By Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Horror, Short Story
Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego.
The synopsis gives you the idea this will be a truly spectacular thriller, but it never reaches its potential. Stevenson plays with this amazing premise of a mad scientist finding a way to release his darker side, but he falls short in building up the tension and gripping us with the descriptions of the second persona and his exploits. I think the blame lies with the utterly boring narrator, Mr. Utterson. He is even described as a stuffy lawyer, so it is expected he looks at the mystery with somewhat dry manner.
“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”
It is the last chapter that wows you as a reader, when everything is laid out in the open; Jekyll himself explains how everything happened in his last letter, and it is his despair about the consequences of his rash experiment that captures your heart and imagination. If only the writer had shuffled the timing of events around somewhat, or just wrote the entire story from Dr. Jekyll’s point of view. Now that would be a tale!
“The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside, and I came to myself as if out of a great sickness. There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine.”
No wonder Victorians made a widely successful stage play out of the story. Apparently the transformation done by the actor was so convincing, women in the audience fainted from shocked horror. I wish I got something like that form the book. It would have been amazing but as it reads now, I can only give it 3.5 stars for the amazing premise and great ending.