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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
average rating is 4 out of 5

Horror, Gothic, Classics

R. Alex Jenkins

This is written in a Sherlock Holmes style of mildly interlinked short stories, published in 1886, based on the London crime scene in Victorian England. There are many similarities to Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells in its silky smooth writing style.

Robert Louis Stevenson is the guy who wrote Treasure Island and he writes in a straightforward and easy to understand manner, quite beautifully, and there's a reason why these books and authors survive hundreds of years later - not because of the gripping content as such - but because of the prose and philosophy.

It's essentially a book about morals.

Sometimes far-fetched and out there, in chapter three, a woman sees Hyde murder a man in the street. Not only is she a witness, but there is evidence left at the scene of the crime, yet the book carries on and no arrests are made. Why? Because Jekyll transforms into a stunted, ugly and vicious looking beast of a man - Mr. Hyde - then back to Jekyll during the day. The police can't arrest Hyde because he doesn't essentially exist and is never home during normal hours. A mass murderer's dream of never being detected, through metamorphosis.

The question is, if you could voluntarily switch between good and evil versions of yourself, would the crimes committed by the evil persona be attributed to the good? Let's call it self-induced schizophrenia, but also in a physical form. Is Dr. Jekyll guilty of the crimes committed by Mr. Hyde? Morally, yes, in a court of law, I have no idea.

The book is rather formal and the last chapter is one of those cop-out summaries (think Mansfield Park) that explains it all away, but I think it remains famous because of the moral question posed about being responsible for your actions (if you know you're the cause of them).

The concept of werewolves: Out in the moonlight, feverishly devouring a herd of sheep, finding yourself naked in the woods the next morning with no memory of it. Or an incredible hulk transformation brought on by a chemical reaction and anger. Gollum and Smeagul spring to mind. The influences are endless.

It’s about transition, action, regret, existentialism and culpability.

But is it a good read? Not amazingly, but it's short and sweet and gets you thinking. It's the father of crime fiction in many ways and a great story about morals. It's also a story of hope, and if you're happy with who you are and what you've got, why not carry on being happy?

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