Jason's Reviews > Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson
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's review
Jun 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, horror, 2011
Recommended to Jason by: It was a cheap purchase.
Recommended for: horror, gothic, thriller lovers
Read on March 01, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Somewhere in the second trimester of fetal development of first world babies, knowledge of the story of Jekyll and Hyde is passed down the umbilical cord from mother to child, and thus are we all born with a basic understanding of this tale of duality. It is nearly impossible to live in a developed country and not understand a Jekyll and Hyde reference. Since I felt I already knew the story, and that the surprise ending is forever ruined for everyone alive today, I put off reading it until I was 32 years old, but I'm glad that I've now checked it out.

It's my understanding that of all the film adaptations of this book (of which there are well over 100), not a single one of them gets it just right. The main character isn't Jekyll/Hyde, but John Utterson, a friend of Dr. Jekyll. This poor chap isn't even in most of the movies, I don't think. Anyway, the story is told from his point of view, not J/H's. And while Utterson is missing in most film versions, you know who is missing from the book? The woman! She doesn't exist. There is no tragic romance and eventual damsel in distress in the book at all. It's not even mentioned. It's a never-was.

So, what really happens? We learn from a friend of Utterson's that a Mr. Hyde was seen trampling a little girl, and was forced to pay her family. Hyde presented a check written by Dr. Jekyll, a well respected physician and friend of Utterson's. This baffles Utterson, but Jekyll assures him it's legit, and that Hyde is Jekyll's beneficiary. Utterson can't understand it, but is told to wash his hands of the matter, and he does. Jekyll had been flying low under the radar during all this. Hyde kind of disappears for a bit, but reemerges and kills a man. He's hunted down, but escapes. In his house is found the murder weapon, a cane that Utterson himself had given to Jekyll as a gift a while back. Jekyll is confronted with this bit of intel, and he assures Utterson and the cops that he has permanently ended his association with Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll reemerges into society, and is his old bubbly social-butterfly self for a few months, then suddenly he locks himself up in his house and refuses to see people. He sends his staff on errands for various drugs so he can make his crystal meth, but nobody ever sees Dr. J; they just receive his instructions from behind a closed door. The staff is now living in terror because they believe Mr. Hyde has come back and taken Jekyll prisoner, or something like that. The butler decides enough is enough, and tells Utterson what's going on. Utterson and the butler hit up Dr. J's lab, bust down the door and find Mr. Hyde dead on the floor wearing Dr. Jekyll's clothes, but there's no sign of Dr. J. They find a diary from Dr. Jekyll which explains everything, and he had somehow kept it hidden from Mr. Hyde.

The long and short of it is this (as if you need to be told since you gained this information during prenatal development): Jekyll had made a potion which allowed him to entertain his more immoral desires with impunity which also altered his physical appearance to the point that he didn't even resemble his real self in the slightest. At first all was fine, and he had fun with sin, but then the sins started getting a bit serious. He tried to curtail, but it was difficult. After Hyde murdered the one dude, Jekyll cut it off cold turkey, and all was well for a while. But then Hyde started coming out while Jekyll was asleep, and Jekyll, while looking like Hyde, had to take the potion to turn back into his original self. Eventually Hyde just started showing up whenever he felt like it, so Jekyll locked himself away in his lab. He sent his staff all over the city for one ingredient he needed to make the potion, and the ingredient needed to be 100% pure and unsullied. He got this ingredient from several apothecaries, but with the same disastrous results: the potion didn't work. It turns out that it was an impurity in the ingredient in the original potion that made the magic happen, oh woe is Jekyll. As Jekyll wrote this in his journal, he felt Hyde coming again, and knew he would never be Dr. Jekyll again since he was a) out of the original potion and b) not strong enough to put Hyde away anymore. It's around this point that Utterson breaks in, and that's the end of the tale. (Insert dramatic music stab here).

I understand better now why this is deemed a classic. The way it unfolds on the pages sets it apart from the movie adaptations, and makes it a much better story than I thought it would be. Reading it with a fresh and open mind was difficult since it's ingrained in my head from birth, but I can see why it was such a huge hit when it came out.

A bit of background about how this novella came to be because it's one of those amazing stories: Stevenson was not a well man. He was on bed rest, not allowed to talk or move, and doped up on the leading opiate of the day when he started screaming in his sleep one afternoon. His wife was alarmed, and woke him up. Instead of thanking her, he admonished her saying something like "What'd you do that for? I was having an awesome nightmare!" That "fine bogey tale" (Stevenson's exact words) was the basis of "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." (The "The" was left off intentionally by Stevenson, but publishers added it after he died). For the next three days Louis wrote like a madman (probably because he was one), and presented the first draft to his wife. She had literary aspirations of her own, and was a harsh critic. She said it was a fine horror tale, but really it sucked monkey balls. While her back was turned, Louis burned the manuscript for fear that he might be tempted to use it. Also, he was really fricking pissed off and it was his way of saying "Well fine! Take a load off, Fanny!" (Fanny was Mrs. S's name, and nobody in the Stevenson household enjoyed their afternoon tea for a while after the page burning incident). So, he wrote it again, this time taking six days instead of three. He added allegorical elements (one of Fanny's suggestions), and shat out the classic that is now the frame of our concept of duality in modern society. Three days later after Fanny had finished editing it, it was sent off. A little over two months later it was published, and sold forty thousand copies within a year. It was discussed and written about all over the English speaking world, and used in church sermons. Soon it would be made into stage plays. When radio and film entertainment got fired up, it would invade those mediums, and 125 years after its initial publication, it is still relevant.

How many stories can make that claim?
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you for this background information. Made this great story even better!

Jason Glad to be of service!

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