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The Fascination of Crime and Criminal Activity in the Victorian Era

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The Fascination of Crime and Criminal Activity

In the Victorian Era

As humans, we often time tend to have very odd and strange fascinations about things within our lives. Today, most of our society is fixated upon thins such as the latest technologies and fashions of the world. Everyone has to make sure that they are caught up on whatever the hottest trends are at the particular moment. In earlier centuries, it may seem to us that there were not many interesting or exciting things such as technological devices to become excited about. Instead society had to be interested in whatever they currently had at the moment. In the Victorian Era, the people of England were thrilled over anything having to do with crime and criminal activity.

When it came to crime, people within the Victorian era were attracted to the idea as magnets attract metal. Ironically, many of the attractors to crime were citizens of the upper class. It seems that the upper class used the lower class's committed crimes to "narrate the disorder, unknown, and ultimately unknowable mysteries of private desires" (Paroissien, 261). Because they had to "maintain" their refines, they could not freely do such horrendous things as the lower class. There was something about the growing sense of fear that could be gained when hearing gossip about crime that made the Victorians crave more and more. Any type of crime thrilled them but, they especially seem to enjoy crime that involved unintentional behavior. "Such morbid fascination with unconscious crime and uncontrollable behavior reminds one of someone with an abject fear of snakes who upon entering a zoo, makes his way immediately for the reptile house" (Eigen, 15). With murderers such as Jack the Ripper on the rise, people were constantly at fear. Instead of fearing the fear that they possessed, they instead to seem to be attracted to it and gain some type of weird pleasure from it. The pleasure that they felt was not a onetime thing but, was instead something that they craved more of. In this era, photos from gruesome crime scenes could be viewed publicly. Oddly, the public took full advantage of this opportunity and flocked in great numbers to view these photos. The reason as to why these people were so attracted to crime is still today a mystery within itself. The sense of imminent danger being at hand seemed to give people some type of enthralled enjoyment.

The growing attraction that the Victorians took to crime can be reflected throughout the literature of the period. Many writers took full advantage of the growing number of crimes to craft some of the greatest literary works of all time. A prime example to reflect the time is Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". Published in 1866, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has remained very well known even into our culture today. Underlying the story's plot involving split personalities and new inventions through science, there are many occurrences within the text that reflect the age's deep crime obsession.

Upon the opening of the story, Mr. John Utterson and his distant relative Richard Enfield are taking their weekly stroll when they begin to discuss an incidence involving the trampling of a young girl by the mysterious figure Mr. Edward Hyde. For some odd reason, several people including Mr. Enfield are out extremely late at night and all seem to enjoy watching the unfolding events. Taking the situation to an even stranger extreme, the strange and hideous Mr. Hyde has an unusual attraction to Utterson's client and friend Dr. Henry Jekyll. During this era, "speculation and suspicion surrounded the mysterious origins of self-made individuals who seemed to appear from nowhere and lacked connections" (Maunder and Moore, 8). Instead of questioning why these people were out so late at night circling around the strange incident surrounding the odd Hyde and the little girl, Utterson is instead concerned with Jekyll and Hyde's connection to one another.

Stevenson adds this incident to the plot in such a way that it is at first overshadowed by the strange connection between these two's unlikely companionship. Through analyzing the text however, the occurrence is a very prominent component to the story and the time period that it reflects. The first question that could be rose is exactly what was a little girl doing out during this time of night? In the "refined" and strict Victorian society, it seems that no one, especially children, would be out wandering during this time of

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