jekyll-and-hyde

Title: “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Category: Horror

First published: 1885

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Amazon

Stevenson’s famous exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has become synonymous with the idea of a split personality. More than a morality tale, this dark psychological fantasy is also a product of its time, drawing on contemporary theories of class, evolution, criminality, and secret lives.

This is not so much a review as my comments about Stevenson’s classic story, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” After all, how can you really review a classic like that. It’s obviously captured people’s imaginations for years, impacted culture, become one of the stories we know, even if we don’t actually know it.

Dr. Jekyll creates a potion that he drinks and it lets loose his “evil side,” Mr. Hyde, the side that lacks inhibitions, that gives into his baser instincts. Dr. Jekyll believes that people are dual-natured and his goal had been just that, to separate the two portions of himself, which he does, but with disastrous results. I think that’s what makes the story, the idea that everyone has at least a bit of Hyde inside, contained or ignored, but still there. That maybe we are all capable of murder, under the right circumstances.

The story is more introspective than thrilling. I expected more of an adventure. I’m not complaining about how the story was written, but it dealt more with Jekyll’s feeling and his friends’ reactions to his odd behaviors. We saw what Hyde did, we learned how Jekyll transformed into the monster, but those scenes didn’t really have as much impact as I had expected. It’s more subdued, but I don’t think that makes the story any less memorable. I think it’s important to picture the deformed, malicious Hyde and how his differs, in both behavior and appearance from the rest of the proper Londoners in the story, both the gentleman and Jekyll’s servants.

I know the story can be read in different ways, as a lesson on the evil inherent in every human, kept under control only by society and civilation.  After all, once Hyde was let out he could not be contained. Eventually Jekyll had to take the serum to return to himself, to pull himself back from his evil side. Or maybe it’s a tale of the dangers of science. It was after all science that led to the creation of Hyde, science without guidance or restraint, without consultation with peers. But I’m not really interested in the deeper meaning, at least today.

It’s not exactly an easy story to read. It feels stilted at first, but I think that’s the style of the time, and in a way it softens the horror. It feels more distanced. It’s not a story I’ll re-read, or even one I necessarily enjoyed, but I am glad I read it. It feels like one you should read, so you know the actual story, not only the cartoonized versions.

RIP8main200 This was my second short story read for R.I.P. VIII’s Peril of the Short Story. R.I.P VIII is a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

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