Is it Science Fiction?


It has been argued whether or not The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be classified as science fiction or not. By modern standards, there are no aliens, no futuristic technology, and no greater impact on society outside the main character. However, there are many guidelines to define what is and what is not science fiction. We believe that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is, based on definitions provided by Kingsley Amis and James Gunn. Amis’ definition is as follows, “Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-science or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terrestrial in origin.” Jekyll’s ability to transform into Hyde via chemical tonic can be considered a “situation that could not arise in the world we know” (18). Amis, Kingsley.New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960. Though new neuroscience is proving that it is possible to isolate different parts and emotion of the human brain, a chemical tonic that can separate the good and evil within a person certainly would not arise in this world. The science of chemistry and medicine, even if his goal is pseudo-scientific, does fit Amis definition.

James Gunn’s definition of science fiction can also help us place The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde within the genre of Science Fiction. Gunn states that “Science Fiction is the branch of literature that deals with the effects of change on people in the real world as it can be projected into the past, future, or to distant places. It often concerns itself with scientific or technological change, and it usually involves matters whose importance is greater than the individual or the community; often civilization or the race itself is in danger.” (2). Gunn, James. The Road to Science Fiction, From Gilgamesh to Wells. vol. 1. New York: New American Library, 1977.Jekyll’s degeneration as he turns into had more, and more frequently falls under the description of “effects of change on people in the real world”. As he changes, Hyde does affect people in a way that the otherwise would not have been. The technological and scientific changes that Jekyll’s adventure hinges on is, again that of medicine, as the chemical tonic could be thought of as a type of liquid medicine. An interesting aspect of the story within this definition is the application of the idea that the “race itself is in danger”, with Mr. Hyde exemplifying the possible degeneration of the human race.

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