An introduction to “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello, book clubbers! Aren’t you glad this month’s book was considerably shorter than last month’s? I read it in one bus ride and a lunch break, so I was quite pleased. It was definitely more novella than novel and might even qualify as a short story. Today we’re going to dive into the man behind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on November 13, 1850. His father’s family was full of quite illustrious lighthouse engineers, and his mother was of the gentry. Stevenson grew up as a very sickly child who was constantly pulled out of school and taught by private tutors, and although he was a late bloomer as far as reading and writing is concerned, he was supposedly full of stories from a very early age. He later attended the University of Edinburgh where he studied (and seemingly hated) engineering. Upon telling his father he had no interest in joining the family trade of designing and maintaining lighthouses, his father encouraged him to study the law, which he did but never practiced.

He seems to have had multiple “close calls” throughout his life, including when he traveled across the world to California to meet up with Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, who would become his wife. The two didn’t have any children, although she brought a daughter and son from her previous marriage. It was during this time that he began writing seriously and as a profession.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the first book of Stevenson’s that I’ve read, but I feel like I should probably check out Treasure Island as well. Also, Stevenson’s travel narratives sound truly fascinating as he traveled back and forth from Europe to America multiple times, and he also spent the end of his life exploring the South Pacific. Stevenson actually lived the last years in Samoa where he became close with the locals and gained the nickname “Tusitala,” or “Teller of Tales.” He died on December 3, 1894, at just forty-four years old, most likely of a cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried on Mount Vaea.

Now for some questions that I had while reading:

  • What did you think about the character Gabriel Utterson and the choice to narrate through him?
  • Did anything regarding the physical transformation of the title character(s) surprise you?
  • In which genre would you categorize this story?
  • Was the story how you imagined it would be based on modern adaptations/interpretations of the Jekyll and Hyde?

I’ll be back with a book club post on Friday, and as always, there’ll be a linkup for posts on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or any other classic books. Wednesday is my very first blogiversary, and I feel like the occasion deserves its own post!

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