Congratulations Hollywood and hype! I had no idea how simple and eloquently written this novella is. From the few adaptations I’ve seen the bits of and the general idea of the story I’ve gleaned over the years I thought it was a much more over the top, dramatic and violent story. I’m not completely wrong, but I definitely had more action in my mind, but I can now remind myself it Stevenson wrote, and set the novella, in the late 1800s. (Part of this may be I feel I was merging Frankenstein and this novel together in my head, but who knows.)
This book is for my Books into Movies book group at my local library and conveniently also counts for one of my 100 books for The Classics Club! I’m holding my breath book group is better than last month. I don’t think there’s anything too contentious in this novel, but who knows with book group.
The story itself is quick-moving and the characters are all believable and number fewer than ten, with only five (or so) named characters. It revolves primarily around Mr. Utterson and his odd working relationship/friendship with Dr. Jekyll. The novella does a great job of stringing the reader along with hints and whispers, but doesn’t necessarily need to because it’s so short the suspense (or hint thereof) provides the pulse of the story constantly.
Stevenson takes an in-depth look at the inherent good vs. evil within us all and then personifies this in the titular characters. I thought this was well done and there was only one point, towards the end, where it seemed preachy, but not in a proselytizing sort of way, more in a matter of fact way. From my preconceived notions I assumed Mr. Hyde was much more monstrous (disfigured and malformed) than he appears in the novella. Described as being bent and misshapen, it doesn’t appear Hyde’s physical attributes cause sheer terror in those who meet him, but rather a vitriolic and evil feeling he exudes.
What I didn’t realize prior to reading the story how witty and humorous Stevenson is. This was my first introduction and one line in particular stood out to me, “‘If he be Mr.Hyde,’ he had thought, ‘I shall be Mr. Seek.’” For some reason this over-the-top and some what glaringly ridiculous pun made me giggle while reading the story. But don’t fret, Stevenson uses plenty of flowery language and intricately constructed sentences. Looking back I realize how lyrical his writing was at times (similar to other Scottish and Irish authors I have read). For an example read the closing line out loud to yourself and try NOT to put rhythm into it, it does it for you
Recommendation: Definitely a must read. At only 54 pages, it’s not only short, but quite enjoyable. I appreciated the look into Victorian values and ideals, even if the story could’ve been flushed out into a full novel at some point. I definitely should re-read it at some point and focus more on the virtues discussed and not just the story.
Opening Line: “Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable.”
Closing Line: “Here, then, as I lay down the pen, and proceed to seal up my confession I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.” (Whited out.)