Monday, October 22, 2018

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (novel #111)

…all human beings, as we meet them, are comingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil. ~ Dr. Jekyll


This is one of those novels (novella actually), that even though I’d never read it, or even watched a movie version, I was quite familiar with the plot. 

However, it was not what I expected: a classic thriller, pursuit of a maniacal villain, grotesque horrors, and satisfying justice. Nope.

Which in one sense was disappointing. I decided to read a few macabre tales for Halloween, and even though this is typically classified as horror, it isn’t very scary. It wasn’t quite what I hoped for. There is little portrayal of Hyde’s villainy – the reader is simply asked to believe he is despicable at the assertion of Dr. Jekyll.

In one sense, disappointing; in another more profound than I anticipated. I think more was intended than just a fantastic tale. Stevenson quite clearly believes in a dichotomy within man – the divine creation and the depraved sinner struggling within a single human vessel. Something akin to the familiar portrayal of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, arguing with our conscience. By experimentation, and unlucky chance, Dr. Jekyll concocts an elixir that is able to isolate his two natures. Under its influence, he is transformed into the villain Mr. Hyde. 

I am of a similar mind as Stevenson. I think every human has the ability to do good and evil. More than just ability, competing proclivities: a divine spark endowed by the creator and a bent to sin inherited from Adam. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an interesting drama of the contest between the two, though I am unnerved by the apparent conclusion – that man cannot subdue his depraved nature.

Well actually, I agree with that but would add: apart from divine grace.

My rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars



I read this for The Classics Club - Get Your Goth on Dare.

And now, for my next Halloween-themed Horror, another tale that explores the two natures of man: The Invisible Man.

Excerpts:

Most of the story is told from the point of view of London attorney Gabriel Utterson. Both excerpts are descriptions of Utterson.

In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of downgoing men. 
Hosts loved to detain the dry lawyer, when the light-hearted and loose-tongued had already their foot on the threshold; they liked to sit a while in his unobtrusive company, practicing for solitude, sobering their minds in the man’s rich silence after the expense and strain of gaiety.
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8 comments:

  1. I'll be discussing this in a week or so with the high schoolers I'm teaching lit to -- like you, I was familiar with the story, but hadn't read it until a couple of years ago. Like you, I was astonished by how thought-provoking and deep it got. It's a fascinating, albeit fantastical, look at the two natures of man, the Old Adam and the New Adam, to put it in Christian parlance. While I disagree with Stevenson's idea that both are dependent on each other, on a whole I thought it was a much more profound story than pop culture portrayals would have us believe.

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  2. Well said...that last point: man cannot subdue his depraved nature...but for divine grace.

    I had a similar results, as well. The reader never knows what the sins are, but you expect to believe they were horrible. The content wasn't filling, but the themes were heavy enough.

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    1. Yep...had to take Jekyll's word for the wickedness of Hyde.

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    1. Hey Jane....so sorry. I got clicking things too fast, and accidentally deleted your comment. :( Thanks for the feedback.

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  4. Interesting thoughts. I also believe that all people have the ability to be good and/or evil. Most people tries to be good as of the norms of society. But, I can imagine that we all, from time to time, want to do something "nasty", out of our usual norm, without being evil. The book really makes us think about good and evil, even if it could have been more detailed in the "sins" of Mr Hyde.

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