- Robert Louis Stevenson
Kindle BookDr. Jekyll has been experimenting with identity. He has developed a drug which separates the two sides of his nature, allowing him to abandon himself to his most corrupt inclinations as the monstrous Mr. Hyde. But gradually the journey back to goodness becomes more and more difficult, and the risk that Mr. Hyde will break free from Dr. Jekyll’s control puts all of London in grave peril
As regular readers of my blog will be aware I’m not much for the classics – I’ve never read Jane Eyre and despite some constant encouragement of a certain BookGirl of Mur-y-Castell I have never even picked up Pride and Prejudice. But a quick glance at my stats as my most popular posts happen to be the few classics I have read – the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and A Christmas Carol. So I thought I would try to mix up my reading with some of the science fiction and adventure classics occasionally. So for Halloween I decided to read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde...
Once again I am struck by how the story you think you know is NOT the story that was first written. Told through the point of view of My Utterson, Jekyll’s long time friend and lawyer we first meet Mr Hyde via some gossip. He is described as small and young but with some sort of peculiar loathing that he seems to inspire to make everyone feel. Mr Utterson is worried about how this vile creature seems to have attached itself to his good friend Dr Jekyll. It is some time before we meet Dr Jekyll who is described as an amiable, elderly gentleman who does many good deeds for the community. I have to confess the idea of My Hyde as a slight, young man surprised me – I always had that picture in my head of a big, hunched monster which is how he is usually seen in films and TV shows!
The story actually takes places over a couple of years and is very much influenced by Victorian manners and society at that time for doctors and lawyers. Mr Utterson is very worried about his friends reputation and if he is being blackmailed or not. There is a great insight into how men of a certain age and level of society behave towards each other – indeed the only women in the whole plot are a maid (who cries and faints) and a selfish, corrupt housekeeper – each of whom only have once scene each. An insight into women at that time or more an insight into Robert Louis Stevenson’s attitudes towards women? I’ll leave that to the English Literature graduates to discuss, but this is very much a man’s story about man’s urges.
Dr Jekyll himself admits he is still himself as Mr Hyde but without conscience – free to indulge his base instincts. Unless I missed it (always possible!), these base instincts are not revealed explicitly and apart from a short temper and tendency towards violence, it is left to your own imagination to think what these base instincts are. I found that particularly interesting as each person would probably be thinking of their own deepest and reviled thoughts at that point. This makes you part of the story and more involved in MR Hyde's activities.
This is a classic for a reason as the reader is drawn into the story – and even knowing the ‘twist’ can read it on many levels. I imagine the surprise ending would have been as revolutionary in its day as The Sixth Sense was when it first came out! It’s not a long book and perhaps a little wordy for modern sensibilities but this is a fascinating insight into the ‘true’ story behind the myth we all know. It's not a long story - but there is a reason it has stayed with us for the last hundred years!
Recommended for fans of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. 8 out of 10