Doubles English Literature

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In two novels, “Jane Eyre” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” we are introduced to the term doubles. Doubles are two different characters that are act and think alike, representing each other in one way or another. In “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Dr. Jekyll turns into a man named Edward Hyde, after taking some of the potion he has invented, making them the same person not two different ones. Mr. Hyde is like the monster hidden deep down inside Dr. Jekyll, waiting to get out and destroy everything in its way. In “Jane Eyre,” Bertha Mason is considered to be Jane's double. Unlike in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Bertha and Jane are not the same person, but Bertha represents Jane's dark, twisted side.

In “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” we are introduced to the doubles, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In Jekyll's view, every soul contains elements of both good and evil, but one is always dominant. In Jekyll's case, his good side is dominant, but he knows there is evil inside of him. Dr. Jekyll is a very nice person, a good caring friend, a kind of person that wouldn't hurt a fly so he cannot fulfill his evil desires. Hyde represents all the bad things inside Dr. Jekyll, all the darkness inside of him. Hissing as he speaks, Hyde has “a kind of black sneering coolness ... like Satan.” He also strikes those who witness him as being deformed, pale, and dwarfish. When compared in the cultural context of the Victorian era, Hyde might be comparable to Western culture's fascination with perceived "savage" countries and cultures, specifically in Africa and the West Indies, while Jekyll is the embodiment of English manners, pride, and high culture.

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Dr. Jekyll works to develop a way to separate the two parts of his soul and free his evil characteristics, which gives birth to Edward Hyde. Rather than separating and equalizing the forces of good and evil, Jekyll's potion only allows his purely evil side to gain strength. Because Jekyll is in fact a combination of good and evil (and not pure goodness), but Hyde is only pure evil. Thus, by doing simple math, the reader can see that there is never a way to strengthen or separate Jekyll's pure goodness. Without counterbalancing his evil identity, Jekyll allows Hyde to grow increasingly strong, and eventually take over entirely; perhaps entirely destroying all the pure goodness Jekyll ever had. But the issue of doubleness in this novel is resolved when Edward Hyde kills himself, thus finally releasing both Jekyll and Hyde.

In Jane Eyre”, the character of Bertha Mason can be viewed as both an external double and a projected double to Jane herself. Bertha is the violently insane secret wife of Edward Rochester; she is imprisoned in the attic of Thornfield Manor. Jane is full of vengeful, raging anger, and can thus find her literal double in Bertha. Bertha is like a manifestation of Jane's subconscious feelings — specifically, of her rage against oppressive social and gender norms. Her anger first manifests itself in the red room scene of the opening chapter, foreshadowing the aggression which Bertha is to act out later. The “fiend-like” Jane is threatened with being “tied down” in “bonds” if she will not submit to her oppression, just as Bertha is tied down after her attack on Rochester, her oppressor.

Jane's battle for acceptance within the patriarchal prison, in which she lives, however, necessitates a suppression of this anger. It is this stifling of her selfhood which generates the projected double, which will later actually emerge from Jane's psyche into a materialized separate entity - the stereotype of female madness. Bertha becomes the perpetrator of Jane's impulses, acting out the hidden rage which burns fiercely within her. Later in the novel, Jane declares her love for Rochester, but she also secretly fears marriage to him and feels the need to rage against the imprisonment it could become for her. Jane never manifests this fear or anger, but Bertha does. Thus Bertha tears up the bridal veil, and it is Bertha's existence that indeed stops the wedding from going forth.

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The issue of this doubleness in “Jane Eyre” is resolved when Bertha escapes her prison and tries to burn down the mansion, ending her own life. Unlike in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” she is the only double to die. After the destruction of her own dark double, Jane is able to attain equality and peace.

There is a couple of differences between Edward Hyde and Bertha Mason as doubles, the most important one being that Hyde and Jekyll were the same person and Bertha wasn't a part of Jane. The other different thing about them was that Edward Hyde is more violent than Bertha in the novel. Jekyll creates Hyde to separate his bad side from his good side because he thought it was necessary to unleash his monster once in a while; Bertha represents the rage against social and gender norms in Jane. For me, it is considered more of a similarity than a difference.

In “Jane Eyre” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” we are introduced to the doubles, two characters that represent each other in one way or another. Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jekyll's inner monster and Bertha Mason represents all the rage in Jane Eyre. These two doubles have a lot in common, but at the same time they have their differences. That makes the doubles unique and the novels interesting.

Works Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Signet Classic, 1997.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.