Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (from now on DJMH for short) was quite a relief to read. After somehow managing to power through Rousseau and Nietzsche, a classic tale like DJMH was relaxing and definitely did me some good. Yet obviously, like all good things, there was something that bothered me about DJMH. It’s the incredibly nosy Mr. Utterson. Now it’s not to be rude to Mr. Utterson, but Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s personal life is not his business! Perhaps another thing that bothered me about this book is the large amount of secrecy throughout it. I wanted to constantly be able to hear every character’s thoughts. I was intrigued to see everyone’s motivations, especially Jekyll/Hyde’s in depth.
I like how Jekyll and Hyde both had their places, which slowly changed throughout the book. What I mean by places is how at the start, Hyde is constantly ramping through the streets, free of worry until he trampled a girl and beat a man. During all of this Jekyll was almost always reserved and in his room. But as the search for Hyde grows, it is he who becomes more reclusive, hidden from the streets, whereas Jekyll is now more active and outside free to roam the streets and correct whatever deeds Hyde committed in the past.
Other than a few very insignificant complaints, DJMH was very enjoyable. I really liked how Dr. Jekyll seemed like a bit of an unlikely tragic hero. His hamartia (tragic flaw) is his want to transform himself and free his good and evil sides, yet the dark side ends up taking over. This is a story where the hero is defeated, by himself… Maybe it’s supposed to say something about us as people, that somethimes we’re not always able to be the best person. Sometimes our darker side manages to take over, and in Jekyll’s/Hyde’s case it leads to the protagonist (and maybe even the antagonist’s) death.
Nietzsche is definitely a tough read. It’s dense, ideas flying everywhere, and a sense of anti-everything pervades the three essays in “On the Genealogy of Morals”. His ideas of the anti-foundation, and the way his writing style is one which lacks a solid foundation itself is interesting… not to use another word. It’s probably that, his writing style, which made this work so difficult to read. Modern day “essays” of most types have an extremely solid foundation. A modern essay will have a main claim (which is stated in the introduction), and then this claim will be systematically proven through a series of interrelating paragraphs all containing information relating to the original claim. Finally, this is all rounded off with a conclusion, clarifying and simplifying the information and restating the original claim. Nietzsche doesn’t do this in his essays. His essays are more like the ramblings of a madman, recalling occasional ideas, interrupting himself with different ideas, and expecting us to be able to follow his train of thought which left the tracks long ago.
Putting my dislike for his writing style aside, I also have some beef with Nietzsche’s ideas and points, but I’m going to start with what I’m in agreement with Nietzsche. His deduction of guilt and its connection to debt, which then goes on to his idea of punishment is incredibly well thought out. In fact, it’s a common truth that when one is in debt, and is unable to pay it off, one will feel guilt. And the idea of repaying your debts with punishment is one which while I don’t think applies to a lot of modern day scenarios, is fairly true (especially if you’re considering a multitude of gangster movies in which Joe Pesci helps many men repay their “debts”).
However Nietzsche is against the objectification of ones views. He (an introspective lunatic) is a strong believer in broadening your perspectives by conversing with others. He’s against the notion of objectifying your perspective, in fact, having no perspective at all, and to me this makes little sense. He says that it castrates the intellect, yet I have to disagree. Objectivity is an incredibly important aspect which cannot be underestimated. Some of the greatest works (especially philosophical ones) are achieved through the objectification of ones beliefs. While I don’t think we should be eliminating our own perspective completely, objectification is an aspect which a lot of intellectuals find very important to conceiving their work successfully.
I really enjoyed Frankenstein, probably because it’s one of our first books in which we have multiple encounters with a monster which becomes a very human character as we learn more about him. Part of me hates the monster for his rash and violent tendencies, but another part of me hates Victor for not accepting his creation.
I was really surprised at how emotional this book was. I was expecting a very simple and straightforward story, and instead what I found was an exciting and emotional tale. My favorite part of the novel was the final scene in which the monster returned to Frankenstein’s corpse. It’s here that we see how evolved and human the monster really is. His emotion and intelligence made his actions seem so out of place, perhaps he wasn’t a monster after all. This really ties in with the idea of lonely and misunderstood monsters, such as Grendel or even Medea, creatures which receive no sympathy and because of this become monsters.
Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the changes of Victor as a character. Early on he’s young and passionate, locked in his quest for the “secret of life”, yet with time he begins to realize the consequences of his creation, and he is worn down from guilt and revenge. His goal changes from creating life to that of destroying life. The very life he created! I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Victor, his youthful ignorant self created a creature which haunted him for the rest of his life killing his family and friends. While some might argue that he is the monster of this story, I can’t help but disagree. While of course he could have showed a bit more compassion to the monster, I don’t believe he has the obligation to be its best friend and make sure its never lonely.
Regarding the monster, I felt like his character was a little strangely constructed (no pun intended), as he’s an incredibly enlightened individual, yet he commits multiple murders just out of rage. Putting that aside, the monster is a character which we are meant to feel bad for. The monster is that lonely kid that nobody talked to in elementary school, but was actually probably a really nice guy. Perhaps that’s what I dislike about the monster, the fact that we have to feel bad for him. He’s a character built to evoke that emotion from the reader, the emotion of pity and sadness. I enjoyed Frankenstein a lot more than I ever thought I would.
After reading Rousseau’s “A Discourse on Inequality”, I had a lot going through my head. First of all, I was astounded by the detail and incredible insight Rousseau showed in his work when describing mankind in the state of nature, especially the learning of language. The very idea that Rousseau is a couple hundred years dead and yet was so accurate in describing mankind’s early stages is incredible. Perhaps it’s the detail he goes into, explaining the savage man’s life in the wild, the fear, and everything else he describes. Or maybe it’s the way he so effortlessly picks apart the differences, physical and mental, between the modern day man and the savage man. Rousseau was simply ahead of his time, and it’s shown by his ideas and writing.
It’s easy to praise a work, but there’s also a few things which bothered me with Rousseau’s “A Discourse on Inequality”. The way in which Rousseau holds man up, on a pedestal almost bathed in the golden light of divinity, almost as if nothing could amount to mankind’s great intelligence and organization. While of course I see that humans are greatly above your average animal in intelligence, I do think that Rousseau greatly underestimated animals. He gave them little credit, basically saying they were slave to instinct, unable to improve themselves, and too dumb to learn language. Then again, it is sometimes hard to remember that this was written in an era illuminated by candlelight.
Perhaps one of the reasons I like Rousseau and his work is because at certain points he just plainly admits that he has no idea how something came about. When talking about how grammarians came about to continue the evolution of language, he simply states that he doesn’t know how they came about. I like the fact that he isn’t trying to cover up his lack of knowledge with false facts, and it’s refreshing to read such an intelligent writer admit that in regards to certain things, he just doesn’t have a clue.
Of all the things I could say, I basically like the fact that Rousseau seems to have a solid amount of common sense. He understands basic ideas like how wild animals will be a bit tougher than domesticated ones, and with a solid amount of sense he’s able to apply the same idea to humans, deriving that in fact humanity has physically devolved, and that we are much weaker than the humans forced to live in the state of nature. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed Rousseau’s work, and I’m hoping there will be more surprises like this throughout the semester.