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Comparing Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde And The Sign Of Four

2131 words - 9 pages

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde “has left such a deeply painful impression on my heart that I do not know how I am ever to turn it again” -- Valdine Clemens

That which is willed and that which is wanted can be as different as the mind and the heart.  The Victorian age in English Literature is known for its earnest obedience to a moralistic and highly structured social code of conduct; however, in the last decade of the 19th Century this order began to be questioned.  So dramatic was the change in thought that Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (published in 1883) and Doyle's The Sign of Four (published in 1890) can be used to display this breaking away from strict social and moral standards.  Stevenson's character Mr. Utterson can be used to personify the earnest social morality that the Victorian age is known for, while Doyle's protagonist Sherlock Holmes personifies the shift to more individualistic pursuits.   In their search for answers, Mr. Utterson and Sherlock Holmes exhibit very different motivations for investigating:  the fulfillment of social and moral obligations, and personal satisfaction, respectively.  This can be shown by comparing and contrasting these two characters' reasons for getting involved, their methods of dispensing information during their investigations, and their results at the cases' conclusions.

            The characters' actions in the first paragraphs of each of these works is very revealing; Sherlock Holmes is injecting himself with cocaine and Mr. Utterson is described as having resisted the theater (that he enjoys) for over twenty years.  From these beginnings, it is obvious who the pleasure seeker is and who adheres to a strong sense of morals.  Although Mr. Utterson, a rational, respectable and reserved lawyer, is described as a devotee of the live and let die philosophy, his sense of righteousness is disturbed by the uncommon request of a client's will.  Being a purveyor of the law, he is in the position to oversee many "downgoing men" (Stevenson 1) and functions as an inspirational example of the refinement attributed to the upper class of which he is a member.  However, Mr. Utterson is troubled when Dr. Jekyll, also a member of the upper class, wills his property to a then-unknown Mr. Hyde.  He is "offended ...both as a lawyer and as a lover of the sane and customary sides of life, to whom the fanciful is immodest" (6).  Utterson does not, however, pry into the affair until the inheritor is described as monstrous.  This further demonstrates his sense of social obligation.  Before hearing the story that Mr. Hyde trampled a young girl, Utterson is able to restrain his first impression of Dr. Jekyll's decree; but upon hearing the reputable account, he can no longer ignore his sense of social and moral obligation to make things right.  Utterson suspects that blackmail is the reason for the atypical will, and whether for the purpose of legitimizing the monstrous story or having...

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