The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I've been trying to catch up on some of the classics that I was never given the opportunity to read in school and realized that some of those classics are perfect for this time of year. There are some terrific scary classics out there that I haven't read like The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, The Island of Dr. Moreau and more. I've already conquered a collection of Edgar Allen Poe, Dracula and Frankenstein for Halloweens past, so this time around, I decided to check out The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
In this short novel we are witness to the strange events surrounding a respectable doctor named Henry Jekyll and his unsavory acquaintance, Mr. Hyde. We see these events take place through the eyes of a variety of people. First, we are treated to a third person account as we travel along with Dr. Jekyll's lawyer Mr. Utterson, who has recently received a change in Dr. Jekyll's last will and testament that greatly disturbs him. Apparently, should Dr. Jekyll die, or in fact, disappear, all things he owns should go to someone named Mr. Hyde.
Having been Dr. Jekyll's lawyer and friend for quite some time, Utterson finds it shocking that he knows nothing about this man that Jekyll has made his benefactor. He is even more alarmed when he hears a story about the man and his painful encounter with a small child in the street. But it isn't until he meets the man that he realizes the evil shroud the man appears to be swathed in which has Utterson wondering what possible reason Jekyll could have for naming Hyde except that he has gotten himself in serious trouble.
As we read on, we learn that Dr. Jekyll has gotten himself in some serious trouble indeed. We first read of the account in first person in the form of a letter from another medical acquaintance and friend who has recently died. The next first person account comes from Dr. Jekyll himself, a confession of sorts that shocks Mr. Utterson to the core.
I was surprised to find myself slightly bored with this book in the beginning. I had read Robert Louis Stevenson's work before and count Treasure Island and Kidnapped as some of the most enjoyable classic novel reads of my youth, so when I found myself struggling to get into a story I felt I was sure to enjoy, I was puzzled. Sure, it was written in the flowery classical pen, but I had read countless books written in this manner without being bored. So what was it about this one that had me feeling less than engaged?
And then I realized, this is the original tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had seen countless versions of this story retold - Abbott and Costello did a version, Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman did another and I absolutely enjoyed the Jekyll & Hyde musical starring Constantine Maroulis. I was judging what I was reading by those later spiced up versions of the original tale.
I decided to sit down and read the book as if I had never heard of the story before and, as I got towards the center of the story, I found myself thoroughly engaged, wondering how it would all turn out in the end. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde clues us in on what could possibly happen if one half of our personalities reined supreme. All of us are a combination of good and evil - humans are a fallible breed and we often make mistakes. But what if the part of us that did the wrong things, not caring about the consequences, took over...what if we found ourselves giving in to that side of our psyche.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an early version of the psychological thriller and, although I must admit that I liked the later spicier versions better, I am glad I read the original by Robert Louis Stevenson.