October 29th, 2012
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a story deeply implanted in our cultural psyche. To me, it makes reading the original story all the more complicated. It is hard to separate my preconceived notions from the story as it was written. A couple years ago, my best friend Kate and I both read the story in a semi-successful effort to be our own book club and catch up on some classics. I enjoyed the story, but Kate had the passionate opinion, so back in February 2010, she wrote a review for my old blog. I’m going to publish it here because I like it.
One interesting note is the description of Hyde in the story is an underdeveloped and deformed in body, along with being the evil monster we are familiar with. In the movies, Hyde is built more like Frankenstein’s monster than hunchbacked Igor. The Hollywood version would easily bend threaded rods. Robert Lewis Stevenson explains how Dr. Jekyll developed his good traits, so his darker tendencies manifest as a small and weak man. Less impressive for horror films, of course, it also seems to illustrate how evil was viewed in his time and ours.
Now for some thoughts from Kate, who you can find on Twitter @Katerbell81:
People assume I’m smart and I never correct them. Thus, I felt connected to Dr. J in his self-imposed virtuous exile. People assume he’s nice and he has never corrected them. He simply doesn’t want to be good anymore. Really, who can blame him? Nice people has massive amounts of expectations placed upon them. They must not just be nice but nice ALL the time and to EVERYone. Nice people never turn to the ever present annoying person and say, “Do you like games? I’ve got a great new game. It’s called hide and go f— yourself. You start.” So Dr. J is simply finding a way to express his dual nature and we get an amazing view on the human condition. Mr. H is malnourished and (unlike his movie star likeness) short, diminished, and ill-fit. I enjoy this view as it greatly demonstrates the restraint Dr J has maintained. The book is not a favorite and I probably won’t revisit it. The story lacks rhythm and flow for me. We are simply told Dr. J has desires and impulses, but they are never fleshed out. The implied is they are sexual in nature but without description or detail I am left wondering. Is Dr. J into some odd S&M fantasy? under-aged girls? or horror upon horror for a prominent man of the era is he simply gay? All we the readers are sure of is the separation of good and evil allows for Mr H to displace Dr J as the man in charge, thus eventually resulting in death. Personally I find Dr J to be weak in the story. He wants to allow his inner desires to be fulfilled but creates not an alter ego that he can exercise control over but an entire different being so as to avoid culpability. Smacks of wussy behavior and leaves me doubting his inherit goodness from the start. Reading this paragraph I notice several contradictions, I have decided to allow them to stand as is. I am my own Hyde.