the strange case of dr jekyll and mr hyde

Welcome to another month of Book Club Classics! If you haven’t yet read Monday’s post about Robert Louis Stevenson and his writing, you should probably pop over there first and then come back. Also, if you’re completely new to book club, welcome! You can read all about it, and our books for the year are listed below!

2015 Book Club Classics List

JanuaryAge of Innocence by Edith Wharton (January 28) My review here
FebruaryA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (February 25) My review here
MarchA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (March 25) My review here
AprilMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (April 29) My review here
MayThe Awakening by Kate Chopin (May 20) My review here
JuneThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (June 24) My review here
JulyThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (July 31)
AugustDoctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (August 26)
SeptemberLady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (September 30)
OctoberDracula by Bram Stoker (October 28)
NovemberBeowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (November 18)
DecemberThe Chimes by Charles Dickens (December 16)

Now, who’s ready to discuss the real story behind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? As always, be forewarned that there are spoilers past this point!

General Thoughts

Isn’t it odd reading a story and knowing how it’s going to end? Or I should say thinking you know how it’s going to end. “Jekyll and Hyde” is such a familiar concept in today’s world that I almost hesitated to put it on the list for us to read in book club. Would it be worth it? Would people be too familiar to enjoy the story? Would it be too scary?

Well, I can tell you one thing for sure—it didn’t exactly evoke the kind of terror that I imagined it would. While the descriptions of Mr. Hyde and his transformation would definitely fall under the grotesque and strange, I’m not sure any part of the book would be considered horror. For instance, I think the only film adaptation of the Jekyll and Hyde character that I’ve seen is from Van Helsing. You’ve seen the sore thumb in Hugh Jackman’s film career, right? That Hyde is more like a huge, murderous King Kong in his stature and mannerisms, so I was surprised to find that Hyde was actually shorter than Jekyll. Basically, I enjoyed the short story for what it was—a sort of detective story with a little science fiction thrown in, but I’m even more fascinated with how that story created such a well-known identity that pervades our culture one hundred years later.

Dr. Utterson: the unassuming narrator

Anyone who is familiar with the musical adaptation of the story, Jekyll & Hyde, will understand why I imagined the novella was written from the perspective of either Jekyll or Hyde or even from both characters. I suppose that’s what happens when the best songs are given to the title characters and are typically soliloquy-like solos. However, I won’t say that I was disappointed by Dr. Utterson’s narration, simply surprised. As Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer and old friend, Dr. Utterson’s involvement in the case seemed natural; plus I feel like his profession would justify his being a bit nosy and overly involved despite his friend’s assurances that his help wasn’t needed.

Overall, I think that Dr. Utterson provided a good perspective since Stevenson tended to present the facts and events of the novel’s action without an overload of bias or emotion. I also think the use of journal entries and letters provided a good amount of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s perspective without letting the story be overrun with a mad man’s evil ramblings or guilt-ridden apologies. I think this alternative would have made the novella a bit monotonous and certainly more difficult to follow.

Good versus evil

When I began reading the story, I knew that Jekyll was “good” and Hyde was “bad,” and I knew that some kind of potion/solution/sciency mixture was used to make the transformation. If I’m correct in my understanding, pop culture failed me, and I was only slightly correct. The fact that Mr. Hyde is a completely evil figure whereas Dr. Jekyll is still the same mixture of good and evil that he has always been really threw me for a loop. I suppose I understand the idea behind it; when you’re selfishly looking for a way to indulge both your good and bad sides, you end up indulging the self-indulgent, evil side completely. I still think it would’ve been interesting to see an even better version of Dr. Jekyll, which I suppose he attempts to create himself to keep the evil Mr. Hyde at bay.

Out of everything concerning the two personalities of one man, I was most intrigued by the idea that Mr. Hyde was repulsive to others not just in his grotesque figure but in the “feeling” that other characters got from being around him. I think it’s so true that most people have this sixth sense about circumstances or people, so it made sense that even from yards away, one would feel how off Hyde really was. No one should feel comfortable being around a totally evil, self-indulgent, depraved character even before seeing the manifestation of these qualities in his features and physical appearance.

If we’re friends on Goodreads (which we definitely should be!), you’ll notice that I gave The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde three stars. It was short and entertaining, but left me wanting just a little more!

And now for the linkup! If you wrote your own post about the novella or if you want to link up a post about another classic book that you love, use the InLinkz button below to join the conversation. Don’t forget to include a link to this post in your page or even slap this button onto it and help spread the word!

Book Club Classics

Next month’s classic is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, and it’s actually the first book that wasn’t on my original book club list. Thanks to Lily Manette for including it in her response to my survey! I hope to see you back here next month to dive into it with me.

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