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Carnal and Moral Forces Collide

  • Feb 4, 2007
What would you do if you could drink an elixir that removes all guilt from your mind for a few hours and allows you to partake in things that you normally would never dream of? Robert Louis Stevenson gives us a glimpse of what could happen in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." It's a wonderful classic originally published in 1886. In it, the well-worn battle between good and evil is played out not in the forms of a hero and a villain, but inside the mind and soul of one man who toys with the idea of acting out his most carnal (at least that's what the reader assumes) longings.

This isn't your cookie-cutter Hollywood version of "Jekyll and Hyde." It's a much deeper study of the human soul and it's longing to be a bit "naughty" and suffer none of the consequences. Time and again, Jekyll drinks his "liquid courage" and unleashes the evil that lies within. As the days, weeks and months pass by, Jekyll finds it harder to control the beast within, and his unholy friend makes more and longer appearances. Eventually, Mr. Hyde goes too far on one of his escapades, and it drives Jekyll to the brink of sanity.

Along the way, we are introduced to characters such as Utterson and his friend Enfield. We also meet Poole, Dr. Lanyon, and in a brief appearance, a maid servant who witnesses actions against one Mr. Carew. Although Jekyll and Hyde are the title characters, most of the book's focus is placed on Utterson. Jekyll gets one chapter (the final one) in which to give his account of what happens to him as he undergoes his changes.

Most of the films and plays based on this book portray the doctor as a good, wholesome man. However, while reading this book, I found that he was perhaps more evil than Hyde. He is capable of controlling his desires. Hyde is not. Instead of prohibiting himself from taking more of the elixir, Jekyll openly enjoys it. As he begins to lose more and more control of his situation, he attempts to correct his own wrongdoing. When this occurs, we find the one thing that Hyde fears.

This particular edition of "Jekyll and Hyde" features a rather humdrum introductory essay by Vladimir Nabokov. In my opinion, he goes to depths that Stevenson probably never meant to be uncovered in his morality tale. Skip the introduction if you are unfamiliar with the story. It will do nothing more than spoil your read. I do recommend the afterword by Dan Chaon. It's a much more interesting, less in depth look at this brief, wonderful story.

I highly recommend the tale. It gets five stars, but the introductory essay drags the story down and makes it almost boring. Therefore, I give this version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" four stars.

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Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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The young Robert Louis Stevenson suffered from repeated nightmares of living a double life, in which by day he worked as a respectable doctor and by night he roamed the back alleys of old-town Edinburgh. In three days of furious writing, he produced a story about his dream existence. His wife found it too gruesome, so he promptly burned the manuscript. In another three days, he wrote it again.The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydewas published as a "shilling shocker" in 1886, and became an instant classic. In the first six months, 40,000 copies were sold. Queen Victoria read it. Sermons and editorials were written about it. When Stevenson and his family visited America a year later, they were mobbed by reporters at the dock in New York City. Compulsively readable from its opening pages,Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydeis still one of the best tales ever written about the divided self.

This University of Nebraska Press edition is a small, exquisitely produced paperback. The book design, based on the original first edition of 1886, includes wide margins, decorative capitals on the title page and first page of each chapter, and a clean, readable font that is 19th-century in style. Joyce Carol Oates contributes a foreword in which she calls Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a "mythopoetic figure" like Frankenstein, Dracula, and Alice in Wonderland, and compares Stevenson's creation to doubled selves in the works of Plato, Poe, Wilde, and Dickens.

This edition also features 12 full-page wood ...

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ISBN-10: 0451528956
ISBN-13: 978-0451528957
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Signet Classics
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