Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson (spoilers?)

Disclaimer: I can't discuss this book without describing some aspects of it that could be construed as spoilers, so I'm mentioning this up front in case you'd prefer to avoid them. 

What can I say about this classic novella (which I didn't realize was so short until I started reading it - that will teach me to do some research before I choose books for the Back to the Classics Challenge!) that hasn't already been said? I have managed to avoid any kind of movies or stage productions of this book, so before I started reading, I only knew that the main story consisted of the titular doctor, who takes a potion of his own invention and turns into Mr. Hyde, a criminal and sociopath. I was surprised that the book tells us this story through peripheral characters; I had expected it to be told more from Dr. Jekyll's point of view. Instead we as readers are also bystanders who find out what occurred through letters written by Dr. Jekyll and some other characters. This was actually effective, because it keeps the main conceit of the plot a secret until the very end.

And what to make of the end? Is Hyde redeemed? Was Dr. Jekyll able to prevail, even though Hyde had appeared to take over completely? I like that there is some room for uncertainty. This would be a fun book to discuss in a book club or college level class. Recommended.

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