Book 118: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

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.)

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24 thoughts on “Book 118: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

  1. That’s interesting, I hadn’t remembered that Mr. Hyde was physically disfigured at all. (Haven’t seen a movie of it.) I guess that at the time there was a strong association made between physical abnormalities and evil. Though I don’t think we’ve fully gotten beyond that connection even today.

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    • From my interpretation of it the deformities are more from Jekyll’s rather tall and gangly stature being squished down into Hyde’s shorter, broader and robust stature. I don’t think it’s completely disappeared either – but like I said in the response what was most intriguing was that even though his physical deformities causes some aversion it was really the malice and vitriol in his face and countenance.

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  3. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of my favourite books. I adore Stevenson! Definitely be sure to read some of his other supernatural stories, like The Bottle-Imp.
    It’s funny, so many people think that the story takes place in Edinburgh, not in London. Always entertaining to try and explain.

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    • There was one point in reading it where I feel like Edinburgh (maybe someone travelled there?) or something was mentioned, but then they’re pretty clear that it takes place in London. I did enjoy it and will check out The Bottle-Imp (not that I need more to read at the moment :-D).

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      • It’s been a while since I’ve read the book (a year? Maybe two?)

        The Bottle-Imp is pretty short, I think it’s about 50 pages as well, if not less.

        I’m longing for the day where I can just read!

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  4. I’ve had this on my TBR list for ages. First, I know the general sense of the story because it’s one of those things you just hear about: “Jekyll and Hyde” good and evil, people just know that (or so it seems). Second, I had NO IDEA it was so short. I will definitely read it soon…maybe even tomorrow! 🙂

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    • I bet it was! If I ever win the lottery I plan on spending a year travelling around and reading books in the places where they are set! I have a great fondness for Wuthering Heights after living in West Yorkshire.

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      • Oh that would be a great experience. I’m loving reading Dickens while I live in London. I recognize the streets and neighborhoods. I hope you win so you can fulfill the dream!

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  5. I’m planning to read this quite soon, as I just recently picked it up at a used book sale. I still haven’t read a word of Stevenson sadly, even though I’ve had Treasure Island on the shelf for a year now.

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    • I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I feel like I should explore novellas a bit more, as the last two I read were surprisingly good. I grew up with Treasure Island on my bookshelf and never once read it. I’m glad it’s on my Classics Club list as well!

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  6. I read this book many years ago…and just didn’t like it. Unfortunately this was before I had a blog so I don’t have a review to look back on to remind why I disliked it so much. This year though I read Treasure Island and loved it! So maybe I need to give this one another go.

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    • I could understand that – a lot of book group didn’t like it because even though there was action it wasn’t exciting action. And they really didn’t like you don’t know what’s going on throughout the story until the last 10 pages in his ‘confession/goodbye.’

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