The phenomenon which became a metaphor of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is called a split or dissociation of personality. Duplicity is largely associated with the immanent model of society reflected in the internal structure of the conflict. Most researchers agree on the fact that the theme of duality originated in the works of the Romanticists; that it is in romanticism the dual world principle was affirmed as a fundamental principle when the two planes of reality coexist in parallel with each other.
Indeed, the romantic worldview is characterized by dark, tragic tone. Dual world is a forced compromise of fantasy and everyday life, and the consciousness of the limitations in the freedom of the creator is painful. Romanticists interpret duplicity as an allegory of the split consciousness separated from itself, in which “I”¯ is given as “other.”¯ Distancing “I”¯ from one’s self becomes their fatal condition of reflection. And in the theme of duality there occurs a strange overflow of absolute proximity into the insurmountable remoteness – hence the romantic variations of the image of the twin.
Thus, the hero of Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a wise noble doctor from time to time turned into Mr. Hyde with the help of potion to fulfill his vicious propensities in his form, and then again by the power of potions turned into Dr. Jekyll. In turn, the main event of Wilde’s play – courtship of indolent selfish John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff to two girls, where both heroes to please their lady are posing as some Ernest, but they are eventually exposed. The world created by Wilde in the play The Importance of Being Earnest and by Stevenson in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde may be called mirror-world because it reflects the reality on this side of the mirror.
The images of a respectable Jekyll and despicable Hyde, his counterpart from the “underground”¯, of course, not only reflect the multi-layer nature and diversity of the inner world of their creator; they accumulated the most general terms, symbolically concentrated a broad socio-psychological picture of the reality, allowed recognizing the appearance and essence, the apparent and the secret in the philistine, comely, positivist and well-arranged, morally regulated lifestyle. Decades later, John Fowles, remodeling Victorian England in the novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), called Stevenson’s novel the best guide to the era, in which lies a profound truth exposing the essence of Victorian times. It seems that many contemporaries of Stevenson, including Oscar Wilde, intuitively felt this truth, if not understood it up to the end and to all its extend.
In Wilde’s comedy, the inner face of the actors can present the under side of public morals. In sight there are the loud titles and high society etiquette, elegant manners, shiny jewels, the sharpness of mind, and novelty.
Women and men of high society with a mysterious past, hidden defects, the exposure of which threatens with the loss of social status, secular flirtations, alleged infidelity, gallant courting of noble young men to noble young ladies – Wilde managed to put an interesting content in this framework of comedy-intrigue.
In the comedy The Importance of Being Earnest (Ernest), with a very eloquent subtitle “frivolous comedy for serious people,”¯ two young people lead double lives in order to save them from everyday worries. Wilde shows the hypocrisy and the prudence that prevails in the English “cream of society”¯, where in order to marry a girlfriend, one must be in the list of suitors drawn up by her mother, live on the fashionable side of the street, have worthy parents, a certain annual income and political views.