This one’s a classic. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson has become the metaphor of having two sides: good and evil. Even before reading it, I knew how the story went. Jekyll and Hyde appear in different kinds of media: movies, books, and even music, not to mention the more than one hundred movie adaptations of the book itself!
So it is safe to say that I was happy when this classic appeared on the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. A friend had a copy, so I borrowed it and started reading.
About the book
Stevenson was used to thinking about good and evil: raised in a Calvinistic environment, the possibility of committing sin (and the punishment that comes with that) hung over his head ever since he was young. According to the notes about the author in my copy of the book, Stevensons other books and short stories all use this theme of good and bad.
In this book, good and evil take the form of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde. Jekyll struggles with the good and bad in him, tries to split these two sides, and so becomes Hyde with the help of a potion.
At first Jekyll uses Hyde to do things the respectable Jekyll couldn’t, and he experiences freedom like never before. But after a while, Hyde starts appearing without the potion. Some terrible things happen, which Jekyll regrets as soon as he is himself. Jekyll feels that he is losing control over the transformations and that Hyde is taking over. He decides to kill himself, thereby killing Hyde.
The reader follows Mr. Utterson, who is a friend of Jekyll. Slowly, things become more clearly to Utterson. After the death of Hyde (Jekyll is nowhere to be found), Utterson reads letters from Dr. Lanyon and Jekyll, explaining what had happened.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a book that you don’t have to read because of the plot twist: you probably already know. I can only imagine people back in the days, who didn’t know how the two men are linked to each other, and the shock they felt as they read the final pages of the book.
I am used to reading books of which I already know the plot. Harry Potter is almost yearly on my reading list. But this tale about Jekyll and Hyde couldn’t get my attention the way Harry and Ron do. It didn’t pull me in as much as I would have liked. And because of that, I am not inclined to read it again. For me to pick it up a second time, it needs that pull.
Maybe it’s the language, the structure of sentences, or the way Stevenson tells the story from Utterson’s eyes. It’s a great story, but old. The story is already out there, adapted to media and into other stories more fitting to our time. It is nice to have finally read this classic, but I doubt I would read it again.