Book Review: Jekyll and Hyde

Background Information

Full Title:  Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Publisher and date:  Longmans, Green and Co., 1886

Summary

Dr. Henry Jekyll is a well-respected London business man who creates a serum enabling him to change every night into a much younger, darker self, lacking of conscience and morals.  This character, Mr. Hyde, feels no guilt for committing crimes that would horrify Jekyll.  Jekyll enjoys possessing the ability to slip in and out of his darker self and begins to do so every night, changing back to himself come morning.  However, as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder for Jekyll to return to himself.  Jekyll knows that he must stop turning to his dark side, or eventually he will remain there forever…

Thoughts on Style

The book is written as a mystery, and Stevenson does a great job of making readers feel part of the story , even though most readers who go into this story already know the ending.  The bulk of the book is narrated in third person from the perspective of Mr. Utterson, a well-respected London lawyer. Utterson is fascinated by Hyde’s  behavior, not knowing his connection to Jekyll, and continues to try and decipher the mystery of a man who does such extreme evil without the slightest apparent guilt.  The last two chapters of the book are narratives from Dr. Lanyon, a friend of Mr. Utterson’s who was murdered by Hyde, and a narrative from Jekyll explaining everything.

Themes

Stevenson uses strong symbolism.  Hyde and Jekyll demonstrate the two sides of man, the evil desires we all struggle with,  and our striving to conquer these desires and live lives of moral goodness.  Stevenson has Hyde prowl the night with his acts of evil, while Jekyll lives in the light of day.

Worldview

Because Stevenson was not a Christian when he wrote Jekyll and Hyde, it is interesting to see the concepts of right and wrong displayed in his story.   Although we know he is not writing a Christian novel, we can look at his work and see what almost looks like spiritual warfare.

Appropriate Age/ Content

The acts Hyde commits at night are very violent.  Hyde attacks a young girl within the first few chapters, but the incident is not described in any depth.  Hyde also attacks an elderly man one night, which is described rather vividly.  Near the end of the book, Hyde murders a young gentlemen who comes to see him.  Because the book is written as a mystery, it is rather suspenseful throughout.  This is one of the most appreciable aspects of Stevenson’s work, that although readers already know the ending to the story, he still manages to make you feel the mystery and suspense keenly.  However, this book may feel a bit too suspenseful for younger children.  Also, the theme of good and evil is very strong in the book, and the battle between the two is very present.

Age Recommendation: 12+

Final thoughts

Jekyll and Hyde is truly one of the great classics.  I loved this book, and Stevenson creates a brilliant image of the two sides of man that are constantly warring against each other inside us all.

Rating:  4.3 out of 5 stars

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