Saturday, 26 October 2013

Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'

This short tale was published in 1886 (not that I have the original, though that would be worth a bit if I did); so when reading the story of ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ you will have to take the context and society of the time into concern. Not that that should stop you from enjoying a story that has been retold many times in many different formats because of its popularity.
Stevenson’s tale is about a man who understands that to the human condition there are two sides; one that the world sees and which should be seen, and one that they shouldn’t. For the majority of this story the perspective is not of Dr Jekyll, which is interesting in terms of being given an outsider’s view (a lawyer, Mr Utterson) of what is happening to one of his own closest friends and the reclusiveness and sickness he seems to have succumbed to.
The text is filled with some great description, especially of the environment and seedy undertones apparently found in Soho. There are strong gothic elements to the narrative too in order to ensure that shocking vibe is felt by the reader. I also enjoyed the deep theme of this book when looking at Dr Jekyll and the concept of the split personality, and just how desirous, addictive and destructive the basest part of human nature can be. The downside to older texts to perhaps modern audiences may be that sordid details of such character are not embellished upon within the text. Any reader looking for incredibly dark characters and the acts that they may partake of will for the most part be glossed over within this story, unlike perhaps more modern texts following the same theme.
I do think that the chilling factor of this tale is lost on readers who know the story well because they will know the twists that are coming and possibly what to expect. But for its time it must have had a lasting impact as it was this tale that forged Stevenson’s reputation as a writer. I recommend it for readers of classics, and readers who aren’t interested in long drawn-out novels where the feeling of dread can dip too easily (the text is quickly paced which is expected of a shorter tale).

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