I needed to read a work of horror for this year’s Back to the Classics Challenge 2017. Of course, everyone knows this tale about a good scientist who unleashes his hedonistic persona with disastrous results. I was impressed with how well this story still resonates with meaning even today. This is another great work from the wonderful Robert Louis Stevenson.
The friends of Dr. Henry Jekyll are quite worried about his recent erratic behaviors. Not only has he made the acquaintance of the dark and twisted Edward Hyde, but Jekyll has now left his fortune to him! Hyde seems to be a constant presence in Jekyll’s home and laboratory while Jekyll himself disappears for long stretches at a time. What is the mysterious hold that Hyde has over the good doctor?
It was an interesting experience reading this book for the first time but knowing the story in advance. Through the numerous versions that have pervaded our media, we all know how Jekyll and Hyde are connected. However, it was interesting to think about how nobody knew this upon its original release Although clues are scattered throughout, the actual identity of Jekyll’s mysterious counterpart is not revealed until the end.
Despite the shortness of the book, I found it took me a while to get engaged with the material. Most of the story is told from the perspectives of Jekyll’s friends. Stevenson made the right choice to narrate it from others’ perspectives. He also does well at character development for both Jekyll and Hyde. I especially loved how when we are first introduced to him, Hyde is small and weak looking. His strength grows as he gains more control over Jekyll. Stevenson manages to say quite a lot about the nature of identity and the balance between our good and evil sides.
From a personal perspective, this book is rather meaningful to me. Jekyll’s condition is often made to resemble someone battling addiction. As someone who has fought an addiction (and still fights), reading this book made me consider my own internal struggles. Recently, I had a huge relapse brought on by losing someone close to me. It continues to be a daily struggle. Sometimes I really do feel like two people. There’s the balanced and educated writer of this blog. Then there’s my darker half who has his tendencies of having reckless fun and being self-destructive.
I really hope the first guy wins. Sometimes it’s nice being Hyde but that road never ends well.
My edition also contained some of Stevenson’s short stories. The favorite for me was the three-part “Suicide Club” about this dark meeting of men who voluntarily play a card game which will end in one of their deaths by another member. The first part is quite chilling and again reminded me of the self-destructive behaviors we often engage in when we struggle with finding true meaning in our lives.
“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
Have you read this book or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts! Please comment below!