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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde       

Review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Overview from "This Master Hyde, if he were studied,' thought he, 'must have secrets of his own; black secrets, by the look of him; secrets compared to which poor Jekyll's worst would be like sunshine.'" —The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

When Edward Hyde tramples an innocent girl, two bystanders catch the fellow and force him to pay reparations to the girl's family. A respected lawyer, Utterson, hears this story and begins to unravel the seemingly manic behavior of his best friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and his connection with Hyde. Utterson probes into both Jekyll and his unlikely protégé, increasingly unnerved at each new revelation. In a forerunner of psychological dramas to come, Robert Louis Stevenson uses Hyde to show that we are both repulsed and attracted to the darker side of life, particularly when we can experience it in anonymity.

My Review:

It is strange to think that though I knew the story of Jekyll and Hyde, or thought I knew it anyway, I had never read the book by Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact, until I saw this as a Free Friday book by Barnes & Noble, I couldn’t even have told you who had written it though I suspected it was Stevenson. So maybe I did know, somewhere in the back of my mind.

I have always had questions about this story. For example, what ingredients did Dr. Jekyll use to turn himself into Mr. Hyde? Why did he want turn himself into Hyde in the first place? How did he create the alternate name and personality? And finally what kind of man goes to this extreme in the first place?
These were the questions that I had in mind and though I wanted to enjoy the ride like I usually do with novels, I also kept the questions at the back of mind my mind throughout. But would the author answer them to my satisfaction? The answer turned out to be both yes and no.
I understood that the doctor created Hyde to indulge in his darker side and smaller but dark nature that lurked inside of him, hence Mr. Hyde’s small stature. What I didn’t get was why a respected doctor like Jekyll, known for his good nature, felt the end to indulge the dark side at all. Perhaps the answer is that he is not as good as his friends supposed him to be or that in the Victorian Era indulging any dark impulses could get a person into a heap of trouble. But for me that just wasn’t a good enough reason. We are supposed to try to weed this stuff out, not encourage it, if it was done under a different name. It made me like Jekyll less.
As to the ingredients in the potion, some of them were listed though in the end it turns out to be not what we expect or even what Jekyll expects. As they become harder and harder to find, Jekyll risks being stuck in Hyde’s body and facing death at the gallows for one of Hyde’s foul deeds when can’t make his potion anymore.
The alternate name and personality were easy to create owing to the resources at Dr. Jekyll’s disposal.
However I had a hard time understanding why Dr. Jekyll felt the need to do this in the first place as I said earlier, even after I read his explanation at the end. It just rang hollow. This also limited my sympathy for the man. Unlike the experiments of Dr. Frankenstein, Jekyll’s experiment seemed to have no intrinsic value whatsoever.
So while I still find the story interesting, the main character was not likable for me, either as Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
Contains: some violence

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