Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Creepy Classic Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

This month’s Creepy Classic is Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I honestly never have read this story before and vaguely recall various film depictions of the story.  And from what I did recollect, the tale was about a mad scientist, Dr. Jekyll, who drinks a potion and becomes the nefarious Mr. Hyde. Oh, how the original delves much deeper than that.

The book starts off with Mr. Utterson; one of Dr. Jekyll’s old school chums thats described as probably one of the best openings I’ve read in a book in a long time. “Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty, and embarrassed in discourse; backyard in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow loveable.” And boy was he ever likeable. Utterson’s a little obsessive and possibly a stalker at times, but the poor guy does so because he’s concerned for his friend, Dr. Jekyll. As the executor of Dr. Jekyll’s will, Mr. Utterson is troubled by the notion that his friend, Dr. Jekyll - in the event of his disappearance would leave all his belongings, assets and so forth to that of a stranger, this Mr. Edward Hyde.

And what’s to make of this strange man, Mr. Hyde? As described in the original, he’s not as all as Hollywood describes. He’s odd, no doubt, small frame and sinister nature, yet as Stevenson put it in Utterson’s terms: “Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation…” And one of my favorite passages after Utterson is confounded by his first meeting with Jekyll’s creepy friend, he surmises “Jekyll, if ever I read Satan’s signature upon a face it is on that of your new friend.”
While Utterson continues down the path of discovery, pursuing Mr. Hyde incognito, I was reminded by the classic phrase I’d forgotten, “If he be Mr. Hyde,” he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.” Oh, I love that passage. It’s such a classic it needed to be repeated.

As the story unveils more bizarre occurrences with the good natured, Dr. Jekyll and then the evil-spirited, Mr. Hyde, Utterson grows more and more perplexed. Utterson then seeks input from another of Dr. Jekyll’s friends – Dr. Lanyon.  Soon, both men get entangled in their mutual friend’s “unscientific balderdash” which results in Lanyon’s untimely death.

What I enjoyed most about this short story, other than the buildup, was the reasoning as to why Dr. Jekyll did it. We all know it’s about potions or scientific concoctions, etc… but was it all in the name of science? Or was it the deeper moral issue that drove Dr. Jekyll’s insane motives to create a drug that could alter his ego so wickedly?  I won’t ruin it for you. You’ll just have to read this book. It was such a simple read that it shouldn't take too long to get through it. And for the love of Peter, it’s a free book that you can find most anywhere online or dare I say in the library.

On the Mina Burrows KilloMeter, I give Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a 4.
Until next time…read something creepy, read a Creepy Classic.
Mina B.

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