I hope you’re all doing ok and enjoying the run up to Christmas. I am well aware there are a lot of unknowns on the horizon but I am doing what I always do: enjoying the holidays, resting and of course, reading plenty. I know I’m still playing catch up on my posts but behind the scenes I have been working on my reading challenge for 2022 which I really hope you get involved with! I can’t wait to share that with you all!
Before that, today I am here to review my book choice for November. The focus was: November – Read a book by an author who died more than 100 years ago. I put this into my challenge so I read another classic. After all, they are classics for a reason and I am someone that sees the new books out in shops and buys them, leaving the classics behind. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get this read in November BUT I did manage to finish it on December 1st so it isn’t too bad… My first choice was the poetry of Lewis Carroll but… we didn’t see eye to eye… Anyway, I then decided to read the gothic Victorian classic The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I hope you enjoy my post!
What’s it all about?
The setting of this novel, heavily influenced by Stevenson’s life in Edinburgh, is set in London with a quintessential Victorian gentleman, Doctor Henry Jekyll. Stevenson contrasts this with the character of Edward Hyde. One evening, Gabriel John Utterson and his cousin Richard Enfield reach the door of a large house. Enfield tells Utterson about the scandalous events of months before. He saw a sinister and terrifying looking man (Edward Hyde) trample a young girl after accidentally bumping into her. Hyde was forced to pay £100 to avoid the public scandal that would have ensued. However, when Hyde bought the cheque, it was signed by the reputable gentleman later revealed to be Doctor Henry Jekyll. Utterson knew the doctor well – he was a client and a friend. Utterson fears the worst and assumes that Hyde is blackmailing him especially as Jekyll changed his will recently in order to make Hyde his sole beneficiary. As his friends, Utterson tries to talk to him about it, only to be repeatedly shut down.
“It is one thing to mortify curiosity, another to conquer it. ”
On a dark October night, a servant witnesses Hyde beating Sir Danvers Carew to death. All that is left behind is half of a broken cane. The police contact Utterson who takes them to Hyde’s apartment. Upon their arrival, they see how Hyde has vanished but has left behind the other half of the broken cane. Utterson recognises it immediately as one he previously gave to Jekyll. Utterson visits Jekyll who shows him a note. This note has allegedly been written to Jekyll by Hyde but Hyde’s handwriting is similar to Jekyll’s own, resulting in Utterson believing and concluding that Jekyll has forged the note in order to protect Hyde.
Gradually, over time Jekyll reverts to his former self. He’s sociable and back to his status of quintessential gentleman. However, in January the following year, he starts refusing to see visitors. This change in character leads to more suspicions. Furthermore, Dr Hastie Lanyon, a mutual acquaintance of Jekyll and Utterson, dies of shock after gaining some information relating to Jekyll. Before his death, Lanyon gives Utterson another letter to be opened after Jekyll’s death or disappearance. In late February, during another walk with Enfield, Utterson begins a conversation with Jekyll at his laboratory window. Out of nowhere, Jekyll slams the window and disappears, shocking Utterson to the core.
“There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul.”
In early March, Jekyll’s butler, Mr Poole visits Utterson in a state of frantic worry. He reveals how Jekyll has completely secluded himself in his laboratory for weeks. The pair decide that they have no choice but to break into the laboratory where they find the body of Hyde wearing Jekyll’s clothing. With this and a letter from Jekyll to Utterson, it is assumed that this is suicide. Utterson reads Lanyon’s letter followed by Jekyll’s. Lanyon reveals that his shock was caused by seeing Hyde drink something that turned him into Jekyll. Jekyll’s letter explains how he indulged in unstated vices and feared discovery. Therefore, he found a way to transform himself and thereby indulge his vices without fear of detection. Whilst this was originally under control and under the control of Jekyll, one night in August this happened involuntarily.
Eventually, Jekyll resolved to stop becoming Hyde and go back to his respectful life. Yet, one moment of weakness resulted in him drinking the serum to change. This led to him murdering Carew due to him burying his desires for so long. As a result of this though, Jekyll resolved to stop the transformations. The police were hunting him as a murderer so Hyde needed to help him avoid capture. He wrote a letter to Lanyon in Jekyll’s hand asking for his friend to deliver various chemicals from his laboratory. In Lanyon’s presence, Hyde mixed the chemicals, drank the serum and transformed into Jekyll. The shock of this sight resulted in Lanyon’s death.
Finally, one of the chemicals ran low and new batches failed to work. Jekyll speculated that one of the original ingredients must have some unknown impurity that enabled it to work. Knowing there was no way out, Jekyll wrote out a full disclosure of events and locked himself in his laboratory. Here, he could keep Hyde impressed and Poole and Utterson would find him dead.
“If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also.”
For such a small novel, there is so much to discuss. There have been many many theories and schools of thoughts about the novel but for me, it shows the impact of hiding those desires deep down. Also, I am fascinated by the duality of man – how we are all capable of good and evil. There’s a reason this novel has stood the test of time – after all it’s been around since 1886… I also really enjoyed the letter elements of the novel. Letters are a dying art form so I really like it when they’re within the plot of a story and this is truly the case here – letters reveal the truth. All in all, this is a short novel that you can easily read in a day but one that throws up many questions and thoughts about the behaviours of man and the difference between out outward presentation of ourselves and our true inside.
I’ll be back before Christmas so I’ll wait until then to wish it to you all! In the meantime, enjoy the build up to the big day and stay safe and well.
Big love all xxx
13 thoughts on “Reading Challenge 2021: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson”
RLS books are amazing and interesting. Great to see you choose this one …. cheers.
Merry Christmas 🤶 🎄 & happy holidays.
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To be honest, I need to read more. Maybe once my pile has cleared a bit!
Merry Christmas to you too my friend! 🎄
I like your reading habits, this pandemic time I picked up many books you suggested and read them as well. But not like the good old school days. I always wait for your post and curious to know which book you opted. I appreciate 🙏 have a good holidays . Keep safe and smiling.
That’s genuinely so lovely. It means so much to me too. Thank you so much. X
Welcome. I always appreciate the real readers. It’s a big knowledge bank back of the mind and a loads of energy. Cheers.
I think RLS is an underrated author, even although they are classics. I love his poetry too. Thank you for this, I might go and reread.
Oohh I didn’t realise that he’d written poetry too. Thank you so much. I’ll have to keep an eye out for some. X
One of my favorite English classics.
Aw excellent. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to it.
Thank you for sharing!!.. have a wonderful holiday and Christmas filled with love and happiness and until we meet again..
May flowers always line your path
and sunshine light your way,
May songbirds serenade your
every step along the way,
May a rainbow run beside you
in a sky that’s always blue,
And may happiness fill your heart
each day your whole life through.
Merry Christmas to you too! I hope you have a lovely season x
I see many new books reviewed on book blogs, that it’s refreshing to see a classic novel being reviewed. And I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book — the duality of people is such rich material to include in a story. I’ve heard the audio version of this book, and some day I have to get around to reading it!
Ah thank you so much!
I do love a classic to be honest and I do neglect them which I need to rectify! It sounds strange but I do notice the duality in people, even myself at times. Nothing as extreme as in the novel but it’s there for sure.
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