on 9 March 2011
A great study aid. The audio is very well done and creates an appropriate atmosphere. Excellent for use in the class - it certainly beats me trying to read it! The notes are also excellent. Very thoughtful and incisive.
on 11 July 2006
The first time I sat my Junior Honours year at Aberdeen uni I signed up for a class on Scottish Lit. Among a few other titles this was one of the two that really blew me away. Stevenson wrote the piece in a few nights, the pace is cracking. It charts the fracturing of Henry Jekyll a talented and awkward young doctor. Upon creating a medical powder an ingredient is off and when testing the drug it transforms him into a distorted, twisted version of the man he once was.
Thematically exploring the repression of homosexuality and the dangers of drug use, the most interesting part of the story is its reaction to Darwin's (at the time mind-bending) theories of evolution and the symbolism Stevenson uses to make this point.
The book is modernist but easily appreciated by the reader, it's very short and despite Jekyll's transformations, pretty straight forward. Despite being set in London, my teacher pointed out the books Scottishness and that the London in the book has many similarities with Edinburgh.
The main reason I feel people should read this book is simply that everyone knows the story; it's so ingrained in pop culture. Yet the book itself is so horrifying and atmospheric that it is completely new to read.
The text in this version is clear and a good size. Definatly give it a go, it's rewarding read.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of those books - rather like its Victorian fin-de-siecle counterparts Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray - that transcends its limits as a novel. The idea of the scientist who discovers a potion that transforms him from a mild-mannered and respectable citizen into a beast who tramples upon children just because they are in his way has entered the public consciousness; it has become the stuff of legend with the result that even those who have not read the book feel they know the story. All the same, even allowing for the fact the novel's success has rendered its surprises common knowledge, the original is well worth returning to: Stevenson's prose is so elegant it positively purrs and the ideas underlying the story are troubling, fascinating and compelling in equal measure.
It's quite easy to see why the novel is held in such high regard. To begin with it taps into a very primal fear, one swirling through the fog of late-Victorian Britain following the work of Charles Darwin and the revolutionary ideas emerging from the new sciences of psychology and psychoanalysis, namely that we are all at the mercy of our genetic past. We may be civilised on the surface but scratch away the thin veneer of respectability and you discover the beast within. Secondly the story is told in such a brilliant fashion. Now we all know the answers but the original readers of the book must have been fascinated as to just why the vile, brutish Mr Hyde had such a hold over the charming Dr Jekyll. Similarly why is Jekyll so reluctant to engage the help of his friends? Why, in particular, does he spend so much time in his laboratory. The descriptions in the novel are beautifully handled: the fogs in the streets; the echoing footsteps; the brutal murder. Jekyll and Hyde was published two years before the Whitechapel murders and readers at the time must have linked the two and been terrified by the resulting possibilities. Jack the Ripper was clearly a monster, but if we passed him in the street in broad daylight wasn't there a possibility that he could be just as likeable, just as respectable as the urbane Dr Jekyll? Finally, what struck me upon rereading the book recently, is the fact that Jekyll rather likes being Hyde - not in the sense that he likes what Hyde does (he clearly doesn't) but he likes Hyde's ability to act free from moral constraints. If we thought we could get away with something evil and reap the rewards without being caught would we give it a go? It's easy to say 'of course not' and act the perfect citizen but really, if opportunity presented itself? Could we be so sure?
In short I cannot recommend this fascinating little tale enough. It's frightening, thrilling, beautifully written and it makes you think. Like all the best ideas the notion of a fractured personality made manifest is brilliant and simple at the same time. Fabulous stuff - and fully deserving of its iconic status.
Before reading this edition, I had only ever encountered this classic stroy through versions on film. Years ago I saw the version with Michael Caine, and because of this I brought a lot of preconceptions to my reading of the novel. Having read this edition now, I am glad that I bought one with such a good introduction to the tale. The introduction opened my eyes to aspects of the novel that otherwise I would have missed.
The novel is very different to the story I remember from the film version. In the film a lot more attention is given to Jekyll. The novel however concentrates on the lawyer, Mr Utterson, who is a friend of Jekyll and fears that the evil Mr hyde is somehow blackmailing his friend. As the introduction explains, Mr Utterson feared that Mr Hyde may have been blackmailing Jekyll because of homosexual acts that they were involved in (something which apparently occurred at the time of the writing of the novel). Of course the truth is far worse than this assumption.
I think anyone is aware of the basic stroyline - that Jekyll makes up a potion which turns him into Hyde; a person who is amoral and evil, and who committs terrible acts. In a sense, it is quite a simple idea. But the meanings can be taken much further. For example, consider the idea that every single human being is essentially 'made up' of two such people - one who is capable of good, the other only capable of bad. Also, something which I could not help but think about while reading, is why would a good person want to unleash such a person into the world? So, following on from this, how 'good' was Jekyll in the first place? This is perhaps one downfall of the novel; the reason for him carrying out his experiment is not discussed in great lengths, so questions remain as to why he did such a thing to begin with.
This book will always be a classic. All around us we see good and bad being done by ourselves and others. And although it may not go towards explaining why such things occur, the story continues to conjure up philosophical questions which remain as relevant now as they were when first written.
If you have never read this novel, please do so. It is very different to how you may know this classic of horror.
The story goes that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote this novel in just two days, whilst sick with a fever. His wife, who was nursing him, read the completed manuscript and deciding it was rubbish - the deranged ramblings of a very ill man - she threw it onto the fire. Not to be deterred, her husband simply rewrote this story - in another two days.
We may be glad of Robert Louis Stevenson's perseverance, as this is a truly astounding novel. At the time it was first published, it was a shocking tale, but whilst modern readers will be familiar with the Jekyll and Hyde concept, they may still be captivated by the quality of the writing and the true horror drawn out in the author's words, which have a sinister quality that the countless film and television versions and variations over the years have failed to match.
This isn't just a horror story - it's a book about appearance and reality, and about our notions of who we are and how we are viewed by others. That's not to mention that old chestnut of good versus evil - but here, played out in two sides of the same person. Stevenson's fascinating ideas are brilliantly executed in this little masterpiece of a novel.
on 30 December 2010
Whilst at first I thought the story would be another wordy classic with close attention to detail needed to understand the plot, I was wrong.
What I had *thought* was the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was infact something totally opposite! I had seen spin-offs and had a general idea of what the story was about, but reading the original always prevails.
If you have any doubt over what the story is, buy this book and read away, you won't be disappointed. The description of characters and places is very well done by Stevenson, and you can really picture Utterson, Hyde, Jekyll and even poor Cafew in very fine detail.
on 13 July 2008
Being like most people in the modern world, i had several preconceptions about the tale of Jekyl and Hyde before even picking up the book. I have seen umpteen televisual interpretations and seen everyone who displays even the slightest piece of out of the ordinary behavior be described as having a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality by the media. I wasnt quite prepared for what i found inside this little gem though.
The story itself is just seventy pages and all too easy to read in one sitting. The language can be a little challenging on a tired brain at times, but the feel you get from the way the words have been constructed is nothing short of genius.
A dark tale about the reclusive and retiring Doctor Jekyll and the devestatingly wicked Mr Hyde is strung together by the narrative of Jekyll's lawyer friend Utterson, it is of course a truly gothic story of good and evil competing for space inside one mans conciousness, but also a reflection on how abuse of a substance can lead to losing a grip on who we really are, how hard it can be to accept what we have and the perils of striving for some forbidden pleasures.
An amazing read for those who love victorian fiction, horror, thrillers, mysteries or just life changing books.
This is not a review of the story itself - I think there is enough information out there about that! This review is about the actual edition of the story.
I bought this off Amazon for £1.99 which I thought was a bargain - it IS, but be aware that the text is small and tightly packed onto the page. It is however well printed and perfectly readable as a result. I have seen a cheaper Puffin edition where the headache-inducing text was so cramped on the page that you had to really concentrate to stay on track - very off-putting to say the least!
The Jekyll and Hyde story takes up 50 pages of the 232 pages book and this edition also includes a short introduction, bibliography and some end notes if you are at all interested in these things. Overall I think this is a decent edition - it is a bargain but rest assured the quality is there and the pages are a good thickness and NOT like tissue paper! :)
on 10 June 2011
On page 90 Jekyll needs to double or triple the amount used and notes that he is risking death by using larger quantities of the substance. On page 92 he describes the withdrawal symptoms. Then for 2 months Jekyll abstains from his potion, but then he can abstain no longer. Page 100 Jekyll notes that it takes increasingly long for Hyde to wear off and finally as Hyde, Jekyll refuses to see friends and withdraws completely from society until he dies.
When you read it with this in mind, it is clear that it is Dr Jeckyll who is the real monster. At first the potion turns him into a charming man, free from worry, but it soon stops working and merely amplifies the bad areas of his character. Stevenson was suffering from acute alcoholism when he died. At the time only his wife really recognised this work for for what it was - an allegory of his own life long struggle with alcohol.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is assured a place in the history of horror fiction because it the literary classic that represents the archetype of the werewolf (the human with the monster hiding inside). Along with Mary Wollstonecraft's "Frankenstein" (the Thing Without a Name) and Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (the Vampire) Robert Louis Stevenson's novella is part of the gothic foundation of the modern horror story (there is really not a single ghost store of equal standing, although "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James comes close). All have in common the fact that they promise to tell a story that might best be left untold, which, of course, is exactly the sort of story we want to hear.
Given that Stevenson was writing when the genre of horror fiction was not recognized as such, it is surprising that "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is cast in the form of a mystery novel. Stevenson invites his readers to try and get ahead of the story, to put the clues together and come to the conclusion. Today it is nearly impossible to pick up this story and not know the "secret," but if you think back to the late 19th-century when this story was written you can get a sense for how Stevenson used the biases and limitations of his readers to his advantage in keeping them from what we might consider to be an obvious conclusion.
More importantly, Stevenson is writing several decades before the writings of Sigmund Freud revolutionized the whole idea of human psychology. Yet we can certainly find evidence of the conscious and subconscious mind of which Freud would write. Stevenson reinforces this metaphor with the block of buildings that divides this particular part of London, with one side representing the civilized world of a respected physician and the other side the squalor of the world inhabited by an inhuman creature who gives in to his every earthly desire. The novella also speaks to the topic of evolution, with Hyde being described as "ape-like," reinforcing the idea that our most human attributes remove us ever further from the category of mere animal.
Of the three classic horror novels, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is the most accessible. Not only because of its shorter length, but also because its evil is more realistic, even in terms of our imagination. We might be unable to reanimate the dead or to become the walking dead, but we can certainly relate to the idea of unleashing the beast buried with us. Even if we could not, we can recognize the "werewolf" in the real world in the form of serial killers who try to show a civilized face to us in public. This is not to say that the novella is simplistic, for Stevenson offers a sophisticated narrative. If this is one of those literary you have never read because you already know the story, then you should take out an evening to sit down and finally get around to reading it.