To What Extent Is Stevensons Novel Critical of Science and Scientists? Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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During the 19th Century, science had experienced great expansion. The theory of evolution had been discovered and published to the public, proving the idea of human evolution from apes. There was the discovery of new elements in science, therefore allowing chemical reactions. A profession as scientists had become acceptable in society and was a well-paid job. In society, there was a vast struggle taking place in the minds and lives of the Victorians between the new and exciting advance of science.

However, scientific discoveries had its limits and traditional methods were usually practiced. Dr. Jekyll in Stevensons novel explores new scientific territory and pushes forward the frontiers of knowledge, therefore tampering with things he does not fully understand, resulting to heavy consequences. Stevenson agreed to an extent the way scientists were in the 19th century. His criticism was directed against scientists who did not know how to control the discoveries they make. Stevenson believes that scientists have a difficult responsibility to make sure their discoveries do not affect the natural ways of this world.

In Stevensons novel, his criticism is partly addressed to the theory of evolution. This is shown in the details of Hydes transformation and the comparisons between Jekyll and Hyde. Hyde represents the primitive man that human evolves from, while Jekyll represents the civilized human. Hyde had been created by science, therefore linking the work of changing a human being with science as evil. Hyde is described mainly with animal imagery, again linking him to Darwins theory of evolution. For example, when Hyde had murdered Carew, he was doing it with an ape-like fury and acted as a madman. Another example is when Mr. Utterson first encounters Hyde and taps him on the shoulder, Mr. Hyde shrank back with a hissing intake of the breath.

This shows Hydes resemblance to a snake. When Mr. Hyde leaves Utterson and enters his house, he snarled aloud into a savage laugh. This again links to animal like imagery. In the novel, science becomes a cover and reason for supernatural activities. There are many references to science in the language of the novel. For example, Dr. Jekyll apparently derives his potion in some sort of scientific manner, I compounded the elements, watch them boil and smoke together in the glass, and when the ebullition had subsided, with a strong glow of courage, drank off the potion., as opposed to finding a magical amulet or something that releases evil as you might find in other stories. There is also the usage of scientific terms such as elements, drugs, compounded, etc.

Anthropological criminology, also known as atavism, was first discovered in the 19th Century. It was able to suggest a link between facial features and crime. This theory was heavily influenced by the Darwins theory of evolution. The theory behind this hypothesis was famously researched by Cesare Lombroso, an Italian criminal anthropologist in the 19th Century. He and his followers performed autopsies on criminals and declared that they had found similarities between the physiologies of the bodies and primitive humans such as monkeys and apes.

Atavism is basically a theory that by studying peoples face and features, you can tell whether theyre a criminal or not, or if they haven any criminal origins. When linking this to Stevensons novel, Stevenson portrays Hyde as a test subject for Atavism. In the novel, he is shown as a man with many deformities that make people think hes evil at first sight. For example, when Uttersons cousin Enfield first casts a look on Hyde, I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight.

Enfield describes his features as something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. He continues saying, Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish; he gives me a strong feel of deformity. In Lombrosos research, he outlined many physiognomic characteristics which he and his followers believed to be common in all criminals, including unusually short or tall height; strong jaw line; small and sloping forehead; small head, but large face. Most of these features resemble Hydes features proving Stevensons link of Atavism to Hyde. They assume he is a criminal which is he is when he tramples the little girl or murders Carew. Hyde supports Atavism because of his looks. So deformities actually can be used to identify criminals, therefore proving Atavism.

In the novel, two types of scientific experimentation are expressed. One is the rational, materialist science which is practiced by Dr.Lanyon while the other is the mystical or metaphysical science which is pursued by Dr.Jekyll. When we first meet Lanyon, he describes Jekylls experiments as unscientific balderdash. Lanyon focuses on rational science and does not exceed its limits by experimenting out of the boundaries science has made. Jekyll, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He tries to work beyond the level of understanding he has of the advanced science that has been created in the 19th century. Stevenson makes Lanyon appear as a model of reliable good sense and decent friendship. This is because he works with sane and realistic science that doesnt affect the human nature.

Lanyon is an important character because, as a scientist and doctor, his disagreement with Jekylls wrong in the head ideas shows us that Jekyll is thinking and working outside of normal science. Jekyll is breaking the rules of science in the Victorian times. Unlike Lanyon, Jekylls natural target for experiment is the human body and mind. Since he wishes to study the mind in its most private workings, he has to use his own mind. Jekyll is prepared to risk his own life in carrying out his scientific experiment. The experiment he conjures is only for himself, for he exceeds the amount scientific knowledge he knows in order to enjoy illegal adventures in the darkness of the night. The fact that Jekyll ends up with death shows Stevensons criticisms on science. Hes saying that suicide is for those scientists who put society at risk and interfere in the human nature.

In conclusion, Steven did criticize scientists and science but it was to a certain extent. Stevenson was able to link his novel to the new advances of science that were happening around him in the 19th century. He was able to put his opinions and views about the new science theories that were being expressed. He did not criticize the advancements in science or scientists, such as the Darwin Theory or Atavism. He did not approve of science going wrong, such as research that can be destructive to the human nature and is immoral. His criticism was mainly against scientists who made discoveries that could not be kept under control in their own hands.

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