Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

If man has two sides- a good side and an evil side- then is it possible to separate them to create a single personality? That is the question that is faced in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll is a respectable, honorable man. Mr. Hyde is a disgusting, evil person. “[The] few who could describe him differed widely, as common observers will. Only on one point were they agreed; and that was the haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders.” as Stevenson writes.

The book is narrated by an old friend of Dr. Jekyll’s, a lawyer named Mr. Utterson. Over the course of the few years covered in the book, Mr. Utterson discovers the disturbing secret behind Mr. Hyde.

In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, I think the author is trying to express the idea that all people have a capacity for both extreme good and extreme evil, as expressed in this passage. “If each, I told myself, could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.”

One part of this book that I found particularly interesting was the characters. Each and every character was developed, interesting, and original, whether or not they remained throughout the entire book, like Mr. Utterson, or appeared only in two paragraphs, such as this landlady. “An ivory-faced and silvery-haired old woman opened the door. She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy; but her manners were excellent.” The characters each had their own strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Even without a good plot, the characters alone would have convinced me to read the book.

This book was very interesting to me, as it raised questions that I think a lot of people have thought of before. What if you could separate the parts of your personality? What would life be like then? What challenges would you face? Rewards? Dangers? Would it be a good thing? Or like in this book, an extremely dangerous thing? Or both?

Thanks in part to the questions, part to the interesting plot twists, and in part again to the characters, this book has to be one of my favorite reads. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy dark gothic novels.

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