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People are Strange

  • Nov 13, 2010
There are some plot twists which are so ingrained into our society's mythos that we forget they were ever plot twists in the first place. Everyone alive today, regardless of whether or not they're familiar with the source material, knows Rosebud was the sled. Everyone knows Janet Leigh is cut to ribbons in the shower and that the parental lineage of Luke Skywalker directly passes the Dark Side. Does the name Tom Riddle ring any bells? Video gamers will all have strong feelings - good and bad - over the ultimate fate of Aeris.

The story of Jekyll and Hyde has been bastardized in every available medium. Warner Brothers cartoons, movies, video games, you name it, and Henry Jekyll always drinks the juice in it. I'm actually okay with this - every affectionate bastardization, no matter how inaccurate, offbeat, and totally outlandish, is a way to raise publicity for the original source material by Robert Louis Stevenson. No, the original book isn't going to stun you the way it stunned readers who were around for that first publication in the Victorian era. You already know that Dr. Henry Jekyll drinks a potion which transforms him into a killing machine by the name of Edward Hyde. But this won't matter to those who pick up The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in search of what the book has always been: A good story. A great story, in fact.

To be perfectly fair, there are a few aspects of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which will shock those familiar with the mythos but not the story. I was very surprised to see that Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde were both little more than supporting characters. The character who performs most of the up front actions in Jekyll and Hyde goes by the name of Gabriel Utterson, a lawyer and longtime friend of Jekyll. Utterson basically acts as the story's detective, the guy who smells something rotten afoot and does the nosing around to get to the bottom of everything.

The story picks up with the sudden appearance of a mysterious character named Edward Hyde who is traipsing around the cityside knocking people off. Our hero, Utterson, first hears of the terror and oddities of Hyde through his pal Enfield. The name seems to flip a switch in Utterson's brain, and when he heads off to his home that night, he yanks out Henry Jekyll's personal will and takes note of the fact that everything Jekyll owns would be passed to some guy named Hyde should anything happen to him. Utterson, having never heard of Hyde, visits their mutual friend Lanyon, who has also never heard of Edward Hyde. And Jekyll astutely refuses to broach the subject.

Simple revelations about calligraphy make Utterson even more suspicious, and once he digs deep enough, Jekyll reveals himself. The last chapter is a goodbye message from Jekyll, who tells his story and his motives. Basically, the last chapter is the story through Jekyll's eyes. This is the chapter which is payed the most attention by literary scholars, and the Jekyll point of view is probably why.

Stevenson was clearly going for a mysterious angle with Dr. Jekyll, but given the prominence of Jekyll and Hyde in western mythology, one would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to the existence of the story for Jekyll to actually come off that way. Jekyll's inability to be mysterious is not the fault of Stevenson so much as it is our society, in which children are born with the idea of Jekyll and Hyde almost instinctive. It's the Hyde side of the personality which will be the most memorable. At first, Mr. Hyde appears as a little bit rude, but not necessarily bad. He later reveals himself to be capable of offensive actions, murder, and just plain, full-fledged creepiness.

A lot is made of the book's supposed look at the duality of human nature, but that's really not the message I got out of it. Jekyll alludes to it in his haunting final message, but I also noticed that Jekyll writes a lot about what basically amounts to the pressures of behavioral standards. He is unhappy as Jekyll but feels free as Hyde because Hyde was willing to do things that mental constructs had rendered him unable to do. He comes off as angry at himself for being a a bit wild (as Utterson describes him) when he was younger and angry at the world around him for having such strict ideas of what is and isn't normal. I saw, in short, a blistering critique of society and the narrow expectations of normality being forced onto an outcast who lacked the fortitude to let himself be a true outcast.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a short book - less than 100 pages - but it packs a punch. Robert Louis Stevenson - who also wrote Treasure Island - is considered one of the great literary titans of all time. This little "shilling shocker" is one of the reasons why.

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More Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Signet ... reviews
review by . February 04, 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 …
review by . April 02, 2006
The classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tells of a respectable citizen Dr Jekyll who transforms into a heinous villian by night that trolls the streets of Edinburgh in the 1800s. This dual life of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is traced in a third person account by a friend of the good doctor, who follows the evidence provided by both Jekyll and Hyde. The story itself is easy to understand and enjoyable to follow. The book is appropriate for anyone in high school or higher, and makes for a good movie …
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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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