The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
February 24, 2012 § 5 Comments
Most of us who are educated in the English language would have heard of the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde some time during our education. It may be that we had to read it for literature. Or maybe we just heard about the gist of the story from someone who had to do it for literature.
I’m from the latter group. I’ve never done this book for literature, but for as long as I can remember, we (my dad and I) were always referring to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, whenever we were talking about people with multiple personalities, or even when people said one thing, and did another.
I was surprised, really, when I saw this book at the bookshop and realised for the first time how incredibly thin it is.I always thought the classics were books that went for at least three hundred pages, and written in a language quite impossible to fathom. (That’s basically my poor excuse for a reason for shying away from the classics for so long.)
So anyway, I picked it up and brought it home. A new inclusion to my shelves. And since it was so incredibly thin, it was easy enough for me to just slip into my bag and bring it wherever I go.
I read the first chapter quite a long while ago, and while I quite liked the narrative, I never got around to continue reading it until recently. And to be frank, it was quite weird, the feeling of reading a story that’s already so familiar, and yet I was only reading this book for the first time.
It was a little like reading Dracula, the same way that the story is so familiar, and yet the reading of the story itself is a completely new experience. Only maybe it was even more awkward with Dr Jekyll simply because the story could be summarised in one sentence: Dr Jekyll is actually Mr Hyde, and vice versa.
It started to feel like there was really no point in reading it, because I already knew the conclusion, the ending, the “Oh!” factor that’s supposed to be the surprise finish. But then I realise, just in time, sometimes it’s in the pursuit, in the journey, and not in the ending or in the final destination, that we find joy.
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 his extraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together – that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling.
It’s not one of those book you read and love to bits. Or at least, that didn’t happen to me. There were some “Oh!” moments, but still.
I never read this one too but like you said, somehow the story is so familiar to us it never seemed to warrant the need to read it. Having said that though, I went through a similar experience with regards to another infamous monster – Frankenstein. I had always thought that I knew the gist of the story and since I do not fancy horror stories (ie: Dracula), I sort of had a made up mind since long ago that it would not be a book I would seek out to read. Then sometime last year, I had listened to an audiobook, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd and found it to be quite interesting and contrary to my preset ideas of the story. I later sought out the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and though yet unread but having flipped through the book, found the tone and writing to be surprisingly appealing. The same can probably be said for Dracula too, I supposed, but somehow I am still quite averse to giving that one a try. I have trouble getting past the title itself. Dracula, doesn’t it give you the creeps? Or maybe I associate the name to the visual images a little too much. :p
From what I understand, you like books written in letter form, right? So then maybe you should give Dracula a go. I don’t usually like books in letter form, but Dracula was a good read for me, so maybe you’ll like it more than you think!
You’re right, I do enjoy books that are written in the letter or journal form very much. And I did manage to take a peek at a copy of Dracula while I was at Borders over the weekend. The tone and writing style did appeal to me, more than I had thought (or would like to admit). Hmm… maybe I will indeed give it a try one of these days. Gee, didn’t realise I could be swayed so easily!
I’m not sure that Jekyll and Hyde will be anyone’s favorite but it’s definitely one that gives you a lot of insight into other later works of literature and is just a good pop culture base as well. Now you can say you’ve read it, right?!
It does, actually, give some insight, I mean.
And yes, I’ve read it! =)