Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson [Dueling Monsters]

Posted 29 October, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 15 Comments

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Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published: 1886  Pages: 75
Genre: Fiction, Classic
Rating: 3/5

Mr. Utterson, narrator of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, begins to notice curious goings-on with this good friend Dr. Jekyll. A mysterious Mr. Hyde beings making appearances (nasty and difficult to look at appearances!) and Mr. Utterson becomes suspicious of what is happening behind closed doors. What he uncovers, partly through examinations, interviews, and correspondence, is more horrific than he could have imagined.

Why I read this book: I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Jill and Heather’s Dueling Monsters readalong. The fight was between Oscar Wilde’s 1890 Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and since I’ve already read Dorian Gray and have been wanting to read this, timing was perfect! Plus, how did I not know this is more a novella than novel?? Bonus!

I’m going to be straight up and honest here. October has been a crazy month and while I did manage to finish Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I read through the book fairly quickly and listened to several chunks on audio (via librivox). This is one that I’ll have to re-read again when time allows me to really dig into the story, so unfortunately this is less a review and more about the Dueling Monsters.

But, there were a few things that surprised me/interested me about the book. I was surprised at the narrator of the book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Mr. Utterson telling a story was not it—perhaps I was expecting more of an omniscient narrator? What I wouldn’t give to have read this one in the 1880s not knowing a thing about the plot and to discover for the first time how truly horrific Jekyll and Hyde’s case is. Because Jekyll and Hyde have become such an iconic part of culture, I would think there would be very few who don’t have any idea of what the story is about. I find this a tough reconciliation with many of these classics—Frankenstein, Dracula (which I haven’t read), Jekyll and Hyde, Dorian Gray—not meaning to mention just dueling books—the reconciliation between the original stories and how pop culture has transformed these stories into something so much more frightening.

My favorite part of the entire story comes at the very end when Jekyll tells the reader in his own words how the Jekyll and Hyde split came to be. The true horror comes from the recognition that deep within us we do have monsters that given the right climate can take over and push our normal selves to the side. But what’s more is the desire or curiosity to let out the monster within us—to live outside of the laws of society and push the boundaries. I think we see this more in Dorian Gray as Dorian commits horrible crimes and acts in atrocious ways and simply gets away with it (if this is wrong it’s because my memory sucks).

Bottom Line: It’s short so just suck it up and read it because I said so (or because it’s a classic…whatever). Actually, the librivox narrator was quite good—at least compared to the horror stories I’ve heard about librivox narrators. This isn’t my favorite classic but I’d be very interested in reading it again at a time when I can really let myself absorb what is going on in the story and really understand Jekyll’s motives for wanting to let Hyde out in the first place.

So, if Jekyll/Hyde were in a dueling match with Dorian Gray, who would come out the winner? I think the breakdown would be as follows:
**Jekyll/Hyde two people or one? Point to Jekyll/Hyde for duel personalities (and physiques)
**But point for Dorian for keeping his inner monster behind closed doors. Appearance is everything, right?
**Murderers! Point for Hyde and Dorian, tied for brutality
**Dorian gets an extra point for all the crap worldly goods he’s accumulated throughout his years—Hyde’s apartment is empty!
**But Jekyll makes up for Hyde’s lack of goods by his desire to rid himself of his monster. Dorian IS the monster.
**Equal points to Jekyll and Dorian for eventually taking matters into his own hands—too bad they had to destroy themselves to destroy the monster within.
**Tiebreaker?? Since Wilde is a lover of exclamation points, Dorian gets the final punch of the evening making him the clear winner by grammatical default!

It was a close one!  And if I hadn’t re-read my thoughts on Dorian Gray and seen that Oscar Wilde uses so many exclamation points, I think Jekyll and Hyde might have the edge.  Wait…just thinking about that portrait of Dorian sends me into a cold sweat!
Do you agree?  If Jekyll/Hyde were in a duel with Dorian Gray, who do you think would come out the winner?

15 Responses to “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson [Dueling Monsters]”

  1. Ha!! I love that it all comes back to exclamation marks. :D

    I’ve heard that Martin Jarvis narrates this audiobook, not on librivox of course, but one of the professional ones, which makes me want to listen to it pronto! He did an excellent job with Good Omens. I adore this book, but I had a distinct advantage of being very, very naive when it comes to books. Even the iconic classics, because I didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up, I know very little about. Like I had no idea Frankenstein was the doctor before going into the book. And while I knew Jekyll & Hyde were the same, I knew absolutely nothing else about this book and thus loved it. Besides which, I adore the prose!! It’s some of my favorite ever.

  2. I am not so sure who would be the winner of the duel as I have not read either book. I had no idea that this book is only 76 pages. Huh. I was just thinking recently that I wanted to read some spooky classic like Dracula pr something, maybe this one is the one! And p.s. Tale it easy! Slow down a little and enjoy the ride! The holidays are coming up and you should soak up the holiday cheer! Love ya!!!!

  3. Dorian won in my opinion as well. I listened to J&H, read by Martin Jarvis, which was a lot of fun. I, too, was surprised at how large a role Mr. Utterson played–you don’t really hear about him when you hear the story of J&H. And I agree, it would be so cool to have read J&H when it was first published, before its plot was common knowledge!

  4. Amy

    I haven’t read Dorian Gray, but I did rather enjoy Jekyll and Hyde! I love your reasons for who won. heh

  5. I know I read this my sophomore year at Tech for a gothic lit class, but I literally remember nothing about it. (I’m sure you’re not surprised). I don’t think I enjoyed it very much though. And I’m equally embarrassed to say I’ve never read one word by Oscar Wilde *wince*. Anyways…good book to read right before Halloween! :)

  6. Dorian wins?! Boo hiss! Just kidding! … ok, not really … ;)

    I was clueless about Mr. Utterson before reading this book but I ended up really liking his character. And even though I don’t agree with your conclusion (boo!) I really enjoyed your post.

    Thanks for being a part of the Duel! I’ll have my recap and everyone’s links posted tomorrow.

  7. Woo-hoo! I was getting a bit worried for Dorian, as it seemed like J&H were going to take him down, which really isn’t fair, considering there’s two of them and one of him. But he seems to be gathering some fans…it might be a close call.

  8. I’ve yet to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, although I had it slated for this year’s RIP V. Since that ends tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll have it read by then, but I appreciate you comparing it to Dorian Gray (and, telling me it’s a novella. I didn’t know that either!).

  9. I am sure Jill is going to go YAY! This is the kind of post I wanted to do , but then I could not because I am not done with the books YET! I am feel so YUCK about me!

  10. This is my favorite Stevenson. I read Treasure Island earlier this year and I enjoyed Dr. J & Mr. Hyde much more. Thanks for the review and reminding me why I loved the story so much.

  11. *Amanda – I had to laugh when I read my Dorian thoughts and saw the remark about the exclamation points. So Trish. ;) I admittedly don’t know who Martin Jarvis is but I’ve been thinking about finding Good Omens on audio after your rave! And I don’t think I realized Frankenstein wasn’t the monster until I saw one of the movies a few years back. Interesting how Hollywood always portrays Frankenstein as the monster!!

    *Trisha – I still have your post saved—can’t wait to see why you thought Dorian more the monster!!

    *Michelle – Oh you are such a good cousin to remind me to slow down. ;) Must remember my limits huh…! Oh I definitely want to read Dracula as well! I’ve always been too intimidated by it. :P But yes, J&H is short short short at 76 pages!! Nice surprise!

    *Erin – You’re the second person to recommend the Jarvis audio version! I buckled and listened on librivox version but it was still decent. Isn’t it amazing how we have these preconceived notions of a book and can be so surprised by what actually happens (like Utterson’s narration!). Love “discovering” classics!

    *Reviewsbylola – If it weren’t for audiobook help, I wouldn’t have made it either. Next time! ;)

    *Amy – Even though Dorian Gray was the winner, Jekyll and Hyde was a much more enjoyable read for me. Though Wilde’s writing is something else!

    *Laura – Did I know you took a gothic lit course? I need to see that syllabus! ;) If you read Oscar Wilde, I recommend his plays. They’re a lot more fun than Dorian Gray was! Oooor, you could just watch the movie The Important of Being Earnest. Definitely a fun one!

    *Heather – Still subscribed? ;) Late on responding to comments on this one. Thanks for hosting the duel with Jill—it was a lot of fun and I can’t wait until next year. It was a close call between these monsters, but Dorian just had that extra “jerk” factor that pushed him over the edge. Ha!

    *Jill – Well, if it weren’t for this exclamation points, it would be a pretty tough decision! But Dorian does seem to be the all-around creep.

    *Bellezza – Oh yes, this one is very short! And fairly easy classic to read. I hope you enjoy it—even though it’s no longer RIP season, this one would still be great for colder, snuggly weather!

    *Veens – Oh Veens. Don’t get down about it. I saw you started with Dorian Gray—if I had tried that one I wouldn’t have made it through either. Jekyll and Hyde is much shorter and easier to read! I still recommend it even though the “duel” is over.

    *Brenna – Too bad about Treasure Island! I was hoping it would be a good follow up book for Stevenson (though I know very different). Maybe I’ll seek it on audio. Glad you liked J&H so much!