Review: “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an unusual novella.  Robert Stevensonthe possibility of separating a person’s good and evil sides into two individuals.

However, the science fiction is less important than the moral struggle that Dr. Jekyll endures.  His character is tormented by his need to satisfy his immoral desires and the importance of maintaining his illustrious reputation.  The author introduces only a few characters before shifting to Mr. Utterson, a straightforward lawyer and friend of Dr. Jekyll who is dedicated to solving the mystery.  The story begins with his friend’s testimony to a crime scene.  It transcends into a manhunt for Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s other half.  One of the peculiarities of Dr. Jekyll’s experiment—dividing human nature—is that while Mr. Hyde is the essence of “pure evil” in Dr. Jekyll’s soul, Dr. Jekyll himself remains the same after the transformations, retaining not only his conscience and moral judgment but also his evil tendencies.  Dr. Jekyll feels guilt and remorse for the crimes he committed under the guise of Mr. Hyde, his evil “twin.”  His original purpose was to divide the conflicting duality into two halves ignorant of each other’s existence, therefore eliminating the idea of conscience.  Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s physical appearances reflect this concept.  Dr. Jekyll’s plan to escape damnation while practicing his profession and ethical aspirations is a hypocrisy that quickly develops into an ironic tragedy.

The scientific process by which the doctor transmogrifies himself is not detailed, but it is science that eventually thwarts Dr. Jekyll from destroying Mr. Hyde.  Even though evil cannot be simply erased from one’s temperament, this evil seems to have consumed Dr. Jekyll’s person, and its manifested presence can no longer hide through anything moral or chemical.  His metamorphoses increase until Dr. Jekyll actually becomes Mr. Hyde permanently with no way of returning to his former, normal self.  The suspense and terror are intensified when Mr. Hyde’s horrifying crimes incite all of mid-nineteenth century London to hunt down the fugitive.  Mr. Utterson’s attempts to intervene and save his friend from inevitable doom are futile, but the reader can lean against the lawyer’s frank outlooks versus the descending thoughts of the doctor.  It is intriguing that a doctor like Jekyll is dedicated more to appeasing his lusts than focusing on his chosen career.  On one hand, his reputation must be kept spotless and worthy of approbation; on the other hand, he cannot survive without attending to these overwhelming “needs” in secret.  Stevenson stresses the duplicity of Dr. Jekyll’s behavior by the very course of action that leads to the character’s death.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is dark, but the reader can feel sympathy for Dr. Jekyll.  One is drawn into the uncertain, gloomy world that the author has created by his exposure of one character.  Dr. Jekyll’s inclinations toward good and evil ends are similar to most humans’ behavior.  His mentality can be seen in the modern world, and his reasons to divide himself are proof of a person’s free will and conscience.  The perfect solution to his problem with adhering to a moral lifestyle and surrendering his guilty pleasures is still unknown and it is a quandary every person encounters.  Stevenson’s novella may be very serious and violent, but the author communicates his points in an intelligent and trenchant manner.  While action is limited and inward debate is the most common feature within the story, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde evolves a scientific notion into a horrific story that will never lose its mystery or its significance in literature.

Original review: Part 1: Stevenson addresses the duality of human nature in a scientific manner; Part 2: Stevenson addresses the duality of human nature in a scientific manner; Part 3: Stevenson addresses the duality of human nature in a scientific manner,


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