The Gothic Novels of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
The word 'Gothic', taken from a Germanic tribe, the Goths, stood firstly for 'Germanic' and then 'mediaeval'. It was introduced to fiction by Horace Walpole in 'Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story', and was used to depict its mediaeval setting. As more novelists adopted this Gothic setting; dark and gloomy castles on high, treacherous mountains, with supernatural howling in the distance; other characteristics of the 'Gothic Novel' could be identified. The most dominant characteristic seems to be the constant battle between the good and the dark side of the human soul and how that, given a chance, the dark side of human nature will gradually develop, through the actions of the character in question, until it has engulfed the good, and also raises the theme of suffering and isolation. Other keynotes of 'Gothic Novels' seem to be the misuse or abuse of technology. For example, science is used to create new beings, the characters turning against or abusing nature and/or God, where the character may take on the role of God, the forbidden attraction of evil, the thrill of the kill, and death.
The novels Frankenstein, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Confessions of a Justified Sinner all contain important truths about human nature and mankind. By looking into these three texts, I am going to explore exactly how they fit or do not fit into the various interpretations of 'Gothic' I have laid out.
The two most prominent themes in Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde are those of the 'misuse of technology'and 'the dark side of man and all its attractions.' These two themes are, in fact, directly linked with each other as it is as a result of tampering with unknown realms of science and chemistry that the double nature of Dr Jekyll is revealed. By drinking a 'magical' potion, the second, evil personality of Dr Jekyll is actually given a physical form of its own, rather than just a mental hold over Dr Jekyll and is named Mr Hyde. Mr Hyde is even provided with a dwelling place of his own in Soho, the outcast area of London. When this creature of darkness is first brought into being, he is small and fragile, and appears to be warped, although nobody who meets this Hyde can put his finger on this abnormality. As Mr Enfield says, "he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point." During the novel, however, the Hyde personality strengthens and develops, flourishing as a result of the fulfilment of his evil pleasures, which had previously been denied him without a body of his own, eventually overpowering the good side of Doctor Jekyll. This 'doppel-ganger' figure is typical of many other 'Gothic novels', including Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and is used when expressing the continual conflict in the human psyche. The setting of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde does not at first appear to be in keeping with the conventions of the...