Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

A lawyer and his friend are strolling through the London streets when one happens to remark on a door. He relates an incident of several nightprior and the man he saw entering there. The laywer, Utterson, is alarmed, and believes he knows of the strange person--a Mr Hyde, a man whom his client, Mr Jekyll, has recently made the beneficiary of his will. Suspecting foul play, Utterson attempts to track down this mysterious man, declaring, "If he be Mr Hyde, I shall be Mr Seek."

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a well-known story even to those who have never actually read it. Most people will know what you mean if you say someone has a Jekyll-Hyde personality. He or she is different from one moment to the next, often unpredictably so. But so often with cultural references, they differ markedly from the original. (It's not Frankenstein who is the monster! Doctor Frankenstein creates the monster!) I remember a Disney animation from childhood in which Bugs Bunny (I think it was Bugs Bunny) swallows a potion and becomes a hulking, evil green rabbit. I wondered how accurate this idea of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was when compared to the real thing.

Pretty accurate, as it turns out. Except for being green. (And a rabbit.) I guess I should do a **spoiler alert** here, but are there really people who don't know that Jekyll is Hyde? In his desire to excercise his darker urges without troubling his conscience, Dr Jekyll creates a potion that separates his good and evil aspects. The experiment isn't a total success, however, as while Mr Hyde is totally evil, Dr Jekyll isn't purely good. I wondered though if Dr Jekyll could ever be completely good, though, if part of him longed to be Mr Hyde for a little while. Surely no one so virtuous could want such a thing.

There weren't a great many surprises reading this short novel, but it was interesting for the manner of its execution and comparing the cultural construction with the real thing. Like a Greek tragedy, none of the action happened "on stage". Most events were related by one character to another or described in letters. The reader is told that Mr Hyde does all manner of sinful things, but with Victorian prudishness we're not told what these things are. 

The characters a a little stiff and homogenous but despite this it's an interesting read. Lots of "themes", you know. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde could be a metaphor for drug use or madness, or simply our desire to go a little wild sometimes. 

Audio version streamed via LibriVox.org

1 comment:

  1. My exam is coming soon.... My teacher said for literature is coming out Hardship in Dr jekyll and mr hyde... can you post me that ! thanks