Well here we are: the final week of Febookuary and only three reviews to go. Damn the momentum has been hard to keep up, with last week being a great example. Hopefully we can all forget about that with this review of one of the most well-known horror characters in fiction, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. So quick, let us transform into that ghastly and repetitive of things, the obligatory overview!
One day when the lawyer Gabriel John Utterson and ‘man about town’ Richard Enfield are on their weekly walk when they spot a man trample over a young girl. Utterson and Enfield apprehend the man, who reveals himself to be Mr Edward Hyde. Disgusted by Hyde actions, as well as his somehow indescribably disgusting appearance, Utterson; Enfield and the girl’s family force Hyde to pay £100 for his behaviour. Hyde retrieves from the account of a well-known and respected gentleman, Dr Henry Jekyll.
After a certain time, Utterson brings up the topic to Jekyll after one of his dinner parties; having learned that Hyde is the sole beneficiary from Jekyll’s will and fears he is being blackmailed by Hyde. Upon hearing the mention of Hyde, Jekyll turn pale, yet assures Utterson that Hyde should be left to his own devices and that everything is alright. Over the coming years, the actions of Hyde and the growing reclusiveness of Jekyll begin to draw suspicion which ends in one of the greatest revelations in literary history.
Well that was probably one of the most half-useless overviews I may have ever written for my blog. Why half-useless? Well I’m guessing that many of you have probably never read this book, yet most, if not all of you, yes even you literary novices, have some sort of inkling as to what the famed twist is. Shall I tell you and risk ruining it for those who have not heard? No, I shall not. I’ll just leave the ninety-nine percent of you feeling smug while the one percent searches Google for answers.
Back from Google? Well onwards then, and I may I thank you for returning after your brief departure. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a fantastic examination of the duality of people, the face that we show to the public and the inner evils that reside within use made manifest. This loathsome yang to a person’s ying is best described by Enfield who, upon asked what Mr Hyde is like responds;
‘He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity although I couldn’t specify the point…’
The deformity that Enfield cannot describe is that of our inner evil or inner demons; however you wish to describe it. That internal villainy resides within all of us and by having it come forth in corporeal form allows us to examine both the characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and of ourselves.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde works in a similar fashion to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and, indeed, was published only four years apart, in 1886 and 1890 respectively. There seems to have been a Victorian fascination with vice and corruption, allowing us to indulge our evil sides while remaining virtuous in our other selves, be they in a painting or the bottom of a potion.
On that note, Robert Louis Stevenson makes a good point on addiction, noting that, after attempting to abstain from his draft that, like a drunkard, his demons could not be satiated;
‘My devil had long been caged, he came out roaring.’
The way in which Jekyll abuses his draft to the point where he can no longer be without it, despite long periods of abstaining from its temptations, is quite a good commentary on substance abuse both then and now. While The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde does not deal with any real substance for abuse, it was not a new topic, with The Picture of Dorian Gray, Charles Dicken’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), Edgar Allen Poe’s short story Ligeia, and perhaps most obvious of all Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey (1821). There are more to mention but I doubt that you’d want me to list them all. Suffice it to say, the topic of addiction was as much prevalent in Victorian times as it is now, but perhaps with greater literary results because of it.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a remarkable short read that deserves the popularity it has maintain since the late nineteenth century. While some of the characters are a bit two dimensional, it is elevated by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the dual nature of man and how we can be both respectable and deplorable, and yet still ever so intriguing.
Thank you for reading! I know it’s a little late but I hope you’ll forgive me. If you’d like to read more of The Chronic Chronicler, then follow me here on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. Also don’t forget to like, comment and share with all your friends and enemies. My next review will be The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang. Thanks again for reading!