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Stevenson

Essay by   •  November 27, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,937 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,122 Views

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INITIAL EXPLORATION OF THEMES

A careful reading of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can reveal multiple levels of meaning. At one level it is a story about a mad scientist gone wrong, at another level it is a reflection on human nature.

Students can be supported in reading for different levels of meaning through activities that help them think about the themes in the novel before they begin to read.

By establishing an atmosphere of mutual questioning and seeking insight at the beginning of the unit, students will be encouraged to openly question and discuss their attempts at developing understanding with other members of the class.

Dual Nature or Split Personality

1. In order to explore how persons can engage in both positive and negative behaviors, you can free write about a time when you showed kindness to an animal or another person and then about a time when you were cruel or unkind. After ouy have written, students should privately read their journals to analyze why you might act in these opposite ways at different times. With the class, you should analyze the causes of different types of behaviors. What causes a person to act in such radically opposite ways and what does this suggest about human personality or human nature?

2. Many religions use the concept of dual nature to explain the struggle within a person to choose between good and evil.

In the Hebrew Bible evil is personified as a force outside the person in the story of Adam and Eve. In another story, evil nature and good nature are personified as existing in two separate persons, Cain and Abel, who struggle against each other.

Read the story of Cain and Abel. See that this story can be interpreted at different levels--as a story about a brother's envy and a story about the qualities of human nature. Write in your journals about human nature. Is it essentially good or evil or somewhere in between? Is the evil that humans do caused by an outside force or forces or is it an expression of a dark side of our human nature? Reflect on how you formed your views. Then share your writing in pairs followed by a whole class discussion.

3. Twins have intrigued scientists and psychologists because they are often two separate individuals with remarkably similar patterns of behavior. Do you know any twins. Are the twins fraternal or identical? What differences are evident in their behaviors? How do twins explain their insights into the mind of each other?

4. Horror and gangster films and fiction often explore the dual nature of a criminal by showing an evil person performing an act of kindness. For example, in the film The Godfather the gangster hero is shown playing with children and interacting with family and friends. Also Darth Vader in Star Wars shows a complex mixture of good and evil. Ask students to share some examples of this dual personality from these or other films. Discuss: Why do writers and directors include these "positive" elements in their characterizations of an essentially evil person? Do they make the characters sympathetic or more sinister? Do these behaviors lead us to empathize with the criminal? How do these characterizations affect us in thinking about our own behavior?

Reason Versus the Supernatural

1. In making the transformation of Jekyll into Hyde believable, Stevenson shows the limits of reason and science in dealing with the supernatural. The reasonable Utterson is unable to figure out the mystery until it is revealed in letters at the end of the novel, and the scientific Dr. Lanyon collapses when he sees the transformation occur.

Consider the limits of reason and science in your everyday lives. List three important ideas or factual statements that you believe are true. List why you believe these things are true. Your reasons may be: personal observation, faith, intuition, the report of a trusted expert, or scientific reports. Contrast those things you believe on the basis of empirical knowledge or reason and those based on non-scientific proof. Discuss the extent to which science can discover the truth of all that exists.

2. Think about the basis of popular superstitions. Discuss what the emotional effects of these superstitions are and whether reasoning with the person who believes them will lessen their emotional impact. This can also be applied to horoscopes that some people read.

Limits of Scientific Experimentation

1. Dr. Jekyll decides to test his theory of the two sides of human nature by performing an experiment on himself with potent drugs. He knows death is possible but decides the potential knowledge is worth the risk. Today scientists explore the possibilities of cloning and creating life. Bring in an article from a newspaper or the Internet that discusses advances in cloning or genetic manipulation. After reading and discussing the article, engage in a structured debate about the issue.

Into groups of four, discuss this issue: There should be limits to scientific experimentation. One pair of students in the group will be assigned to support the statement, the other pair to refute it. Pairs prepare their arguments separately for about five minutes. Then form groups of four to present the two sides. After about ten minutes or when it is clear the main points have been argued for both sides, switch the debate, so the pairs must now argue from the opposite point of view. The pairs a few minutes to assemble their arguments and then have them debate as before. After the debate in groups, the whole class should list on the board all of the arguments. Finally, you can either free write or write a more formal short essay responding to the statement, using your own views and the strongest arguments you learned in the debate.

2. Interview science teachers and science professionals in the community about the ethics of experimentation. What guidelines do they follow when conducting research? How do they decide if the potential benefits override the risks of the experiment? Do they consider experimentation on animals acceptable?

Here are the guidelines for a successful interview: contact the person to arrange a time for the interview and state your purpose, prepare questions on the topic but be sure to follow the conversation and pursue the ideas that emerge, take brief notes and review them immediately following the interview to add details, thank the person for her/his time, make a copy of the interview available.

You can write up the interview in a question-and-answer format. Conclude with a summary of the

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