A Study of Bodily Desire and Moral Struggle at the Fin de Siecle in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray


Jae-uk Choo

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This essay conducts a study of the relation or interaction between body and mind in the nineteenth century novels Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The focus here is on the moral issues raised by the interaction between body and mind, in particular, between body and desire and on the evolutionary issues raised by the transformation and mutation of the body observed in the novels. It seems that Charles Darwin's evolution theory changed not only the ontological status of the people, but also writers' concept of morality. A sense of morality had been deeply rooted in the unconsciousness of the Victorian people for a long time, but the theory began to pull down the solid wall of the moral consciousness. Gray's and Jekyll's attitudes toward life have degenerated slowly but surely. In a sense, the driving force of evolution comes from each individual's desire to survive. The desire is so influential to humans' and nonhumans' lives that it works as a fundamental power sustaining them in social, cultural, and natural environments. Each individual's desire interacts with his or her body in a certain way, which in return responds quickly to the desire. Besides the generally accepted notion that humans are faithful to the instinct and desire, the other law of nature that exercises influence over them is Darwininan evolution to survive, reproduce, and thrive, regardless of morality, in any social and cultural environment. As examined in this essay, nevertheless, it is well revealed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray that Jekyll and Gray seem to live on, simultaneously suffering from, and struggling against, the immoral desires and laws.


I. Introduction
 II. Desire and Restriction in the Fin de Siècle Culture
 III. Evolutionary Mutation Through Corruption and Embodied Desire
 IV. Conclusion
 Works Cited


  • Jae-uk Choo Chung-Ang University


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