Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

I always forget that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is by Robert Louis Stevenson, whom I more closely identify with Kidnapped or Treasure Island. In some ways it reminded me of the other horror classics like Frankenstein or Dracula, in that the characters have been commandeered by pop culture and twisted from their narratives.

The book is actually written as suspense; we don’t know the background of the ugly, violent Mr. Hyde, whose face reminds onlookers of Satan, and we don’t know why mild-mannered, upright Dr. Jekyll has written a strange will naming Hyde as benefactor is he should die or disappear for a period of more than three months. We get the story from the perspective of Mr. Utterson, his friend and lawyer, who is looking into the connection between Hyde and Jekyll out of concern for the latter.

The story has an entirely different feel when the reader knows that Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same; unfortunately, there seems to be no avoiding this, as it must be one of the most prevalent literary spoilers out there. You would be very had pressed to find anyone who went into this book innocent of that fact. However the novella remains strong as an exploration of the dichotomy of good and evil within each individual–one that, according to critics, is less than decisive. This is worth reading, even if only to get a more complex picture than that present in popular understanding.

This book is for the Classics Challenge, and is also on the Guardian and 1001 Books lists.

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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