Responding to a reading

Campbell, C. “Women and Sadism in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: “City in a Nightmare”.” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, vol. 57 no. 3, 2014, pp. 309 Project MUSE,

Quoted thesis: (first stated on 310, then on 312, most completely on 316, which is below)

“The men of the novel are the city incorporated as lawyers, doctors, scientists, and sadists; they are associated with fog, lights and interiors. The women are the city as sexuality, innocence, sentiment, and victims; they are associated with the street life, the outside of buildings and doors. They share the window image of Stevenson’s inspiring dreams. Thus women are of great significance in the novel but are hidden deeper than Utterson…”

Thesis in my own words:

Men are an important aspect of the story because they portray sadism in the city. Women represent the city’s innocence and sexuality because they are frequently the victim of male violence. According to psychoanalysis, their bodies are symbolized throughout.


            Campbell begins by talking about existing arguments about the meaning of Hyde and the presence of women. Then he asserts that women play an important role.

Then, Campbell talks about how the whole story was inspired by Stevenson’s dreams, and that the story can be read as Utterson’s dream as well. He also asserts that the story contains sexuality, but, like women, it is veiled and softened to psychoanalytically represent Victorian repression.

Campbell introduces the importance of women by saying the street Utterson walks down in the beginning is feminine. Women also play an important role as recipients of violence when the young girl is trampled, and when the Carew murder is observed by a maid. The countless references to doors are related to women through a psychoanalysis, and this metaphor culminates when Utterson breaks down a particularly feminine, red door at the end of the story, a final symbol of attack on women. Another psychoanalysis reveals the Oedipus complex coming into play when the maid (the mother) watching Hyde (the son) murder Carew (the father). This scene is therefore a “philosophical rape” (318). These examples are used to establish women as a metaphor for victims in Victorian cities.

Campbell establishes men as symbols for sadism and the city because Hyde and Utterson both represent the sadistic, sexually repressed side of the city. This is done through analysis of the Oedipus triangle in the murder scene as well as the imagery of fog. He also suggests that Hyde and Utterson are very similar in the way the kill Carew and beat down the final door.

Three strategies I liked:

  1. Campbell brings in a lot of other articles to make her piece seem embedded in the existing arguments instead of appearing disconnected. I admired this connectivity.
  2. By analyzing the role of the presence (instead of the absence) of women, Campbell brought in a perspective that is often overlooked and that shed light on the underpinnings of repression in the Victorian era.
  3. On page 311, she begins a paragraph with “If we therefore consider further the narrative as Utterson’s dream,” which I think is a very good way to transition between paragraphs while building on what you’ve already said

Things I didn’t like:

  1. I found Campbell’s argument very hard to follow. While there was a central linear trajectory, there was a lot of circling back, as well. The main points seemed chopped up and placed out of order, and she jumped between different symbols too often without effectively introducing them.
  2. A lot of the psychoanalysis seemed far-fetched and outdated.

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