Evan's Reviews > The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
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's review
Feb 19, 2009

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bookshelves: 2009-reads, scifi-utopia-dystopia, horror-macabre, _less-than-200-pages
Read in February, 2009

This is not one of those cases where you can presume that you know this story from the movies, because Stevenson's novel is very different from most of the film versions out there.

This story is minimalist by comparison, but flavored pleasingly by Stevenson's Victorian prose. Unlike the films, the book has no initial pedantry of Jekyll railing to the philistines about the timidity of the conventional scientific establishment or the dual nature of good and evil in man (this latter concern is saved for the very end of the book). There is no virtuous love interest or meddling father-in-law or whore named Ivy to bring out Hyde's passions.

The story's tack is different, following the slow unfolding of the truth by Dr. Jekyll's old friend and lawyer, Utterson. Something as mundane as an inconsistency in a will gets it going, and the mystery comes slowly in little dribbles. In fact there are others who know more about what's going on than Utterson. The reader is as clueless as he for most of the book.

So the elements of the story we're most familiar with do not even enter until the book is about 75 percent over, in the form of letters penned by Jekyll's old medical colleague, Dr. Lanyon, and Jekyll himself. The manner in which all this is revealed and the way in which Jekyll/Hyde do about their machinations are fairly clever. The first monstrous transformation does not even happen until the book is nearly over, and it's revealed in Lanyon's letter, now in Utterson's hands, long after the fact of its happening. The manner of Jekyll/Hyde's fate is far more profound in the book than in the films.

It's interesting that, throughout, Stevenson only vaguely attempts description of Hyde's face; choosing to suggest that evil's face is indescribable, since it takes the countenance of ordinary men. This again is counter to the movies' more literal conception. There's also a suggestion that the transformation undergone is similar to that of alcoholism, and by extension any obsessive, irresponsible drug use. Also interesting is that Jekyll is age 50 whereas Hyde takes the form of a sprightly young man. The follies of youth...

This book moves fast. It's easy to read in a couple of hours or less.

(KR@KY, re-posted May 2016 with minor corrections and adds)
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Reading Progress

02/19/2009 page 15
06/08/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

evil = ordinary

interesting. i've never seen the movie(s), either.

Evan I started reading this on a whim this afternoon because I'd seen it on the shelf at Half Price and noticed it was quite short, and the Project Gutenberg website has all the classics online for free. So why not? It was a good quick read.

Tracey Thanks... this does sound like one that I want to read... maybe I will start at lunch time...

Evan OK then, maybe I'll think up some more. I had a brainstorm at the particular moment.

Tracey I don't read as fast as you, so it might take me a bit longer than just a hour. :)

Evan Don't worry. It's not a race, dearie.

Tracey Whew... good I'll be able to sleep tonight.

Evan So, did you sleep better?

Tracey Just like a baby

message 10: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan Yeah, but that's probably every night, right? Ha.

Tracey Yes, I guess you could say I’m lucky that way…

message 12: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan That is a good trait. I usually don't have too much problem in that way either.

message 13: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan Hey slowpoke, aren't you done with that book yet? Haha.

Tracey You are a funny guy… no I had to go out for lunch… so its of to a slow start. I think you should have a go at The Monk, I’m really enjoying it.. its getting better and better. Plus since you read so fast, you would have it finished in no time.

message 15: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan I intend to, but I've got three other ones going right now and just finished one.

Tracey well if you have three, why not four

message 17: by Evan (last edited Feb 11, 2010 04:14PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan Some jugglers can only handle three at a time. I'm one of those. Plus, I'm only in the mood to read very short books right now. I have to be in a certain mood for epics; and some things are unsettled around here that could call me away from reading.

Tracey I have about 10 I’ve started but haven’t finished yet.. I’m like a kid in a candy story, a little bit of this a little bit of that.

message 19: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan I've started a lot too but they don't count. I'm talkin' 'bout stuff on my desk that I'm really reading right now. Plus I have things from the library I want to finally get out of here once and for all, and I'm on the last of that stack. Anyway, I'm giving "Breakfast at Tiffany's" another try, and this time it really has sucked me in. It's pretty damned great.

Tracey I loved the movie.

Tracey Thanks for the book recommendation I really enjoyed this one.. You always have such good suggestions

message 22: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan Thanks. I try, sometimes.

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