The classic tale of a man struggling with two sides of himself. Dr. Jeckyll has lived a respectable life, but he’s always felt something wicked lurking very close to the surface. He creates a potion to try and restrict this evil part of himself, but it instead brings that evil to the surface and transforms him, in both mind and body, into Mr. Hyde. This is all pieced together over the course of the novella from the view of a London lawyer, and old friend, named Mr. Utterson.
After reading American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson’s memoir, it was hard not to relate this to alcoholism. Henry Jekyll takes the potion at first to lose his inhibitions and enjoy a wild night out out, and takes great pleasure in becoming Edward Hyde. Eventually the potion no longer has the same effect, and he instead needs to rely on it to keep any semblance of himself. It could be seen as a morality tale in general – give in too wholly, and too often, to your irresponsible or ‘evil’ side and it may become more and more difficult to get back.
This story has been told and retold so many times that, if nothing else, reading this was a nice visit to the source. I can only imagine what it would have been like to first read this back in 1886, before anything like it had really been written (and before that terrifying Tweety and Sylvester cartoon). The pacing of the story, and how we learn about everything indirectly through Mr. Utterson’s eyes and the letters to him from other characters, really worked perfectly. Stevenson let just enough information slide through that I’m sure many people were originally mind blown by what was happening.
I enjoyed this, but it took me a while to sink into his writing style, and I’m still not entirely sure I’m in love with it. I’m still very excited to read Treasure Island.