I had already made my list of R.I.P. VI reads when I remembered that I had this book on my shelves as well. Having recently finished the main story bundled in this book, I think it would perfectly fit the challenge.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of those stories that I, of course, knew about, but had decidedly ignored for quite some time now. There is something about “scary stories” that makes me think twice (or ten, nay twenty, times) before finally picking them up.
I need not tell you the plot, I am sure. Likewise, I do not think I should tell you about the allegory about human nature, etcetera. This is simply a short post telling you that I was not as scared as I expected. The story never felt truly creepy to me until I came to the last chapter, in which Dr Jekyll gives his own account of what happened. The incidents before that are but that – incidents, never explored in-depth, never exploited for their horrors. I am sure the mystery of what the connection between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was would have been intriguing to readers at that time, but approaching the story nowadays, knowing even if you think you know nothing about it, what the connection is, the only question left is how it will be uncovered. I think that is what enabled me to feel relatively calm while reading – I could concentrate on the wonder and the angst of the other characters and look at them with more impassive eyes, somehow.
What did affect me was the story of Dr Jekyll himself, as I said before. There is something about this despair of not being able to control who you are that dominates the whole letter. His knowledge of saying goodbye to himself for the last time as he closed the letter, it made an impact, albeit not enough to say I loved this. Reading it was more a case of “how interesting to finally see how things play out on the page”.
The introduction written to this edition, by Roger Luckhurst, and the contextualisation by means of texts on psychoanalysis at the time, were wonderful to read. Especially Lockhurst, who goes beyond an analysis of doubles in psychology, and moves on to other readings involving the scare of homosexuality, Calvinist ideas about election, and crime and urbanism.
I will be reading three short stories included in this edition later: ‘The Body Snatcher’, ‘Markheim’ and ‘Olalla’, as well as two essays ‘An Essay on Dreams’ and ‘A Gossip on Romance’.
It feels good to finally acquaint myself with Robert Louis Stevenson, even if I’m not sure I truly like his writing yet. There is just something about reading works by a well-known author, knowing you’ll finally get to form an opinion on them yourself.