The Double in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

Seminararbeit, 2003

17 Seiten, Note: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. The writers and their texts
2.1. Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus’
2.2 Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’

3. The Double
3.1. The Double in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’
3.2. The Double in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”

4. Comparison of the Double in Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

5. Sources
5.1. Primary Sources
5.2. Secondary Sources

1. Introduction

“The voices only speak to me – that’s why you are jealous”. This joke mocks someone hearing voices. In the modern world this circumstance is considered an illness which can be cured. However in former times, in the middle ages or even in the 19th century the people feared doubles or doppelgänger.

In literature the motif of the double can be traced back to authors like Sophocles in the ancient Greece, who wrote Oedipus Rex[1] in which he “raises the question of the extent to which Man can be entirely accountable for his actions since because of his human aspect he is here, while, at the same time, because of his superhuman aspect he is elsewhere”[2]. During the ages the double changed and evolved. Finally in the 19th century two great novels entered the world of literature with the effect of changing that world forever: Mary Shelley wrote her novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus which “has retained an undying international fame which places it in a class apart from its bloodcurdling contemporaries”[3]. Later in that century Robert Louis Stevenson published his novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which deals with a similar problem – the problem of the double. Those novels brought up many followers and imitators and eventually the genre of science-fiction[4].

At first this paper tries to give some information on the authors and their works. However its core is to describe the motif of the doppelgänger in both – Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – by discussing them separately and later by comparing them. The main sources which helped writing this assignment were Intimations of ambiguity by Juliane Forssmann and the two essays on the double in the Companion to literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes, edited by Pierre Brunel and in Elisabeth Frenzel’s Motive der Weltliteratur.

2. The writers and their texts

2.1. Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus’

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born as the only child of the philosopher William Godwin and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft in London in August 1797[5]. She met Percy Bysshe Shelley at the age of 17 and in the year 1815 she bore his daughter who died soon after the birth[6]. After the death of Shelley‘s wife they were free to marry in 1816 when she also bore a son. It was the same year when Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary joined Lord Byron and his wife Claire together with their personal physician “John Polidori at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva”[7]. During the visit they were all challenged by Lord Byron’s suggestion to write a ghost-story[8]. Due to this competition Mary had a “half-waking nightmare”[9] which inspired her to write the ghost-story out of which eluded Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, the “most enduringly famous of all Gothic writings”[10]. Encouraged by her husband she finished and published it in 1818. She bore another daughter to Percy Bysshe Shelley but only their fourth child, Percy Florence Shelley survived into adulthood. After Percy Bysshe Shelley had died in August 1822 Mary spent the rest of her life in London and died on February, 1st 1851[11].

Although Mary Shelley is broadly known today as the author of Frankenstein of the Modern Prometheus she was also a productive writer of “essays and reviews, travel books, mythological dramas, and numerous biographies”[12]. Additionally she wrote many short stories and edited some of her husband’s works[13]. Another aspect of her work are the novels following her masterpiece. She wrote the novel Transformation in 1831, which dealt again with a monster. Other mystical novels are The Mortal Immortal in 1830 or The Mourner which also include elements of “aggression, monstrosity, the double, and family relationships”[14]. Further novels not dealing with supernatural powers are Valperga in 1832, The Last Man in 1826 and Perkin Warbeck in 1830. The three novels named Mathilda which was never published during her lifetime, Lodore which was published in 1835 and Falkner, published in 1837, show Mary Shelley’s attitude for family matters and for the well-being of the family in the best ways[15].

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus is known as the most important Gothic novel “which not only inspired various stage productions […] [but it] received much critical attention”[16]. However it can also be seen as a “proto-science fiction”[17] due to the subject of human science exploiting natural sources and heightening human power over the forces of nature, thus creating supernatural powers artificially. Another aspect in view on Frankenstein is the aspect of “feminist criticism”[18] and the proclaiming of the “principles of liberty”[19]. Considering this broad field of views on Frankenstein it can be proclaimed that “Frankenstein is no meditation on historical, pictorial, or mythological terrors; its fascination and its power lie in its prophetic speculation.”[20]

2.2 Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born as the son of “middle-class Church of Scotland parents”[21] in 1850 in Edinburgh. Due to his weak health he was not able to pick up his ancestors’ and his father’s profession as an engineer, but became a lawyer in 1875 although he never worked actively.[22] In order to cure his lung disease he travelled around – first in Great Britain, from Scotland to England even during his studies.[23] During these journeys he met his later wife, ”Mrs. Fanny Osbourne, a woman ten years his senior”[24] in London. They married after her divorce in 1880 in America[25]. “In 1888 he took his family to the South Seas”[26] where they settled. After a short life – as a result of life-long illness – he died on December, 3rd 1894 in Vailima in Samoa[27].


[1] Cf. Fernandez Bravo, Nicole. “Doubles and Counterparts.” Companion To Literary Myths, Heroes And Archetypes. Ed. Pierre Brunel. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. 343.

[2] Ibd. 343.

[3] Forssmann, Juliane. Intimations of Ambiguity: The Narrative Treatment of the Uncanny in Selected Texts of Romantic English and German Prose Fiction. Stuttgart: Heinz, 1999. (=Stuttgarter Arbeiten zur Germanistik Nr. 362). 72.

[4] Cf. Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History Of English Literature. rev. ed. Oxford et al.: Oxford UP, 1996. 345.

[5] Cf. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein Or, The Modern Prometheus. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994. On Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

[6] Cf. Byron, Glennis. Frankenstein (1831 Edition): Mary Shelley. 2nd. impression. London: York, 1998. (=York Notes Advanced). 68.

[7] Cf. ibd. 68.

[8] Cf. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. On Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

[9] Ibd. On Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

[10] Forssmann, Juliane. Intimations of Ambiguity. 4.

[11] Cf. Byron, Glennis: Frankenstein. 69.

[12] Ibd. 69.

[13] Cf. Byron, Glennis: Frankenstein. 69

[14] Cf. ibd. 69.

[15] Cf. ibd. 70.

[16] Forssmann, Juliane . Intimations of Ambiguity. 4.

[17] Sanders, Andrew. Oxford. English Literature. 345.

[18] Forssmann, Juliane. Intimations of Ambiguity. 4.

[19] Sanders, Andrew. Oxford. English Literature. 346.

[20] Ibd. 346.

[21] Kiely Robert. “Robert Louis Stevenson.” Victorian Novelists After 1885. Ed. Ira B. Nadel and William E. Fredeman. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Gale Research, 1983. 281-297. (=Dictionary of Literary Biography). 284.

[22] Fabian, Bernhard, ed. Die englische Literatur.: Band 2: Autoren. 3rd. ed. München: Deutscher Taschen-buch Verlag, 1997. 382.

[23] Cf. ibd. 382.

[24] Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994. On Robert Louis Stevenson.

[25] Cf. Fabian, Bernhard. Die englische Literatur. 382.

[26] Stevenson, Robert Louis: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. On Robert Louis Stevenson.

[27] Cf. Kiely, Robert. Robert Louis Stevenson. 281.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 17 Seiten


The Double in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
Universität Trier  (Fachbereich II Anglistik)
The Gothic Novel
ISBN (eBook)
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435 KB
"Ihre Arbeit löst die in der Introduction vorgegebenen Arbeitsschritte weitgehend ein... Ihre Arbeit zeugt von Fleiß und gründlicher Recherche... Ihre Beschreibungen der verschiedenen Ausprägungen des Doppelgängermotivs ist im Großen und Ganzen richtig beobachtet. Sie wenden auch die verschiedenen Klassifzierungen des Doppelgängers, wie sie in der Sekundärliteratur angeboten werden, folgerichtig auf die entsprechenden Figuren an."
Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Doppelgänger, Double, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Gothic Novel
Arbeit zitieren
Magister Artium Christoph Höbel (Autor:in), 2003, The Double in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", München, GRIN Verlag,


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