Here we are again! This month has gone by so fast for me, so I’m glad people on Gothy Discord picked a book I already read earlier this year. The full title is such a mouthful, which is why most people just refer to it as ‘‘Jekyll & Hyde’’. Since its 1886 release the title character(s?) have become so famous that you know what’s up even if you haven’t read it. That’s why when I read it it wasn’t very exciting for me. It’s very short, and the whole book is just suspense around this ‘‘mystery’’ - so the ‘‘big reveal’’ was no surprise to me at all. So that ruined it a bit, and maybe the way it was written, too. It didn’t really grab me. For once I’m actually not going to scream from the rooftops that you have to read this! But let’s talk about it!
“If he be Mr. Hyde" he had thought, "I shall be Mr. Seek.”
(You didn’t expect a pun in this story, did you?!)
If you’re not familiar with the story itself, the protagonist is Gabriel John Utterson. The story starts with him walking with his cousin Richard Enfield, the latter telling the former that he saw Hyde attack a young girl. Enfield wanted money to keep it quiet, and Hyde took him where they are standing now, and gave him a check signed by Dr. Henry Jekyll, who Utterson knows well. He learns Hyde is now Jekyll’s sole beneficiary, and is scared he is blackmailing him. He tried to talk to Jekyll, but he seems scared and just asks him to leave Hyde alone.
Later on, Hyde murders one of Utterson’s clients. Utterson leads the police to Hyde’s apartment, where they only find a broken cane - one Utterson has given to Jekyll. He visits him, and is shown a note where Hyde apologizes to Jekyll. But the handwriting looks like Jekyll’s, so he gets suspicious.
A couple of months later Jekyll starts acting weird again, and a mutual friend of theirs dies of shock after learning something about Jekyll. Before he died he gave Utterson a letter to open after Jekyll’s death or disappearance.
I’m sure you’re all dying of suspense now! At the climax of the story Utterson tries to visit Jekyll, but is told by his butler that he’s locked himself in his laboratory for weeks. They break into the lab, and find Hyde (wearing Jekyll’s clothes), dead from an apparent suicide, along with a letter from Jekyll to Utterson. He starts with reading the letter he got from their friend, and then Jekyll’s, and learns about Jekyll’s transformation to Hyde and back with the help of potions, and how he lost control over the transformations. Jekyll ends his letter (and the book) with "I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end."
So this book takes up the classic struggle of good versus evil - just this time physically manifested in the very same person. It can represent the many kinds of dualities and opposites we humans do, but is also reminiscent of dissociative identity disorder. People loved it. It was published as a penny dreadful, and sold about 40,000 copies within six months, and over 250,000 copies within five years.
But the character itself is way more famous than the novel. Wikipedia lists 14 stage plays, 34 movies, 12 radio broadcasts, 15 TV shows, 14 songs / albums, 6 books and 19 other appearances. It also lists 32 spoofs and parodies, like Abbott and Costello (featuring Boris Karloff), and lots of cartoons (Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Goofy, Scooby Doo, Ducktales). I also know Monster High has included the character(s). I guess most of the people who follow this site know about The Damned’s single Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde off The Black Album. Such a lovely song. The legacy reaches far and wide in popular culture, even today, 133 years after it was published.
I’ve already said what I thought about it, even though that wasn’t much. It’s a short book, and like I said; not very thrilling when you already know Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. I read it in a collection of Stevenson’s works, and I honestly wasn’t much of a fan. The stories I liked the best in the collection were The Bottle Imp, The Waif Woman and Will O’ The Mill. But I would still like to read Treasure Island, his most famous novel. So I’d recommend some of his works to people who are specially interested, and used to reading 19th century novels.
It’s a 3 out of 5 from me! Not the worst, but not super enjoyable.
Next month’s book will be Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu! I have actually never read it, and it happens to be the book the Gothy Discord book club will be reading, so that worked out perfectly! As always, feel free to read along, and if you’re not in the server already, join us!
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