Faustian Deal In The Woman In White, The Picture Of Dorian Gray, And Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde

2414 words - 10 pages

The Faustian deal and subsequent fall is a common theme throughout literature, and with each new iteration sheds increased light on the character of the individual and of society. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson are all texts which exhibit the Faustian deal and descent, complete with Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles counterparts. Sir Percival Glyde, Dorian Gray, and Dr. Edward Hyde are all characters who are ultimately lead to their moral downfalls by their respective Mephistopheles counterparts. Specifically, the characters of Sir Percival Glyde, Dorian Gray, and Dr. Henry Jekyll fulfill and contrast the Faustian archetype, who are aided in their moral descent by their Mephistopheles foils, Count Fosco, Lord Henry Wotton, and Mr. Edward Hyde respectively. The characters of the different novels will be compared against one another and a discourse about what their varying motivations reveal about their respective moral compasses will be conducted. Among other vices the characters exhibit, vanity plays a prime part in their individual development. Vanity is a detriment on the individual, and serves as a driving force behind the three character’s motivations, ultimately leading to their respective downfalls.
At its core, the Faustian deal is a contract between an individual who aspires to be or achieve a type of greatness and a devil who enables the individual to do so at a severe cost. There are different versions, including the original German legend, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust and Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Most typically, as in the case of the titular Faust of legend, and more specifically as depicted in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the price paid is one’s soul. After the deal is struck, the individual wars with themselves about whether or not the right decision has been made. Oftentimes they engage in this self-conflict with the accompaniment of chiming voices such as Mephistopheles, an instigating demon, and the Old Man, a representation of conscious and repentance. Despite these fleeting moments of conscious, the majority of the time these Faust-like characters revel in their debauchery and take advantage of the seedy gifts, powers, and opportunities at their disposal. Typically there comes a point in each Faust tale where the character nearly follows the path of redemption, however circumstances or their feeble will prevent them from seeking a full soul-saving resolution. After this rejection they continue their journey of self-destruction until the time comes where they must face the consequences of their actions. The exact punishment varies from one Faust reincarnation to another, but most often, as in the cases of Sir Perceval Glyde, Dorian Gray, and Dr. Henry Jekyll, it is the damnation of their souls though death.
Faustian when used as an adjective implies a...

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