Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson, January 16—18, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Stevenson’s famous novella needs no introduction. This seminal piece runs to less than 2500 words, but introduces one of the most definitive creations of the 19th century.
Like Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde are very much supporting characters; and, like Dracula, Stevenson tells his story with various literary devices including third person narration, letters and diary entries.
This technique works less well in Jekyll. Two-thirds of the novel are told from the perspective of Jekyll’s (that’s Jee-kyll, not Jeck-yll) baffled lawyer Mr. Utterson who is aiming to get to the bottom of the connection between his client and Hyde. The big reveal comes at the end, through a letter from Jekyll himself, and it seems a shame we never get Utterson’s reaction. It’s an odd decision to leave the central character out of the denouement.
The twist itself, though, is very well done. Though everyone over the age of seven knows what it is, for those lucky readers in the 1880s, they wouldn’t have guessed. It’s extremely cleverly written.
What’s more, so much is left to the imagination that the big questions scream out. The exact nature of most of Hyde’s misdemeanors are not revealed. Feel free to speculate. But it’s human nature that is the main story. Even today, the reasons for Jekyll and Hyde’s relationship, and the ultimate conclusion of it, throw out a challenge to the reader that is uncomfortable and powerful.
It’s scant, but Stevenson packs a lot into under 100 pages. It’s a classic, and no book collection will ever be complete without it.