Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The 1920 silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by John S. Robertson and starring John Barrymore exemplifies science fiction and gothic terror genre conventions such as reason taken to the extremes, imprisoning spaces, and alter egos. Set in the Victorian era, Dr. Jekyll naively seeks to separate the two natures of man into distinct bodies. In the story, the laboratory serves as a home to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because it is the only location that knows and houses both identities. In line with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Thesis V “The Monster Polices the Border of the Possible,” the laboratory represents a monstrous pursuit of forbidden knowledge that exceeds natural boundaries. The limited access to the laboratory signifies a boundary between the outside world and the scientific world, the normal and the monstrous. Additionally, the physical walls and locked doors of the laboratory act as a veil, cloaking Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s secrets from notice by others. Inside the laboratory, the long mirror emphasizes the theme of dual identities, and the cluttered mis-en-scene, a wall full of chemical containers and bottles, symbolizes the façade of scientific objectivity. Within the film, the laboratory becomes a heterotopia, a space where Dr. Jekyll locks himself from the outside world to pursue scientific knowledge that goes against societal norms. The space of the laboratory witnesses the scientific separation and abject birth of Mr. Hyde from Dr. Jekyll. Moreover, the consequences of science and Dr. Jekyll’s illicit endeavors in the laboratory ultimately consume both his and Mr. Hyde’s intertwined lives. Consequently, the laboratory is monstrous because the space perverts the idea of a home and corrupts Dr. Jekyll’s reputation as a professional man. The significance of Dr. Jekyll entering from the front door and leaving through the backdoor as Mr. Hyde demonstrates the monstrous and transformative nature of the laboratory setting.


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Saposnik, Irving S. “The Anatomy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 11.4 (1971): 715. CrossRef. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “The Character in the Veil: Imagery of the Surface in the Gothic  Novel.” PMLA 96.2 (1981): 255. CrossRef. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.


One response to “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  1. I thought your focus on Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory as space where all scientific discoveries and experimentation could take place, away from the public eye, was very fascinating because it emphasizes the unnatural being born or created in a secluded place, separate from society. My character, the Green Goblin, also came about after his alter ego locked himself in his private laboratory, trying to control his urge to fully transform into his villanous side in order to avoid soceital uproar. Setting plays a major role in the effectiveness of a story and I think you did a great job of explaining why it was so important!

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