2 July 2013

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

*Caution, Spoilers*

We all know the idea of the enthusiastic doctor and his mysterious counterpart, but how does reading the actual novella compare?

Mr Utterson, a lawyer, narrates the plot of this short book, giving us a view in from the outside. Something strange is going on with his friend, Henry Jekyll. He has written a will that gives all his worldly possessions to an Edward Hyde should be disappear or die. The problem is that Mr Hyde gives Utterson the creeps. Hardly anyone sees him, and when they do he is never up to any good. Then, one day, Mr Hyde shows his true nature and kills a man. A huge man hunt ensues, but no-one can find Hyde anywhere. But does Jekyll know where he is? Well, of course he does. But original readers of the story would have been wonderfully shocked at the confessions that come out after the climax.

The book is a short one, and doesn't stick too well in the mind (but I was very tired when reading this, and that may be why). However it is the idea of a man splitting his identity in half that is truly interesting; the idea that he could be on one hand a good man, and on the other a truly heinous character. This is based loosely on a real-life disorder; disassociative identity disorder (otherwise known as split personality), but instead of the personality sharing the same body Jekyll undergoes a physical transformation to a younger, shorter and more gnarled appearance. This idea has stuck in  our minds ever since this book was published, and although it is not a hugely action-packed book, it certainly puts the same thoughts in your head that makes it one of the greats.

Some aspects of the plot are not quite as expected; the narration, for example. I expected it to be soully the viewpoint of Dr Jekyll, but what we have instead is a mystery that is finally revealed at the end of the book. Unfortunately knowing the answer makes the book a little dull to read, as it is full of complex, old-fashioned prose. Still, it is short and not difficult to get through. I would not say it is a must-read, but it is a classic, whether I say so or not. 4 out of 10.

Image; Lovelaughterinsanity.com