Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

I had actually never read this book, when I noticed this book in a bookshop for only 4 euros. I only just got round to reading it though, so here is my review.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R. L. Stevenson
First published by Longmans, Green & Co. in 1886 (this edition by HarperPress in 2010)

Description: (from back cover)
'All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil.'
After taking an elixir created in his laboratory, mild mannered Dr Jekyll is transformed into the cruel and despicable Mr Hyde. Although seemingly harmless at first, things soon descend into chaos and Jekyll quickly realises there is only one way to stop Hyde. Stevenson's quintessential novella of the Victorian era epitomizes the conflict between psychology, science and religious morality, but is fundamentally a triumphant study of the duality of human nature.

I kept hearing about this story for years and years, but only vaguely knew what it was about. I can honestly say that having now read the book, it wasn't really what I was expecting.

We all know the basic plot. We have one man, Dr Jekyll, who drinks some sort of potion he makes and is promptly transformed into Mr Hyde. The difference between these two men is not limited to their appearance, but goes as far as their actual character. Dr Jekyll is described as a mild mannered man, whereas Mr Hyde is said to be evil personified (or maybe that's too harsh). He seems to repel each and every character in the book.

I don't know why, but I remember that, at some point, I used to think that Dr Jekyll was the evil one and Mr Hyde the good one. I was a little embarrassed when someone pointed out that it was the opposite. Though I think that my assumption that Dr Jekyll was the evil one came from the fact that he is a doctor (just like Frankenstein, who created his monster).

I don't want to spoil the book, so I can't really get into many details. The book is less than 100 pages long, so I have to be careful not to give any information away that could potentially ruin the book for someone who has not yet read it. The book is told in the third person, through the eyes of the people in the immediate circle of Dr Jekyll or through letters. This actually gives it an air of mystery, as everyone has a view of what is going on, but have no means of knowing why each thing is happening.

The story actually want to show the duality of human nature. Dr Jekyll stands for the good part in a person, whereas Mr Hyde stands for the evil part of the same person. Thus, Hyde really acts like a mask, behind which Jekyll is free to do anything he wants. One thing that stood out (to me) was the fact that Dr Jekyll is described as a tall and healthy man, with a pleasant face, but Mr Hyde is presented as a man of short stature and looks that make people want to look away from him. I always imagined Hyde as a tall, muscular sort of fellow, who was probably a bit of a bully because of his size. So I was quite surprised to see that was not the case.

All in all, it was a good book, if a little short. I think it could have done with a little more development and it wouldn't have been at all tiring. I liked the setting of the book and the message it was trying to get across. A book that people should read. I, for one, think I should have read this book years ago. It's not really scary. It's more mysterious, really. So, just go read it if you haven't!

Rating: 7/10

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish poet and novelist and is regarded as a leading representative of Neo-romanticism in English literature. He was greatly admired by many well-known authors, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Rudyard Kipling, Vladimir Nabokov and Ernest Hemingway. He published his first book at the age of 33 and died of an apparent cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 44. During his relatively few years of writing, he managed to write an impressive number of novels, short stories, poetry and travel writing, a list of which you can find HERE.
His most well-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Counts as Book #28 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge and as Book #14 in my British Books Challenge 2011!
Also counts toward the Victorian Literature Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. I read this for my studies at university - part of the literature of transgression. I really enjoyed it. I agree it shows the divided nature of the human soul. Fab review.


I love comments!! You really make my day when you leave me one! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...