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Rory Book Discussions > Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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message 1: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:43PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
If you are finished with the book, start discussing here.

message 2: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I'm DYING to discuss this... is any one else out there through it yet???

message 3: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Yep, I've read it before...

message 4: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
"My devil had been long caged. He came out roaring." --Dr. Jekyll

Well, this book takes no time at all to read.

There's so much that COULD be discussed. I don't know where anyone wants to begin. I did read a little of the afterword that describes the events leading up to RLS's writing of this "novella". Apparently, he broke away from his family's plans for him of becoming a sucessful engineer like his father, and much to his family's dismay as well, married a much older, divorced American woman.

I can't help but think that as he wrote of Dr. Jekyll, with his desires to separate the two parts of man--the part that wants to do the "right" thing and the part whose "every act and thought centered on self" ...that he was thinking of his own desires--how he wished that he could somehow continue to be the man that his family & Victorian society demanded of him, while still experiencing all those selfish desires that he wanted for himself--to become realized as a writer, and to be in love with the person he chose to love. (Remember the part where Mr. Hyde smashes the picture of Jekyll's father?) If only he could separate himself, and do the things that he wanted anonymously, and slip back into that other more socially accepted personae...without anyone noticing.

And, who hasn't been there, at some point?

I'm so glad I read this. I have to admit for the first few chapters of straight narrative, I was thinking, "What's the big deal?" But the real pay-off, for me, was the last, brilliant chapter.

message 5: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:53PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) According to an article I read, Stevenson first came up with the idea for the story after having a nightmare -- "a fine bogey tale." He'd been extremely ill, suffering from a hemorrhage (he was ill often). When he showed his wife the first draft, she suggested he make it an allegory rather than just a horror story. Apparently, Stevenson saw a lot of hypocrisy in Victorian society.

Also, most horror stories up to that point were about supernatural creatures - vampires, ghosts, etc. Jekyll & Hyde was the first to "merge the man and monster."

message 6: by Tiffany (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Tiffany Just before I started reading this book I watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and in it Hyde is portrayed as a huge monster with superhuman strength. So imagine my surprise when I read the book and learned that “Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter and younger than Henry Jekyll.” I thought it was interesting that Jekyll attributed Hyde’s dwarfed size to the fact that the evil side of his nature was “less robust and less developed than the good.”

message 7: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:55PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Right. Whenever you see Jekyll/Hyde in popular culture, it's man morphing into a monster. But originally, it appears Hyde was a little dwarfish man, like a child in overgrown clothes.

message 8: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:57PM) (new)

Meghan Unfortunately, I have been unable to start this book yet. But I'm finding the comments really interesting.

I have a sort of general question that seems to apply here. I'm reading a different book (Made in America by Bill Bryson) and he talks about how Washington is misperceived because of what was incorrectly written about him. Basically a poem (factually incorrect) was written, became hugely popular, and now that's how generations down the line view him. "I cannot tell a lie."

So my question is, how do you think time (and outside influences) has effected the characters Jekyll AND Hyde? As Alison wrote, originally Hyde is to appear very small and childish. But over the years, (Hollywood? other written adaptions of this story) has changed that image to a hulking beastly brute. And do you think this misperception negatively effects what Stevenson was trying to portray? As Tiffany wrote: Jekyll attributed Hyde’s dwarfed size to the fact that the evil side of his nature was “less robust and less developed than the good.” Do the figurative aspects of the duality of good and evil in man get lost when the literal/physical aspects are changed? Or is this more in line with today's trends--that people's dark sides are vastly overdeveloped compared to Stevenson's time? Is subtlety dead?

message 9: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Meghan I also think it's rather ironic that Stevenson portrays man's dark side more like a petulant boy. Perhaps there's something to the theory that men are just overgrown boys. ha ha

message 10: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Well, I can try to respond to these deep questions. Haha.

Do the figurative aspects of the duality of good and evil in man get lost when the literal/physical aspects are changed?

I do think the point is lost. RLS made the evil nature to appear small for a reason (as stated above), and his point has been lost over time as the portrayal changed from a little dwarfish man to a beast. More than likely, for screen/stage versions, it was easier to make a man appear bigger & more malicious than to appear smaller. And more dramatic to have a "beast" than a little imp.

I don't think people's "dark sides" are more developed now. I think they were hidden more under the surface back in the time of the strict morals of the Victorian Age, but I think evil has always existed, and probably to the same degree as it does now. People are just more overt in their display of it...less likely to hide it as social mores have loosened.

message 11: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I think it was mainly for dramatic effect that the movies have made Hyde a monster rather than a smallish man. It's more visually impressive that way.

I keep thinking of it this way: Sometimes, when someone is angry, they are even scarier when they are quiet and calm than if they were screaming and throwing things. That's how I see Hyde. He's even scarier because he's smaller.

message 12: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
Sorry I've been absent for awhile. It seems like everytime I tried to post I was having problems with the site.

I finished this book over the weekend and then I'll start on Wicked. Somehow I thought I'd have more reading time this month but it just hasn't worked out that way.

Meghan - I like your questions on the smallness of Hyde. It is very much in contrast to every portrayal of Mr. Hyde in modern culture. Hyde is normally portrayed as the Hulk - the beast within. It makes perfect sense that Mr. Hyde is smaller - it mirrors the less developed character - the caged self. I wish we would see this portrayed more accurately.

And on your point if whether or not evil is more overdeveloped. I would say evil is more acceptable as opposed to overdeveloped. There's less need to be in hiding.

message 13: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:02PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I think that as society has changed our perceptions of the evil within has perhaps become more acute. We can see evil in one man as bigger because of the likes of Hitler and Stalin... and Dahmer. I am not saying that there is more evil, just that our perception of it is different. Yes, we are also now a society that exaggerates to the point of near-comic book proportions, so that certainly also has its influence.

I saw this book as much more a comment on what the society of the time valued than on the nature of evil. To me it was much more about indulgence and passion and how they were viewed as evil... so that they more readily manifested evil.

I mean look at how the narrator and his mates were described. Calm, sedate, serene, with quiet interests and no ruffling of feathers, even in mild conversation. That was a paragon of manhood. That was what the refined and genteel aspired to. Does anyone else here want to gag??? What we value now is nearly opposite. Passion. Ambition. And even the negative that comes with that - avarice, etc. - are often looked at as favorable today. Perhaps there society wasn't so far off because look what indulgence has produced...

What I found most fascinating was that he could distill evil into one being, but not goodness/love. That to me is the single most interesting fact of the entire book. There was no light and dark sides that could be filtered into separate entities... there was only the blend of the two or a complete overtaking by evil. But isn't that exactly, completely, utterly, the most right description of humanity there ever was???

I've so many more thoughts regarding this book, but I'll let others chime in first! Cheers! This is so great!!

message 14: by Tiffany (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:02PM) (new)

Tiffany I didn't even think about how he couldn't produce pure love/goodness. That is interesting to think about!

message 15: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

Meghan I took a Brit Lit class and I thought I would share what the text book wrote about this story:

The work that first established Stevenson's critical reputation, however, was a horror story that prefigured "The Master of Ballantrae's" fascination with the darker side of human nature and reflected his long-standing interest in the idea of a double-life: Jekyll, written in 1885 and published the following year. The novella rapidly became a best seller in both Britain and America, and like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein of 1818 (to which Jekyll pays homage at various moments) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), the story has enjoyed a continuous and lively presence in popular culture up to the present day. Yet our familiarity with the outline of the tale may not prepare us for the psychological and ethical complexity of the original. Certainly the novelist's friends found Jekyll genuinely unnerving: the writer and historian J.A. Seymonds wrote to Stevenson that the story "has left such a deeply painful impression on my heart that I do not know how I am ever to turn to it again," while Lang commented that "we would welcome a spectre, a ghoul, or even a vampire, rather than meet Mr. Edward Hyde." For some, many aspects of the novella have seemed markedly Scottish in flavor: the novelist G. K. Chestertoninsisted that its London is really Edinburgh, its Englishmen actually Scotsmen--"No modern English lawyer," he protested of the character Mr. Utterson, "Ever read a book of dry divinity in the evening, merely because it was Sunday." Nevertheless, the distinctive tone and theme of Jekyll have led many critics to characterize it--often together with another work that shares its preoccupation with the divided self, Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)--as an expression of quintessentially fin de siecle anxieties.

Question: Is it true today that most people would rather meet a monster (Dracula, Jaws, Godzilla) than a real evil human (Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper)?

message 16: by Tiffany (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

Tiffany Lang commented that "we would welcome a spectre, a ghoul, or even a vampire, rather than meet Mr. Edward Hyde."

I don't know about you guys, but sociopaths and psychopaths scare the you-know-what out of me. Give me a blood-sucking vampire any day over a real life human with no conscience or concept of suffering. What scares me so much is that I know that while there are no Draculas running around there are PLENTY of people like Hyde who are able to cause terror and pain and not give it a second thought.

message 17: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
My first response to Meghan's question was:
Of course I would rather face a monster than a person exuding real evil... but why?

I realized it is as much because we then don't have to grapple with what to do to overcome the monster. There is no moral dilemma for us with a monster when determining how to face it. Well, you obliterate it, of course. (And there is always a way, as well.) With an evil person, we have to face how to irradicate said evil... because he is a human, we wonder if that humanity could bring him back; if he could be freed from the evil in some way. What if he too is a victim? Then we would be killing something good along with the evil.

It is also so much more unnerving because so many of us don't want to face that what is in them - Hitler, Dahmer - is in each of us as well. We all have that potential, just as we have the potential for the goodness of Mother Theresa. If we call them monsters as well, it is much easier to both face them and face ourselves in the mirror each day. We take their humanity away to feel safer. But that's a whole other can of worms, isn't it?

one last thing... It's so interesting that at least two of us would choose a monster to an evil person because the person really IS human and might really be able to be reached, you know? A monster you couldn't. He is what he is. Is it the very changeability of humanity that scares us?

I'm really asking...

message 18: by Tiffany (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

Tiffany That's a really good question...

An evil person may be human but if they're criminally insane to me that doesn't make them much different from a monster. True, there are those who can be rehabilitated but there are also a lot who can't.

That's my humble opinion anyway.

message 19: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I agree, Tiffany.

message 20: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new)

Meghan Are we afraid of our inner Hannibal? But are we more afraid that by destroying the "monster" humans, we are in essence, destroying a part of ourselves? (We'd rather know that these "monsters" can be rehabilitated just in case we ourselves (or a loved one) might be in need of some 'fixin' someday down the road.)

message 21: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Meghan Ok. I know everyone is ready to move on to the new books but I am just finishing up Jekyll (finally!) and I just love this one line. I think it's the best line in the whole book--it's cheesy and funny and unexpectantly playful for the type of book this is:

"If he be Mr. Hyde," he had thought, "I shall be Mr. Seek."

Anyway, I surprisingly really enjoyed this book. I've struggled with Dracula and Frankenstein so I figured I would struggle with this one too. But it was easy and interesting and the backstory is really fascinating too (why Stevenson was interested in this).

Can't wait for next month's picks!

message 22: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) That cheesey line brings up an interesting point, though... do you think Stevenson named the evil man "Hyde" because in the Victorian society, people would "hide" the baser aspects of their personalities? That evil is somewhere within all of us, but some of us hide it better than others?

message 23: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Meghan Yeah, I kind of want to do research on the meaning behind the names. I think it's interesting when authors select such things to make another point.

I would agree with your thoughts on the Hyde name. I found it interesting that Lanyon was so horrorified by the whole thing. I'm having a hard time sympathizing with them. Perhaps it's my desensitization that makes me so unfeeling, but I am just not as 'shocked' by Lanyon's letter.

I did find it interesting too that Hyde is the one found and not Jekyll. Did that mean that evil won as the "good" side was "killed" first? Or was it that, in truth, Jekyll preferred his baser side as Hyde but knew that it was wrong in society. This was his "gift" for now they would have the body of Carew's murderer. And would it also help protect the name of Jekyll if Hyde was found instead of Jekyll?

(Still reading the last chapter. I keep getting interrupted. So some of these questions may be answered if I ever get done.)

message 24: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I think the point of it being Hyde at the end is that the more you indulge your "evil" side, the more you will loose yourself... the more it will have control.

I mean, the more you exercise a muscle the stronger it gets, but also the more it stands out... not just because it is bigger, but because the blood flows to it more (and that blood is carried throughout the body) so it has more color. Also you will rely on that muscle more if the rest of your body isn't being strengthened as well. In fact if you use it to the exclusion of the others, they can atrophy, or at least become so weak as to be in significant.

I know that it's not the same thing... but in a way, indulgence of spirit with body can be more virulent. Look at addictions.

Heck, at first he took the potion to indulge, but then after a time if he didn't have it he couldn't go back to himself.

Is indulgence of evil the most powerful addiction of all?

But don't listen to me. I'm going on a couple hours of sleep.

message 25: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
O.K., because I am a huge nerd and take things way seriously, I watched the 1931 movie version of Jekyll & Hyde with Frederich March--and found it amazingly scary. I mean, this movie was like 75 years old! But it was really creepy and I would highly reccommend it for Halloween viewing (Netflix). Plus it's only like 82 minutes. FM won the Oscar for his portayal of J/H.

I agree with Michele above. I think at first, he just wanted to get a taste of what it would be like to indulge his latent "evil" desires. But, the more you exercise those urges, they more they grow, until they have totally taken over. Hence, he was unable to control "Hyde" at the end, he had lost out to him, and was forced to die as him.

I love the idea of "Hyde" as "hide." That is perfect.

message 26: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Meghan I definitely got that impression while finishing the final chapter. I found it interesting that in Chapter 3 Jekyll was so adamant that he could control Hyde and stop him if he chose. When I read that I immediately thought of a drug addict/alcoholic who swears they can stop whenever, they just don't feel like it.

But I do question something. Jekyll wrote that in the beginning (before the experiments) he was unhappy with his "duality" that he felt he had in society. Do you think that because he was not content with his "good" life he was more drawn to evil? That he was already pre-conditioned towards Hyde before he started? Which makes me repeat the question that Wicked raised--are we born evil or is it nutured in us or maybe a blend of both?

message 27: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Meghan I also was reading in Entertainment Weekly (Oct 12 issue) an article by Stephen King in which he ponders the bloodlust of humans. He brings this up because of Jodie Foster's new movie, "The Brave One" which is a misleading title because she actually ends up as the bad guy (vigilante killing spree started by the murder of her loved one). But he brought up a question that I found relative to these discussions we're having:

Is the appeal of violent entertainment a tool which "serves as a mental gutter through which our worst fears and impulses are channeled safely out of our emotional systems"?

King asks "maybe the love of violence is an integral part of human nature, undivorceable from our better selves."

Was Jekyll not really as good as he thought, and therefore, Hyde was not a product of his "bad" side but just a part of him?

message 28: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I want to respond to your first post briefly... I still think the book shows that it was his intention to feel the joy of pure goodness in separating the two sides, but as we know filtered only the evil. To me that says that the best intentions, when pursued by improper or immoral means, are at their core inherently evil. The whole ends and means argument.

As to your second post, Meghan, WOAH! That must have been one gripping article! What intriguing notions. But I'm going to step out on a limb here. I don't think King is right. The thing is, the way I was raised and how I lived most of my life, "the love of violence" was not at all a part of existence. I wasn't sheltered, but I maintained - by choice largely - a certain level of innocence. I was by no means naive, but was... well... pure, I suppose, in many ways.

To take it outside of myself, look at the Amish. Completely separate, that level of violence IS in fact divorced from their better selves.

By no means am I saying that either the Amish or myself were without those baser instincts; without the possibility of doing wrong or even becoming evil. It is in what we pursue and focus on. It is what we allow in our lives.

To complete my story, I began to let some of those base things in my life and it altered me. My focus, even for a time, changed and as a result I was also permanently changed.

But it's a choice. Like everything in life, I firmly believe that it is our choices that shape us, make us. Sometimes a single choice can bring disastrous consequences, but it was our choice that brought us there and drew that to us.

Elphaba's absolute insistence that there wasn't a soul in many ways paralyzed her every time she made a big decision - because it all had to matter and be absolute in that moment... but then she struggled with whether it was all a grand design, fate, so THAT fear in many ways held her captive. It was her need to be right in her understanding and knowing that basically made her completely ineffective. It still makes me sad to think about.

I think we are all drawn by strength, but when strength is perverted it becomes menace and produces violence. When we feel weak we can look at violence and feel a bit of that strength - through the abject horror of it... then through the lust for it. That perversion, by the way, might simply come though a momentary feeling of superiority or it might come through anger… the simplest means. But when we indulge, we might be opening floodgates.

Okay, I was just in the zone. Am I on to something is it all bollocks?

message 29: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Oh! Sorry! I shouldn't swear, even in British slang! Really sorry!!!

message 30: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
Meghan interesting Stephen King comment. I don't know - sometimes I really enjoy violence in movies and books - hmmmm...... so I am nodding my head with the conjecture.
For example I loved the Andy Samberg digital short from a couple weeks ago - my evil side was really indulged. (damn NBC for removing everything off youtube!)

I mean sometimes I would really enjoy punching somebody in the face.

message 31: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Meghan Ooohhh, great observations Michele and Shannon. I agree with you both (if that's possible)!

This totally makes me think of that question "if you could get away with murder and know you won't be caught, who would you kill?" But put in a more palatable way (since I'm assuming most of us would go "I wouldn't want to kill anyone"), if you could cheat and get away with it, how would you cheat? (Income taxes, on a spouse, in a gameshow to win a million dollars, etc.)

Temptation to do wrong is much stronger when you know you can get away with it. And yet, I think most of us would end up like Jekyll and eventually be sickened by the wrongdoing. But hopefully not like Jekyll where it had become too late to change back.

This was a really great pick! A++

message 32: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Meghan I also meant to add a thanks to Alison for the movie review. I knew there had been some movies done in the past and was wondering which one I should start with! So thanks!

Also, I don't know if any of you read Entertainment Weekly (yes, it's my dirty little non-secret), but Stephen King has a column once a month in it. He's very good and does a wide range of review topics (books, movies, music, etc.). I've actually been made to read more of his books because of his writing in this column. I find you get a better sense of who he is as a person in his column than you do in his books though. But he is a very good writer and I've appreciated his works more because of it.

message 33: by Tiffany (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Tiffany This totally makes me think of that question "if you could get away with murder and know you won't be caught, who would you kill?"

A few ex-boyfriends come to mind! Just kidding.

But I can see how Jekyll would be temped to continue using the potion since there was little chance of being discovered. Perhaps he was feeling stifled by the society he lived in and found Hyde to be liberating.

And I did think it was interesting that he was so certain that he could stop whenever he wanted. Anyone who has ever known an addict is very familiar with this attitude and the result is once the addiction gets a hold of you it is not possible to stop even if you want to.

message 34: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Michele - I'm such a nerd, but your post totally made me think of Harry Potter! Harry and Tom Riddle were so similar in their circumstances. What made them different was their choices.

message 35: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Is the appeal of violent entertainment a tool which "serves as a mental gutter through which our worst fears and impulses are channeled safely out of our emotional systems"?

There's so much good stuff up there, but to speak specifically to Meghan & Mr. King's comments...I think violence is used in different ways in entertainemnt...there's violence that's so over the top that it's supposed to be funny (Pulp Fiction)...there's "scary" (I'm thinking of like "The Ring" here which had violent parts, too, but parts that were just creepy/scary)...then there's just plain violence (I'm thinking like "Braveheart" here)...To me, rather than a way to channel these terrible images out of our emotional system, this last level of violence just adds to my overall stress and anxiety. Kind of like the Memphis news, it just keeps me up at night. I would personally like to see less of it in the media.

So, I guess I'm agreeing with Michele in reference to that question. I know that I am capable of violence and could become extremely violent in defense of "good" (for example, if someone were trying to harm my children)...but I wouldn't say that the "love of violence" is in my nature...even at the deepest level.

message 36: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
I was reading the prologue in my book and it was discussing that this book came out a few years before the Jack the Ripper incidents, also a play was being performed at the time. I had never made this connection before, but found it very interesting.
I find it fascinating when fiction can influence real life and sometimes in a horrid way.

Also I was thinking about this book in regard to the movie/book Fight Club. Here Tyler Durden plays the Mr. Hyde character that randomly appears and takes over the narrator/Jack/Edward Norton's life piece by piece. He seems to represent the narrator's repressed feelings - sexually, conceptions of what a man should be, and anti-society elements. Tyler Durden is by no means small like Mr. Hyde, I can't complain, I fully enjoyed watching Brad Pitt's cut body. ;)

It's just interesting to see how this classic story has influenced so many others over the years.

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