Monday, November 15, 2010

Jekyll and Hide - Review

Sarah and I are on a classics kick, and we recently finished (reading aloud) Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It was well worth the time and energy. 
Most of you know the basic story.  There is one guy with two personas - one good and one evil.  However, I had forgotten (or never learned) some of the details. 
Dr. Jekyll invented a concoction that would actually change his physique as well as his psyche to express his inner evil side.  Hyde was shorter, younger, and uglier than Jekyll.  Hyde was supposed to be the pure physical and mental expression of the evil nature of Jekyll.  While Jekyll was the combination or moderation of his own evil and good sides, Hyde was unfiltered evil.
Dr. Jekyll had already been leading somewhat of a double life before the invention of the concoction.  In public, Jekyll was an upstanding citizen and philanthropist.  In secret, he was a different person, giving over to his temptations.  The concoction only allowed the bifurcation of his nature to become more extreme and more physical.
Over time, after repeated use of the concoction, Dr. Jekyll could no longer control when he turned into Dr. Hyde.  In fact, eventually it was a great effort to maintain his status as Dr. Jekyll, and the potions were used only to return him to his original state.  Though he wanted to be "good," he no longer found it within his power to be the person he wanted to be.
Obviously all of this has great implications theologically and morally.  This story represents the downward slide into evil that is possible for all of us.  If we try to live a double life - good outside and bad in secret - then we will often find that the bad is slowly taking over.  Slowly, like Jekyll we become addicted, making the transition to evil actions and attitudes more frequently.  Later, to our horror, we discover that we have lost control.  Evil overtakes us in the worst possible times and ways.  Without outside help (from God and loving community) we are lost in our own depravity.
I know that sounds really theological and preachy, but nonetheless, I think it's true. 
So for a good story AND a good point, I give this book a strong 4J's: JJJJ.  The only weakness was the somewhat anticlimactic ending.
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