The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Stories - Robert Louis StevensonIn: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Stories – Robert Louis Stevenson
Oxford University Press, 2008

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.

14 responses to “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

  1. I went into this book relatively un-spoiled. I knew a little but didn’t know much of what to expect, and I adored the atmosphere and tone. That’s what really got to me. I loved the writing. :) I’m glad you enjoyed it some!

  2. I own this one and plan to read it soon. Fall is such a fun reading season! :-)

  3. Stevenson is an author I’ve been meaning to explore too; I’ve had a trilogy of tales from when I was a girl. I re-read Anne of Green Gables countless times, whilst those tales of pirates and adventure and mystery sat neglected. I should take another look…

  4. I got this one my huge TBR pile but alos didn’t think of including it in the challenge although I’d like to read it. I never thought it would be creeyp but rather the story of a compulsion. I’m not sure I have the same introduction in my book.

  5. I have actually enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson in the past but have not read this yet. I really should get to it at some point.

  6. I always thought that not being able to sustain self-control was the scariest part of this story.

  7. Have you seen the Steven Moffat miniseries Jekyll? I’ve only seen the first episode so far (it’s on Netflix), but it’s really cool so far! The actor who plays the part is fantastic in it.

  8. I studied this in undergrad and really enjoyed the analysis. You should check out the multiple versions of the movie, as they show how it deals with race and racism too.

  9. I read this in high school and have a vague memory of not particularly liking this book, but that just might have been because we had to read it for class… :)
    I’ve never read any of his short stories before, so I’m interested in seeing how you like them. Great review!

  10. Interesting… It’s always a bit of a letdown when the book ISN’T as good as you expected, especially when it’s this famous. I haven’t read this yet although it is in my mind for RIP VI. I intend to read a bunch of Stevenson soon…

  11. I own this one, but had kind of forgotten about it. Maybe I should pull it out for October.

  12. I read this last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s amazing how much story comes out of such a short book!

  13. I don’t do scary stories either! I liked this one, though, and like you didn’t find it nearly as terrifying as I’d expected. I actually listened to it on audio, which worked really well, as it came across as kind of theatrical.

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