Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Classical suspense at its finest. It's easy to understand how this book was an immediate success for Stevenson. This is a story I avoided while growing up because I dislike "horror" and every modern film adaptation I was presented with looked like a horrifying experience. Then I ran across the Broadway musical (1997). (The musical?! Yes. The musical.) I loved it. (The musical, that is.) Unfortunately the musical only ran for four years (and I will likely never get to see it performed) but the songs from the CD will be stuck in my head for life. The musical, like most or many of the movies, involve a female love interest. Surprisingly (for me anyway) -- there is no female character in Stevenson's original work.

The story involves a lawyer who is friends with Dr. Jekyll and is trying to solve the mystery surrounding an individual by the name of Hyde who seems to have some horrible hold over the lawyer's friend. The book contemplates the duality of man's nature which includes both good and evil. Apparently the story idea came from several dreams which Stevenson had. Here's an interesting blurb about the background of the story copied from Wikipedia -

==Background== [[In the early autumn of 1885 Stevenson's thoughts turned to the idea of the duality of man's nature, and how to incorporate the interplay of good and evil into a story. One night he had a dream, and on wakening had the idea for two or three scenes that would appear in the story. "In the small hours of one morning," says Mrs. Stevenson, "I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily 'Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.' I had awakened him at the first transformation scene."]]''

I was surprised (and disappointed!) by how short the story actually is. I believe it was a mere seven chapters which, frankly, just wasn't enough! The story was fascinating. I loved it! Now I'm very curious to see some movie adaptation to see how Hollywood went about interpretating this classic tale.

If you are like me, and typically avoid stories which appear to be on the more scary side of "dark" - don't avoid this book. I skirted it for far too long. Stevenson is lovely and I will definitely be reading more of his work in the future!


Rose said...

Hear, hear! Classic authors knew how to work our 'horror bone' without resorting to gore and violence. You should read The Bottle Imp, also by RLS. It's very short - maybe even a kids' book - but very interesting, gripping, and with a fine dilemma on morals, risk-taking, and the like.

Unknown said...

I think I read this in high school. My hubby and I saw the musical in 1993 or 1994. It began in Houston at a theatre company there, before moving on to Broadway. Cool, huh?

Carrie said...

AHHH! Envy! I have envy!

B said...

David Quine has a great curriculum (Starting Points) that uses books like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein to teach worldview studies. I was very impressed with it because it helped me to read the books differently. They're so much more than horror, and you can see how the writers were using the rather gruesome elements to tell a bigger story about the nature of man.

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