This is the first book I read for Spooktober, and I thought it would be fun to read a classic horror. I’m surprised at how I never thought to read this book before, as I know the idea so well. Whether I’ve seen it featured in The Pagemaster (great movie) or The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (also a pretty good movie), I saw this classic in adaptations more times than I can count. And yet I never bothered to pick of the original book. Actually, it’s not a book. It’s a novella, around 70 pages in book form and 158 in ebook form (which is how I read it).
But I finally read it! And it was nothing like I imagined.
Release: Jan. 5, 1886
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “Can good and evil exist in one body? A London lawyer John Utterson investigates strange occurrences between his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde.”
First of all, I felt as if I missed out on the entire plot twist at the end (that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person), as I already knew this going in from previous adaptations. If I had not known this, I would probably have been so much more impressed with this book. Not that it isn’t impressive, being an interesting, though under-developed horror story, but it would have been more so if I had gone into it blind.
Most of the story is a mystery, following a lawyer, Utterson, who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll. He is trying to figure out what it going on with his old friend, and discovers the truth too late, after both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are dead.
One wonders if Dr. Jekyll was truly as good as he appeared, if he felt so free transforming into Mr. Hyde. Did he crave evil and succumb to it. Is that the meaning of this story? In Dr. Jekyll’s testimony, he even states that Mr. Hyde is the evil side of himself, not an entirely separate entity. Jekyll loved Hyde. He felt free as him, without always having to be pleasant to people. Yes, the drug changed his looks, but his change in behavior seemed to be mostly his choice. It makes Jekyll seem far more of a villain than most adaptations I’ve seen present him as being. This is even proved by the fact that he turns into Hyde without taking the concoction.
I could not help but wonder throughout that, if another person were to try the poison, if they would be affected the same way…interesting thought. Also, could Jekyll have gotten rid of Hyde forever without killing himself, or was Hyde tied to his mental stability so much that he couldn’t bear to be parted from him? Is not the problem then with Jekyll and not with Hyde?
While it does have some creepy moments, it is more of a philosophical examination of good and evil.
I will say, the book was different than I expected it to be. First, Jekyll is said to be around fifty in the story, though most adaptations picture him as a young man. Also, there are no female characters in the novella, though for some reason I thought Jekyll had a love interest. Apparently that’s Hollywood’s fault that I thought that.
To sum up my thoughts, I enjoyed this book. It was short and I personally think the story would have been more compelling as a full novel. However, it was still an enjoyable read, going from an interesting mystery to philosophy very quickly.
Have you read this book? If not, what has your knowledge of the story been shaped by? A movie? A retelling? Also, what is your favorite horror classic? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,