Double Lives in Victorian Literature Essay

The existence of a “dark double” abounds in many literary works of the Victorian Era. These

“dark doubles” are able to explore the forbidden and repressed desires of the protagonist, and often

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represent the authors own rebellion against inhibitions in a morally straight-laced societal climate. The

“dark doubles” in these stories are able to explore the socially unacceptable side of human nature, and

it is through these “dark doubles” that many of the main characters (and through them, the reader), are

able to vicariously explore and experience the illicit, forbidden, and often exciting underbelly of what

was considered deviant behavior. The accepted “normal” behavior that strict Victorian social protocol

demanded could be cast aside by these “dark doubles” and the “immoral” desires of the human heart

could be explored in the safety of ones sitting room.

In Oscar Wilde’s play, “The Importance of Being Ernest,” we see a satirical prodding of the

hypocrisy associated within the strict moral code of English “genteel” society. The play’s protagonist,

Jack, creates his own “dark double”, his supposed carefree, immoral, and decadent brother, Ernest. It is

through his own creation of Ernest that Jack is able to lead his entertaining double life. While

portraying himself as Ernest, we see Jack pursue all of the things that he is incapable of exploring in his

own stuffy Victorian world as Jack. While explaining his presence in town to Algy, Ernest states, “Oh,

pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere?” (690). Ernest goes on to explain to Algy

what occupies his time this way, “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country

one amuses other p…

…clear through the literature of the time, that individuals

were beginning to question the necessity, both morally and socially, of either living a double life or

having to repress their desire to do so. It is through these “dark doubles” that many authors were able

to explore and expose the hidden truths within their character’s personalities, and possibly themselves.

By giving their character’s the “masks” of these “dark doubles”, they were able to tale the truth.Works Cited

Kipling, Rudyard. “The Mark of the Beast.” The Broadview Anthology of British Literature.

Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2006. Print.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. New York: Simon & Brown, 2010. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Importance of Being Ernest.” The Broadview Anthology of BritishLiterature. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2006. Print.

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