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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello and welcome back to Classic’s Corner, the blog in which we read classic, ‘must read’ books and attempt to raise our IQ! If along the way we discover there is such a thing as over-hype then that’s just a dandy coinkidink.

Jekyll and Hyde: It’s so ingrained in our popular culture, has permeated the public conscience so much that we all know the story. We all know the ending. We don’t need to read it because we know what happens. Apparently we don’t. Turns out the story of Jekyll and Hyde that we all know and love, of the scientist who creates a potion that turns him into an alter ego he can’t control is only partially true. Yes, Dr Jekyll creates this potion and yes, Hyde is a horrible person who even sinks to murder, but not in the same way that we think we know.

The story is mostly told from the perspective of Jekyll’s lawyer, who is suspicious of Hyde because Jekyll recently changed his will to bequeath all his worldly goods to Hyde in the instance of Dr Jekyll’s disappearance. Instead of doing any real investigating though, this lawyer stands in the street and waits for Mr Hyde to show up, then has a conversation where nothing untoward is said, actually Hyde sounds quite civil throughout the story, and is left with the absolute certainty that Hyde is evil because he looks a bit dodgy. Then some more nothing happens, during which Dr Jekyll hides himself away and we are told this because he won’t let Utterson (the Lawyer) in to see him. Nothing we know about Jekyll or Hyde is told from their point of view and while I guess that’s great for the final reveal, there is no plot in which revealing that would be warranted. Some more nothing happens, then Hyde murders some dude in the street while a maid is watching. Utterson feels like he was in the right all along, the police are called but Hyde’s gone. *gasp*. Then even more nothing happens while we discover that a third and previously unmentioned friend has been taken ill and then dies of what turns out to be shock. Literally halfway through the story the butler gets suspicious that Jekyll hasn’t been seen for a week and calls Utterson in the middle of the night to investigate; at last, action! Oh, wait, no… Jekyll just killed himself. The last half of the book is Utterson reading 2 letters that describe who Hyde is. That’s it. That’s the whole story.

There is an underlying moral about not letting your two (or three or four or five) sides war and seeking harmony in yourself. That everyone has a bit of Mr Hyde within them, trying to separate the two parts will never end well. We are the real enemies of ourselves? Something like that. I’m not an English teacher and I never had to study this text, so an actual, in depth analysis is not going to be forthcoming. This is what I got from the book, take it or leave it. Art is subjective. (I’m writing this at quarter to 11 at night, having just finished another review for a book I didn’t like, and I’m starting to notice myself getting a little argumentative… I do apologise.)

It is interesting to me that Mr Hyde is a small, wrinkled man in the original text. I am used to seeing, and imagining him to  be a giant of a man, with huge arms, and the strength of ten men, obviously the producers of film and TV thought a small man would be less imposing.

I am actually really disappointed with this book. I was expecting a thriller, a who-dunnit, something with a bit more meat. This is like half a story, the bones waiting for the flesh. I guess that’s what happens when you over hype something in your head, the end result, no matter how good, is always disappointing. There was never going to be a situation in which this book could have lived up to the one in my head, but it should have been better than this. I know it is a short story and there isn’t as much time to flesh out characters or anything like that, but I didn’t even get much of an atmosphere, there was no suspense, no horror lurking, nothing that made me think “oh this is creepy”. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Victorian? Something of the era is lost on my tiny, 21st century mind, that a bit of fog cannot conjure up images of the macabre.

I don’t know if it’s a Victorian thing, or just because I’m reading kindle editions, but what’s the deal with using a dash instead of admitting what the year is? eg: “it is the year 18-“. As a reader in 2017 it doesn’t really matter if it was the year 1818 or the year 1898, either way it was a long old time ago, not relatable to now and context would be nice. If it’s a kindle thing, that’s such an odd thing to change, why would you do that? It it’s the author’s doing it, did they just not want their writings to date or did they genuinely not know what year it was? So many questions.

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