“Life is monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt and poignant; a work of art, in comparison, is neat, finite, self contained, rational, flowing, and emasculate …. The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material . . . but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is designed and significant.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of those books that you find so completely horrifying yet compulsive to read. Published in 1886, Jekyll and Hyde has become more than a classic; the term ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ has become a poor explanation or layman’s term for a split personality.
Following on from the gothic horrors of Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is about a quiet and kind scientist called Dr Jekyll who appears to have been visited several times by a cruel and vicious man known as Mr Hyde. He is first seen knocking over and stepping on a young girl and sadly, this is not the worst of his evil behaviours. Set in London during the Victorian era, Stevenson’s tale is a psychological exploration of man’s capacity for evil. The story is recounted by Jekyll’s lawyer who cannot work out the link between the two men.
Stevenson’s novel has two noticeable points – the first is the lack of women. Two of Hyde’s victims are female but the rest of the characters are professional men, usually middle aged and varied in character. Hyde’s behaviour, along with Stevenson’s exploration of the duality of personality, could be seen a commentary of the behaviours of these men. They are so confined by the Victorian ideals of decency that they are suppressing the ‘animal’ within themselves. Hyde is the darkest part of Jekyll that he struggles to control. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a tale of good versus evil; how does one balance the two sides without losing control?
I was surprised at home much I liked this book. I had previously tried Gulliver’s Travels and couldn’t get past the first 50 pages. Stevenson’s writing in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is creepy yet riveting and as previously mentioned, almost impossible to put down. Like Frankenstein, this is one of my favourite classics! The gothic genre is certainly a fascinating one!