary endeavors, but it never occurred to them that their son would be a writer; he was destined to be a lighthouse engineer. To this end Louis studied engineering at Edinburgh University—very lackadaisically. (3) Along with education, In the following quote some of Dr. Jekyll’s “real men” characteristics/actions of self-restraint are mentioned, “ He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar quest and entertainer; and whilst he had always been known for charity, he was no less distinguished, for his religion. He was much in the open air, he did good…” (Stevenson 22) Dr. Jekyll’s life was one of self-restraint and many people looked up to him including Mr.

    Utterson, the lawyer and Dr. Lanyon. Further in the novel we see this slow decline of Dr. Jekyll and the other side of the double unfolds…self-indulgence/self-decadence. The first sign of Dr. Jekyll’s self-indulgence appears on page 20,” Henry Jekyll forges for a murderer! ” This action is considered unacceptable and we see how Dr. Lanyon reacts in the following quote, “I am quite done with that person; and I beg that you will spare me any allusion to one whom I regard as dead. (Stevenson 20) Closely following in the novel the second part of the double is self-indulgence, the first time this side of the double appears is on page 3 of the novel, when Mr. Utterson and his kinsman Mr. Richard Enfield witness a man and girl colliding on the street, “Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. ”(Stevenson 3). This specific scene in the novel portraits Mr.

    Hyde’s self- indulgence and disregard for other people, it is here that Dr. Jekyll’s identity is established to the reader as a self-indulger and the epitome of decadence. This side of the double takes the form of Mr. Hyde. Utterson and Enfield’s reaction to this situation represent the society’s acceptance or distain for this kind of behavior during the time of the novel, “…took to my heels, collared my gentleman, and brought him back to where there was already quite a group about the screaming child. This response to self-indulgence/Decadence is not accepted and that society as a whole does not look kindly on this behavior. In the following quote from Stevenson’s novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, another example of decadence is given, “ …and at that Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds, and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with apt-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot, and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway. At the horror of these sights and sounds, the maid fainted. (Stevenson 15). In this example we see that the moral decadence of Mr. Hyde regressing severely. His decadence was not limited only to violence but also drug abuse, “Dr. Jekyll presents his compliments to Messrs. Maw. He assures them that their last sample was impure and quite useless for his present purpose. In the year 18–, Dr. J purchased a somewhat large quantity from Messrs. M. He now begs them to search with the most sedulous care, and should any quantity be left, to forward it to him at once. Expense is no consideration.

    The importance of this to Dr. J can hardly be exaggerated. ” (Stevenson 30) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, two people residing in the same body, this theme of duality is not only found in many classics but also in many modern writings and film productions. The double that is presented in the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is one that deals with a prevalent social attitude. The film Fight Club presents a double theme or duality in regards to different forms of government and how it affects different aspects of society specifically Masculinity.

    The double that is present in the film is Capitalism versus Socialism. Edward Norton narrators the film as an anonymous insomniac, he is living the normal life of a consumerist. In the scene at the beginning of the film, the narrator talks about his apartment and all the furnishings he owns, “I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of… wherever. ” The narrator fills his life with the meaningless life of a consumer in a Capitalist society.

    The narrator, a business man who works for a car manufacturer exploring falaties and decides if the manufacturer His life style leads to insomnia, and he seeks to deal with his meaningless life. Edward Norton is a traveling Narrator: “You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person? Narrator “Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions. ”- Tyler Duden “By the end of the first month, I didn’t miss TV. ” – Narrator Most of the week we were Ozzie and Harriet, but every Saturday night we were finding something out: we were finding out more and more that we were not alone. ( there was more to life than the life of a consumerist. ) Film suggests that capalist hides your true selfl) It used to be that when I came home angry and depressed I’d just clean my condo, polish my Scandinavian furniture.

    I should have been looking for a new condo. I should have been haggling with my insurance company. I should have been upset about my nice, neat, flaming little shit. But I wasn’t. – narrator [looking at a Calvin Klein ad on a bus] Is that what a man looks like? Tyler Durden: [laughs] Self-improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction… Share this “With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two. – Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Chapter 10 The Narrator is a businessman who works for a car manufacturer. His job is to investigate fatalities caused by car malfunctions and decide whether or not it is the right move financially to initiate a recall. That is, if the lawsuits from the deaths outweighed the cost it would take to recall the defective cars, the company would recall the cars and vice versa. Obviously, not the easiest job to do with a clear conscious, so it is no wonder that he has trouble sleeping.

    In the text, the main character (the Narrator) is lead to discover his personal being, as well as a number of things in the world around him. Firstly, he discovers that his life angers him, and is constantly looking for a way to escape his boring job; he also discovers that his possessions seem to have some control over him. The Narrator has insomnia and nothing seems to cure him, except for when he discovers the support groups for people with terminal diseases (testicular cancer, brain parasites, blood parasites etc. after this he is able to get to sleep. He then finds Tyler Durden or, rather, Tyler Durden finds him. The Narrator wants Tyler to help him “hit bottom”, to rid himself of all possessions so he can search inside himself past all the commercialism status of the American male at the end of the 20th century. David Flincher’s movie, Fight Club, depicts how consumerism has caused the emasculatization of the modern male and tells a tale of liberation from a corporate controlled society.

    Works Cited Cohen, Ed. “Hyding the Subject? : The antinomies of Masculinity in the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. ” Novel: A forum of Fiction 37. 1/2 (2003): 181-199. Academic Research Premier. Web. 2 April 2013. Livesey, Margot. “The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson. ” Atlantic Monthly (10727825) 274. 5 (1994): 140-147. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. Stevenson, Robert. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York. Dover Publication, INC. 1991. Print.

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