Friday, October 29, 2010
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published: 1886 Pages: 75
Genre: Fiction, Classic
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?