The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

If you never read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886) because you’ve seen its premise referenced in popular culture and feared you already knew the plot, I beg to differ.

I recently finished the book, and was surprised by its complicated moral lessons. It isn’t as simple as a man (Dr. Jekyll) creating a serum in order to mask the evil part of his personality (Mr. Hyde). It’s the journey of how he got to that point that is most thought provoking: He spent most of his life not trying to suppress evil, but aspects of his personality that didn’t fit with the public face he wanted to present. “…the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many, but such as I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more than commonly grace countenance before the public.” Decades of repressing these parts of himself resulted in Jekyll creating the potion, which transformed him into remorseless, murderous Hyde.

Hyde is much younger and smaller in stature than Jekyll because he hasn’t been developed and explored. The longer he is out, however, the stronger he becomes: One day in a park, Jekyll compares himself to others and considers himself virtuous because of his deeds. Before completing his thought, though, he transforms into Hyde – without taking any potion. The more harm Hyde does, the more philanthropic work Jekyll does. However, by the end of the story, Jekyll understands he will become Hyde permanently, and will be responsible for the ramifications of Hyde’s cruel acts.

There are bone-chilling lessons in the story, and it reads easily – the novella is less than 160 pages. If you ever need a meaningful, but scary, book to read, keep this one in mind.