The Imagination of Criminals in Victorian London in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  • Hiu Wai Wong Kaohsiung Medical University The Center for Languages and Culture No.100, Shiquan 1st Rd. Sanmin Dist., Kaohsiung City
Keywords: criminals, Cesare Lombroso, East London, Edward Said, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jekyll and Hyde

Abstract

In this article I write about the split of London described in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll, decent and belonging to the middle class, fail s to resist the transformation into Mr. Hyde, gross and belonging to the lower class. It represents the fear of the West Enders, who thought that the East Enders were uncivilized and threatening. In order to rationalize their fear, the West Enders imagined the East Enders as criminals, which corresponds to Edward Said’s discussion of Orientalism. In Orientalism, Said discusses how the West represents the Orient as the Other, and produces the category of the Orient grounded on a geographical framework of thinking. In much the same way, the story of Jekyll and Hyde demonstrates a narrative construction of the lower class living in the East End London as criminals. The influence of Cesare Lombroso’s theory of criminology present in the story serves as important evidence of the West Enders’ imagination. In Criminal Man (1876), Lombroso investigates the atavistic criminal, which illustrates the middle-class imagination of the body of the East Enders. Establishing the notion of atavism, Lombroso belittles the lower class by criticizing them as the demonstration of “regression to an earlier stage of evolution.” Examining the details of the geographical demarcation portrayed in the story, this paper hopes to elucidate the cultural imagination of criminals in Victorian London.

Published
2019-08-13