The Monsters Within: Gothic Monstrosity in Dracula, Frankenstein, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and its Role in Nineteenth Century English Society
Since ancient times, monsters have populated the human mind and, along with us, they have evolved throughout the centuries. This evolution was finally delineated in the nineteenth-century, when monsters were finally given psychological depth in order to better fulfill their function as bearers of human fears and preoccupations. In this process monsters finally acquired further complex features that differentiated them from their primitive predecessors, establishing these supernatural creatures as proper, developed characters participant in the stories in which they take part. This paper thus explores the importance of such development and its consequences for the literature of the period in three of the most important English Gothic works from the nineteenth-century: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1818), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897)by interpreting the inherent meaning of their monstrous creatures situated within their socio-cultural frames. Hence, through the rejection of such monstrous features, fear towards difference arises and transforms said difference into immoral traits, which ultimately determine the condition of the creatures at hand. In addition, the study of several of the numerous themes conveyed in these stories highlights the underlying nature of Gothic monstrosity when related to nineteenth-century English preoccupations such as human corruption, scientific excess or reverse colonization. Thereby, by crossing socially accepted limits determined by the period in which they occur, monsters become the embodiment of the Other, the element which stands different from us. This reflection on the figure of the Gothic monster hence poses it as a human construct conceived to hypothetically represent socially rejected humane concepts such as irrationality, anger, or savagism; embracing difference so as to epitomize the considered inappropriate behaviors of human being regardless of their controversy or connotations as part of a fictional world.