Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was exceedingly more interesting than I’d expected.  My only knowledge of the story was that Dr. Jekyll drinks a potion and turns into a monster, Mr. Hyde.  I’d actually had the two confused, imagining the one with the name Jekyll as the evil one.  I think the only real image I had was from the Tweety Bird cartoons.

Robert Louis Stevenson (who also wrote Treasure Island) did a wonderful job of keeping the plot confusing, and building a true mystery.  I came into the book already knowing the story, or the punch line, and I was still made to believe that Jekyll and Hyde were two different people.  

His writing style is a lot like Lovecraft, in the sense that he sets a mood of terror among an air of mystery.  Similar to Lovecraft, he has many characters “confessing” to “images of horror.”  This is my favorite type of horror novel – the kind that haunts you with possibilities, rather than spelling it out in graphic detail.

Lloyd Obsourne, Stevenson’s stepson, recalls, “I remember the first reading as if it were yesterday. Louis came downstairs in a fever; read nearly half the book aloud; and then, while we were still gasping, he was away again, and busy writing. I doubt if the first draft took so long as three days.” (wikipedia)

The best part of this book is learning exactly what Mr. Hyde was.  He was the representation of evil in all of us.  Dr. Jekyll was obsessed with the duality of man, realizing that if he had good in him, he had to have evil as well.  He concocted a potion that brought out Mr. Hyde – a much smaller, twisted and knotted version of himself.  Since Dr. Jekyll was primarily a good man, his normal body was sturdy and thriving;  since he was only partially evil, Mr. Hyde was childlike in stature, and underdeveloped, almost deformed.

This quickly changed.  As Mr. Hyde committed all of the atrocities that Dr. Jekyll secretly longed for, the balance of his good/evil began to shift, and Mr. Hyde started to take over the body by will alone – whether the doctor drank the potion or not.  His body grew bigger and stronger, and sometimes the doctor would go to sleep as himself, and wake up in the gnarled body of Mr. Hyde.

This is an interesting concept, especially for the time (1886), that human nature is comprised of both good and evil, and that we should allow for both, or else one might surge and suffocate the other.  It’s about balance, and accepting both the virtuous and the depraved parts of ourselves.  Even when Dr. Jekyll was living his “good” side, before Mr. Hyde’s appearance, he felt tortured and out of place, like he was living a lie.  How many of us haven’t felt that way at times?

Buy the book.

6 thoughts on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    Sherri said:
    April 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Tweetie-Hyde used to scare the bajesus out of me when I was a kid. Just looking at that still is giving me the willies!

    Erdman said:
    April 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Hey there.

    Glad you linked me to your blog.

    This has been one of my favorite novels, and I look forward to reading it as part of my novel-reading project.

    One thing that is interesting is to compare the original novel with the movie representations of the Hyde body. In most of the films, Hyde is sexy, strong, and beautiful. In the novel, Hyde makes people shudder; his evil is embodied in a way that repulses people.

    It’s not true of all Hollywood films, but the general direction is for Hollywood to glorify Hyde and to physically represent our evil nature in a beautiful manner. Stevenson doesn’t go this route…..And I wonder why….It’s really curious to compare the novel with the many film versions of Hyde.

      LetsEatCake said:
      April 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm

      That’s fascinating! I’ve never seen the movie, and had no idea Hyde’s character was glamorized. That really says a lot about Hollywood and our own duality – our fear and, at the same time, fascination with “evil.” Like how the devil is almost always portrayed as a debonair, suave, sexy character. We like to glamorize these characters, yet we condemn people for indulging in the ideas they represent.

      Amazing.

    Olga Wolstenholme said:
    June 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    There’s a book out there that tells this story from the point of view of the maid. Mary Reilly. It was also made into a movie with John Malkovich and Julia Roberts. Check it out, it’s definitely interesting. And Malkovich is a very mesmerizing Hyde/Jekyll.

      letseatcake! said:
      June 10, 2010 at 3:52 pm

      oh I always wondered what that movie was about! Never saw it. I’ll make it a point to now!

    Jonathan Erdman said:
    June 11, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve seen the Mary Reilly film. It’s a great interpretation of the novel.

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