An Antithesis and It’s Letdown

Wise and honest, Mary Reilly proves a very relatable character. She expresses sentiments and perceptions, both painful and hopeful, that many readers have personally felt but perhaps have not vocalized or identified. Throughout the first half of this novel, the most relatable quality may be the way Mary deals with the pain of the past. Rather than deal with the pain by contemplating it face-on, she suppresses it and finds solace and salvation in soothing else or someone else. Mary earnestly hopes in Dr. Jekyll for the redemption of the mark her father left on her.

Writing her story out for “Master”, Mary paints a haunting image of her father, with his “low, sick laugh” and merciless outlashes. Though Mary notes that she has “seldom thought on the past and [has] tried to put it behind [her]” (37), the scars of her fathers abuse prove deep and dark, despite her suppression of them. Page 35 provides perhaps the most telling remark of her sentiments. As she toils in her garden, Mary reflects, “I believe to hate my father would be to give in and make small my real feeling, which is strong but not like hate, as that seems simple, pure and clean” (35). Here, Mary indicates her feelings towards her father are deeper and and fouler than hatred, and, in comparison, hatred seems “pure and clean”. Significantly, Mary’s view of her father as not a monster, but as “an ordinary man” prone to drinking, supplements the view that her childhood tainted her view of men, or of humanity in general. She believes most men are prone to ill, as her father was. Discussing the closing of Dr. Jekyll’s school and the philosophy of moral forces, Mary states her belief that good doesn’t seem to come naturally to humans. Unable to forgive her father (as stated on page 36), Mary instead finds healing in the virtue of her Master. His goodness grants her hope in mankind.

For Mary, Dr. Jekyll stands as the antithesis of her father, as the redemption of man in her eyes. Though she seems to have mild romantic feelings towards her Master, perhaps he also symbolizes the ideal father for her after her experience of a father so cruel and savage. Jekyll’s patience, kindness, and interest in Mary quickly becomes her source of life and self-worth. More than this, I would submit that the reason Mary has such a difficult time accepting Dr. Jekyll’s moral failings might lies in the fact that she has elevated him above reproach in order to cope with her past.

During her visits to Mrs. Farraday’s, Mary processes the innuendos of her Master’s misconduct by telling herself, “that doubtless this was some good thing Master had contrived, to lighten the suffering around [her]” (66). When she sees the bloody bedroom at Mrs. Farraday’s and the monogrammed handkerchief condemning her beloved Master, her confidence in his goodness wavers. Yet still, she clings to his innocence, doing “whatever [she] can to stay calm, so that, when this is all made clear to me, [she] may find the best way to serve him” (110). She refuse to let herself think, lest she see the truth.

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