Strange Cases

I never had the opportunity to read the “Strange Cased of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, so was encouraged when I noticed that the book was available for free on Amazon. I consider myself a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson ever since I first saw the movie Treasure Island, and read the book. I’ve since had a number of opportunities to read other works of his, and I’ve never been disappointed.

I have to admit that considering Jekyll and Hyde wasn’t exactly a no-brainer for me, I had heard so many different takes on the character over the years, with probably more than one done by Disney in one animated form or another. And often the “refreshed” versions of classic tales leave a great deal to the imagination.

Most tales I’ve heard or seen about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde revolve around the story of the man and his attempt to release his hidden side, the one we all keep carefully tucked away behind a mask that we’ve put on with the help of society. Whether you care to admit it or not, you are not wholly what you present to the outside world, you are a creature molded by your family, your friends and even strangers, who make silent comment by the way they look at your person.

It’s not entirely a bad thing, to be concealed by a well worn mask, something that allows us interact and be acceptable in society, it is often those who don’t wear a mask, and are too obvious about their wants and desires and too easily swayed by their inner selves, who find themselves either at the mercy of the law, or in hospitals awaiting evaluation by a psychologist.

In the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Jekyll finds himself fascinated by this mask, and seeks a way to allow his baser emotions to be revealed. But I get ahead of myself.

The story is really about Mr. Utterson, the lawyer to Dr. Jekyll, and how he comes to know about Dr. Jekyll and his nemesis Mr. Hyde. You see, Mr. Utterson slowly learns of Mr. Hyde when he is on a stroll with his distant cousin and is told about an incident where a “little man” ran into a little girl, and trampled her body on the sidewalk, then proceeded down the lane and entered a nearby house. Remember, this is set in 19th century London, the girl wasn’t run down by a car, but by the plodding feet of the little man as they bumped into each other, and the little man must have stepped on her as he continued onward. Whether he stepped on her in haste, or perhaps pounced in some way isn’t exactly clear, but it seems that the little man hurt the girl significantly enough to cause the family to seek reparations, which is given to them in the way of a cheque made out on Dr. Jekyll’s account.

Needless to say the “little man” was none other than Mr. Hyde. And this is how Mr. Utterson comes to know of Hyde, and slowly comes to realize that this Hyde person is in face a contemporary of his good friend Dr. Jekyll, for whom he has recently drawn up a will, in which this Mr. Hyde is named as benefactor.

So Mr Utterson becomes involved in finding out how Dr. Jekyll could associate with such a person, and later when a murder is committed by the same person, he is really having misgivings about the will which names Mr. Hyde as a benefactor. He becomes quite the researcher and it’s really a tale of his discovery, but ends with the truth being outed by Dr. Jekyll himself, in his own handwriting, which is given to Mr. Utterson, and which is used to close the story.

Definitely different than I had imagined it, and all due to the “translation effect.” That is, the effect of the story being retold and renewed both on the big screen and the small, until you really don’t know what the true story is. The same thing happens every day, just go ahead, play a game of Telephone with 5 of more people, and tell me how the phrase changes at the end.

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