Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beware the dark corners of the soul warns Dr. Jekyll of Mr. Hyde

This morning I added The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson to my Ebook Classics collection. The story was quite engaging and kept me turning pages. I can only imagine how startling the book was when it first came out and readers were not aware of Jekyll and Hyde as people are today. The endurance of this story comes from its examination of the truth that all people have good and bad elements within their personalities.

The story begins with the lawyer of Dr. Jekyll, one Mr. Utterson, pressing his concern with the doctor over the terms of his final will and testament that declares Mr. Hyde to be Jekyll's heir in the case of his death or disappearance. Having become aware of Mr. Hyde's wholly vile character, the lawyer urges his client to restate his will before Mr. Hyde is motivated to hurt him. But, mysteriously, the doctor cannot be prevailed upon.

Mr. Utterson continues to monitor the situation as the mystery and horror unfolds. He is concerned for his friend, Dr. Jekyll, who clearly begins to display mad behavior.

Unknown to Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll has been experimenting with cleansing himself of the unappealing and dark aspects of his character, hoping to make the good in himself shine all the better, but in so doing, he has let the proverbial Genie out of the bottle.

In this quote from the novel, Dr. Jekyll attempts to explain himself:

For two good reasons, I will not enter deeply into this scientific branch of my confession. First, because I have been made to learn that the doom and burthen of our life is bound for ever on man’s shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful pressure. Second, because, as my narrative will make, alas! too evident, my discoveries were incomplete. Enough then, that I not only recognised my natural body from the mere aura and effulgence of certain of the powers that made up my spirit, but managed to compound a drug by which these powers should be dethroned from their supremacy, and a second form and countenance substituted, none the less natural to me because they were the expression, and bore the stamp of lower elements in my soul.

For an engaging read set in foggy 19th century London where science and the supernatural collide, I recommend Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.