Gothic Reading Challenge
For this round of the Gothic Reading Challenge, I chose a Gothic classic by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a short story, but it packs plenty of punch. Check out The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When the repulsive and frightening Mr. Edward Hyde injures an innocent child, two bystanders nab him and force him to pay reparations to the girl’s family. Several days later one of those men is telling this story to his cousin, Mr Utterson. It’s a strange tale, to be sure, but the story isn’t what gives Mr. Utterson chills.
Utterson is a lawyer, and he has heard the name of Edward Hyde before: the apparently moral-less creature is the sole beneficiary of one Dr. Henry Jekyll, a friend and client of Mr. Utterson’s.
As the lawyer begins unraveling the mystery surrounding Hyde’s appearance and Jekyll’s suddenly reclusive behavior, he becomes more and more unnerved. Someone is playing a deadly game, but whether it’s Jekyll or Hyde remains to be seen…
Even if you haven’t actually read Jekyll and Hyde, chances are good that you know the basic plot. I was surprised to discover, however, that the story is actually more like a novella — only 88 ebook pages.
Jekyll is all kindness and philanthropy and fear; and Hyde is soulless and evil — apart, neither is one whole person. But once Jekyll has pulled the genie out of the bottle (so to speak), it’s too late to save himself or Hyde’s victims. I love the comparisons between the two, and it’s interesting to see and consider what would happen if each side of every person’s personality could split in such a way.
It’s a well-written story, with great themes that make the reader consider the duality of man, and what atrocities we can commit when we feel we are anonymous. But the telling of the story through multiple narrators—especially Utterson, who is far removed from the heart of the story—was disappointing to me. I heard plenty from Jekyll’s perspective, but it made me wonder why Utterson needed to be there at all. The story could have been told slightly differently and still have made a big impact.
I also didn’t like how the ending comes so abruptly. To me it felt like there needed to be an epilogue, or the story needed to be longer overall. I can’t articulate my feelings exactly, which I suppose means that I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I wanted to.
The Gothic element
Murder. Vials of mysterious potions. Suspicious behavior. Disguises. Suicide. Cryptic warnings and letters. Creepy old houses. Sounds like a Gothic novel to me!
“…he thought of Hyde, for all his energy of life, as of something not only hellish but inorganic. This was the shocking thing; that the slime of the pit seemed to utter cries and voices; that the amorphous dust gesticulated and sinned; that what was dead, and had no shape, should usurp the offices of life. And this again, that that insurgent horror was knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born; and at every hour of weakness, and in the confidence of slumber, prevailed against him, and deposed him out of life.”
Have you read Jekyll and Hyde? What did you think? If you’re participating in the Gothic Reading Challenge, how’s it going?