Yesterday, I touched on my favorite classic monsters & watched about four vampire movies. I got time on my hands. When deciding on whether or not to add Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde as part of my werewolf section, I realized that I don’t know nearly enough about these fellow(s) & immediately had to remedy this. First off, I had never read the novella, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – yea, the Treasure Island guy. Since it’s only about 50 pages, I knocked that out yesterday afternoon.
It was exactly what I expected & I guess not quite as I recall. Granted, I have only watched the very old film adaptations but I though that Hyde was visibly monstrous which isn’t the case. The story is told from the point of view of Gabriel John Utterson, a well to do lawyer & friend of the brilliant, well respected Dr. Henry Jekyll. On a walk with a good friend of his, Utterson is regaled with a tale about an evil, sinister, ugly little man who stomped on a child & then paid the family as retribution with a cheque from Dr. Jekyll’s account. This is worrisome to Utterson as he knows who the evil little man is & that Jekyll had recently changed his will to include this sinister character, Edward Hyde. He also discovers that Hyde has free access to Jekyll’s laboratory & Utterson is worried that his good friend is being black mailed, or worse by Mr. Hyde. One night, Hyde attacks & murders a close friend of Dr. Jekyll and Utterson’s. Hyde, given his distinct, evil appearance is immediately identified as the murderer. Utterson is fetched to identify the dead man’s body & again is worried about his friend Jekyll & thinking that he must be next on Hyde’s list of murders. Through a fairly convoluted back & forth, we of course discover that Jekyll & Hyde are one & the same. His ability to change character & appearance is the result of one of his experiments & ingestion of a potion that transforms him. As time progresses Jekyll finds himself transforming into Hyde without using the potion & finds it increasingly difficult to revert back to his good, better personality. Eventually, Hyde runs out of the chemicals to concoct his special mixture & drinks poison.
So, the obvious theme is the internal struggle of good versus evil. As human beings, we generally want to do good but there’s so much temptation. In Jekyll’s case he couldn’t reconcile with the duality of his personality so was determined to create two completely separate beings that could revel in extreme good & extreme evil. I got to reading various essays about the underlying themes & social context of the novella. Many of them alluded to the duality of Victorian era society – all lady in the streets, freak in the sheets – those weren’t the exact words but you get the idea. Utterson is extremely worried about the preservation of his friend’s reputation & this certainly does make sense. However, in the novella, as Jekyll is spiraling he continuously complains about the pureness of the chemicals that he needs. This got me thinking about some of the prescription drug abuse of the era & was there social commentary on addiction to opioids? I believe that Stevenson was quite ill for most of his life, did he have some experience with treatment that left an impression on him? Even more modern interpretations allude to personality disorders or mental illness being the reason for Dr. Jekyll’s transformation into Mr. Hyde, interesting reading all around. Maybe it is just a short story about a guy who wanted to be bad sometimes & took it too far, whatever the case, I am glad that I read this one. Even though I know the general storyline, reading the finer details of the story has certainly piqued my interest. Also, Mr. Hyde wasn’t a monster in appearance, apparently he just looked particularly evil. I’m picturing a shorter, Rudy Giuliani (and now you are too). Not saying that he is evil but he has a nefarious look about him. I have a few movies to watch now since I’ve probably only watched 1-2 of the older ones.
Does anyone else find themselves down these rabbit holes sometimes? Probably with more interesting topics but I can’t help who I am. I have a list of Jekyll & Hyde movies to work through, I will report back with tomorrow’s 31 Nights of Horror. I have been slacking on watching movies (aside from my vampire marathon) but mostly because I’ve been needing to go into work very early as of late. Thanks for stopping by 🧡