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Dr. Jekyll and Victor Frankenstein decided to push the boundaries of science and take the supernatural into their own hands. Both of the scientists’ experiments yielded creations that got out of control, but the men had very different intentions in mind when creating these monstrosities, as well as having opposite reactions to the fruits of their labor. Jekyll created Hyde, his evil alter-ego, because it allowed him to live out his repressed indecent desires without feeling guilty about it, and this gave him the sense of youth and power that he lacked while living respectably as Dr. Jekyll. Victor Frankenstein had no intentions of creating an evil being, and was horrified immediately after doing so. Dr. Jekyll planned to create evil, and was delighted to live a portion of his waking life as the wild and remorseless Hyde, hardly feeling guilty in retrospect. Frankenstein was simply trying to bring an inanimate object to life, and was not ready to act as the creature’s guardian when he succeeded, causing it to violently lash out in hopes of revenge.
The skilled scientists both pushed the limits of biological science, but for different reasons. Victor’s mother passed away due to scarlet fever, and this greatly upset Victor, likely sparking his interests in the possibilities of returning life to the inanimate. Jekyll was fascinated by the idea of separating the good and evil parts of the human personality, because he himself had both a good and evil side. He explained, “I had learned to dwell with pleasure. . . on the thought of the separation of these elements. . . If each… could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable” (Stevenson 91). He felt that “man is not truly one, but two” (Stevenson 90), and set out to create a monstrous alter-ego that would allow him to act on his unknown but self-professed, and repressed, morbid inner desires. Victor was scientifically ambitious, but did not necessarily have bad intentions, while Jekyll certainly did. Victor Frankenstein created a totally separate being, and did not plan on it being violent. The creature only turned violent after it did not receive the acceptance or nurturing that it required. Jekyll created another identity within himself. But it seems as if Hyde had already existed inside of Jekyll, and the potion that Jekyll created essentially allowed Hyde to finally appear uncaged free from any intervention of Jekyll’s morality after being repressed for so long.
Both of the scientists worked obsessively to create their respective monsters, but had very different initial reactions to their creations coming to fruition. Jekyll was delighted to transform into Hyde, as he explained, “There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and. . . incredibly sweet. . . I knew myself at the first breath of this new life, to be. . . tenfold more wicked. . . and the thought braced and delighted me like wine” (Stevenson 94). Turning into Hyde made him feel younger and stronger than his normal straight-laced, aging self. Victor was appalled by his creation throughout its entire existence, from the very moment that it came to life. This was surprising because of how incredibly hard he worked for months in order to achieve the creation of life. When first reading Frankenstein, it could safely have been assumed that Victor Frankenstein would be elated when he finally had success at completing his project. But this was certainly not the case, as it was when Jekyll was initially successful at transforming into Hyde.
The scientists’ experiments both had negative influences on the people around them, as both of their creations killed people. Victor felt remorse for the terrible things that his monster did, but apparently not guilty enough to come forward and tell people, because he was convinced people would label him as crazy. After Victor died, even the monster himself looked back on his prior violence with regret. But Jekyll hardly felt any sense of guilt, because in his mind it was Hyde that did all of those terrible things, and he considers himself and Hyde to be two completely separate entities. Jekyll said in his farewell note, “Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. . . as the acuteness of this remorse began to die away, it was succeeded by a sense of joy” (Stevenson 107). He felt bad about Hyde’s actions for just a moment, and then took joy in realizing that he was safe from consequences by living as the unassuming Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll had evil intentions in mind when creating Hyde, while Victor did not appear to have bad intentions when creating what eventually became a monster, but started out as a pure and kind creature.
Victor Frankenstein seemed mainly interested in bringing life to the creature that he sewed together, but never considered what to do with it afterwards. He was obsessed with putting the parts together and bringing his project to life, but he did not intend on using the creation for any specific purpose once it came to be. On the other hand, Jekyll made the conscious decision to create Hyde in order to act on his desires without causing people to lose respect for him. Frankenstein was interested in the process and the discovery itself, while Jekyll was more interested in the actual utility of his creation, which he used to his personal advantage.
Frankenstein did not think about the potential consequences of his creation, whereas Jekyll thoroughly pondered the consequences beforehand, and figured that his pristine outer appearance would prevent anyone from catching onto the fact that he and Hyde are just two peas in a pod. He thought so far ahead into the future, that he created a will stating that in case of his death, or unexplained disappearance, all of his possessions should be turned over to Edward Hyde. This certainly drew some attention to Jekyll and Hyde’s mysterious relationship. Even though Jekyll does not seem to feel much remorse for Hyde’s actions, it is interesting that he makes an active attempt to fix some of the wrongs that Hyde committed. He may not feel all that terrible about Hyde’s wrongdoings, but it seems as if Jekyll does feel slightly remorseful deep down. Because otherwise, he would not have felt any need at all to go and mend some of Hyde’s misconducts, or make up for them by acting particularly kind and charitable when taking the form of Dr. Jekyll. While at the same time, Victor feels much more guilty about his creation’s violent attacks, but never steps forward or makes an attempt to prevent the monster from hurting anyone.
It is strange that Jekyll, the man with malevolent intentions from the very beginning tries to make up for Hyde’s wrongs, even though he generally does not seem to feel any sense of guilt, “Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde. . . but the situation was apart from ordinary laws. . . It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty” (Stevenson 99). Literally Jekyll does not even consider feeling remorse. While Victor, who did not have bad intentions when making his creation, watched an innocent girl get executed amongst other avoidable deaths and still did not admit to anyone that he had let loose a monster. Clearly Jekyll was not going to admit to anyone that he created a monster because creating Hyde let him live how he had wanted to all along.
Dr. Jekyll and Victor Frankenstein both experimented with the idea of creation, but Jekyll had malicious intent while Victor did not. Jekyll was happy that his plan worked and he was able to express his urges without feeling guilty about it. Jekyll did not feel very remorseful about Hyde’s actions because he considers Hyde to be a totally separate individual, when in reality he is just the darker side of Jekyll, lacking any ethical restrictions. These two stories are very different than each other, yet eerily similar in some ways. Both men created beings who continually became more powerful and violent, eventually overcoming their creators. The scientists were both excited about their experiments, but Victor was dealt a hand that he was not ready for, while Jekyll was more than pleased about finding the secret to separating the good and evil parts of his personality.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 1990. Print.
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