Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rating: 3/5 stars

I’ve been trying to read more classics since I graduated from school. This was the shortest one on my shelf, so I picked it up to fulfill that goal. So far, I have not found any classics that I love. There are a few that I liked and a few that I didn’t like very much, but none that really stood out for me. I had been fascinated by the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde since I was little and first heard about it. I even watched a black and white film adaptation at one time, which was okay. I was hoping that the book would be much better, the kind of classic I was looking for; but alas, it was only okay as well. I didn’t enjoy, and didn’t even finish, Treasure Island by the same author, so maybe I just don’t have good luck with Stevenson.

To be honest, the book didn’t really happen how I expected it to. I don’t know what I expected, maybe more science-y stuff and for the story to be from Dr. Jekyll’s/Mr. Hyde’s point of view (because what does he actually do when he’s Mr. Hyde?), but it wasn’t like that. It read more like a collection of case files, gathering multiple points of view on Mr. Hyde and his situation from lawyers and other doctors.

I actually wish I had been able to read this book without knowing that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person. It’s common knowledge about the story—it even says as much on the back of the book—but it wasn’t actually revealed until almost the end of the book, so I guess it’s technically a spoiler. I think it’s interesting that plot descriptions of classical novels more often than not include spoilers and no one seems to care; whereas, if someone spoiled a modern book, people would be up in arms.

I wish I could have read this book in a school setting so I could have discussed it with others and also received intellectual insights about it because this is the kind of story to provoke profound discussions.

I really enjoyed the last chapter of her book from Dr. Jekyll’s perspective and he tells us everything we wanted to know about him being Mr. Hyde. It is curious to me that in the beginning, he enjoyed becoming Mr. Hyde because of the refuge; he could do anything and get away with it because, as he said, he didn’t really exist. But over time the dark personality took over until there was no Dr. Jekyll left. I do wonder why, though, he didn’t require a potion to turn into Mr. Hyde after some time. I guess it is for the same reason he kept requiring a higher dose to return to Dr. Jekyll: his evil personality became too strong.

Was Mr. Hyde a subconscious personality of Dr. Jekyll, or was he his own person altogether? It seems to start out the former and end the latter, with Mr. Hyde becoming the dominant personality until that’s all that is left.

“His terror of the gallows drove him to continually commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate station of a part instead of a person; but he loathed the necessity.”

The Signet Classic edition that I read contains an afterword by Don Chaon that I really enjoyed because it read like an intellectual essay. He opened my eyes to a lot of details of the story. He even discusses many of the dozens of interpretations of the novel, which I found to be the most interesting. Because of the overarching vagueness throughout the story, many interpretations appropriately fit the narrative.

This book presents an excellent view of the dichotomy between good and evil. No person is all one or all the other but a mix of the two. Which trait is more dominant? I think that depends if we prefer to be Dr. Jekyll or if we prefer to be Mr. Hyde.

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