DR. JEKYLL AND DORIAN GRAY
Looks are not what they seem to be in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nor is the concept of evil that the two principal characters possess. The protagonists in these stories are alter egos; their public persona was an allegory of the “civilized” man of the Victorian era. Educated and refined, they possess what is ideal for the time. However, they have a deeper and darker side to them. They are the devils in disguise, coming out when either their image is threatened by an outside force, or by the result of an elixir.
By appearance, Oscar Wilde’s protagonist, Dorian Gray, was dignified and described as having angelic looks. His looks, obsequious manners and undying youth made him a favorite among London’s elite social crowd. But, underneath the heavenly facade was a demon obsessed with his vanities and decadent lifestyle. He would do anything to protect the lifestyle he had chiseled out for himself; even if it met murder. His “savior” was his portrait. As Dorian committed crimes – or grew older – the picture took the brunt of Dorian’s imperfections. Dorian Gray remained young and vibrant while his portrait became old and scarred.
A respected man of science, Dr. Jekyll lived an insidious secret life through Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde was his alter-ego. Whereas Dr. Jekyll was the calm, cultivated man, Mr. Hyde was the murderous rogue who haunted the foggy London streets at night.
If there is one unifying factor about the experiences of Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll, it is that the two men failed to conceal an ugly side of their nature, despite how hard they tried to. Their experience reveals that evil, in whatever form it takes, cannot remain hidden for long.
So, what makes a person evil? Evil cannot be defined in simple terms. Most often, it describes the negative attitudes and actions of a person. Among the actions considered evil is the ability to...