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Review Of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde By Robert Louis Stevenson

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It’s 1886, and the first chapter of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has just been published. It’s priced at exactly one shilling, and no one would have known that within a few years it would sell over 250,000 copies. Though it wasn’t all positive when it first hit the streets of London. A majority of stores wouldn’t even stock the book until a review from The Times was released, and gave the book it’s favourable reputation.

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It was published during a time of repression, where ‘freedom’ did not have the same meaning has it does in modern times, to also contradict religion and believe in science would have almost been seen as a crime. This time is also known as the Victorian era.

Being a very religious time, imagine the stir of reading that a man had transformed himself into a monster, splitting his inner dark thoughts into a being with a soul and led a life of violence and cruelty.

There lives a man named Dr. Henry Jekyll, a well-respected scientist, intelligent and an upstanding man in society. There also lives a man named Mr. Hyde, a creature who is feared, disfigured and a threat against society. He is a criminal who commits violent acts against innocent people, like the trampling of a little girl and the brutal murder of a man. Jekyll seems to be the complete opposite of Hyde; but it is not a coincidence that Jekyll and Hyde are never seen together at the same time.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a complicated narrative, making it a challenging but pleasurable read. It’s confronted and intrigued people for over a century, the phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ to describe somebody with two different personalities even becoming a part of modern language.

The novella discusses what we humans are afraid to believe is the truth. That everyone was born with a good and evil demeanor that we have control over. This novella confronts readers with the basic problem of how can we do such terrible things to each other? The answer is simple, we’re human.

Duality is shown in the novella as a trait we just cannot run from. As a result, Jekyll feels repressed enough in his own skin, to let his inner dark thoughts win the battle he was destined to lose anyways, and create a potion that will allow him to express himself. In a way that could not happen when being Jekyll, as a reputation was too precious to let some acts of freedom destroy.

This book then was a confronting and frightening story that shed light on just how repressed everyone was. Which is why the story was condemned against, and people attacked it for talking about everything that they did not believe in; science, hints of the supernatural and the duality of human nature. People attacked it because they were afraid, afraid that it was the truth they had known all along. It’s every bit as confronting and frightening now, as the duality of human nature will never disappear, even after a hundred years later.

Jekyll and Hyde is a great literary piece written incredibly well to demonstrate suspense, yet we all know the ending these days so why do we still read it? Well because it was written during a time where to read a piece about the duality of human nature and science would have brought shock to the entire audience. It was like an attack on human civilization that Stevenson brought out, and it made people realise deep down that we all have a side to us that we wouldn’t show anyone, not even to the person we trust the most.

The main concept of duality has become increasingly larger for new narratives and movie ideas to be made. From its first publication in London, to then hitting the television screen in South Korea, almost 135 years later, it is safe to say that Jekyll and Hyde has become a well-known novella in modern day times.

Hyde, Jekyll, Me is a South Korean television series that aired in January 2015. It is a drama that follows Gu Seo-Jin, a man who owns a theme park named Wonderland, and is about to become the next CEO of his family’s company, Wonder Group. From first glance, Seo-Jin seemingly has everything; the looks, brains, and fortune. What you can’t see from first glance though is his other personality, Robin.

Like in the famous 19th novella, Seo-Jin is the main protagonist, and has a split personality. The only difference being the characteristics of the other personality. In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jekyll is the man who is a well-respected scientist and has a good reputation in town, and his other personality Hyde is the one who is cruel, cold and feared in town. Whilst in Hyde, Jekyll, Me it’s the opposite. Seo-Jin is the one who’s cruel, cold and feared and Robin is a sweet, well-respected man with a good reputation.

Mr. Utterson, a lawyer who’s well respected in his works and friends with Jekyll, is the voice we hear from when the story of Jekyll and Hyde is being told. Utterson’s personality of being ‘cool and collected’ has left him wondering about Jekyll’s will, and why it is all left to the infamous criminal, Hyde. Utterson’s persistent character leads him slowly discover the truth about the double life Jekyll leads. As the story is told from Utterson’s perspective, so is the drama series of Hyde, Jekyll, Me that is told from the perspective of Jang Ha-Na, an Utterson like character as she’s also rational, collected and intelligent.

Ha-Na works as the master and actress of the circus at Wonderland. Seo-Jin wants to tear the set down due to the low ticket sales and high costs, not caring about the employees or what would happen to them, much like Hyde’s personality of cruel and careless. Ha-Na then intervenes with Seo-Jin, as master and actress of the circus, she is determined to stop his plans. Just like how Utterson is determined to figure out who this Hyde character is, why he trampled that little girl and why Jekyll is paying for his actions, almost like he was covering for him.

Utterson is clueless in who Hyde really is, even when all the clues are laid out in front of him, it’s almost like he doesn’t want to voice out his inner thoughts because of how important a man’s reputation is; even if it meant to cover for a criminal. Ha-Na is also clueless, believing that Seo-Jin and Robin are two completely different people, even though she’s around them constantly. Most characters are somewhat stubborn when it comes to seeing the truth.

Seo-Jin transforms into Robin every time he has a strong emotional reaction and his heart spike. He is surprised that every time he has an interaction with Ha-Na, that she makes his heart spike incredibly high. Seo-Jin is unable to control his transformations, just like how Jekyll could not during the end of the novella. He would fall asleep as Jekyll and wake up as Hyde, his transformations becoming involuntarily and he did not have to drink a potion. Seo-Jin distances himself from most social interactions in fear that he may become Robin, like Jekyll hid in his laboratory and away from society when he realised he could not control Hyde any longer.

You will most likely hear the phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ once in your lifetime. It is a timeless novella that deserved all the recognition and was a piece written by a man ahead of his time. It’s bold and thrilling concept of duality astonished readers then and now, and will continue to do so for centuries more. Its everlasting impression and footprint on this time will not be forgotten.

This infamous novella has influenced writers, producers, directors, and readers from all over the world. From its first publication in London, to then hitting the television screen in South Korea, almost 135 years later. It shows the effect no matter the language, or time, the centre message of duality between good and evil will still be around, confronting and all.

09 March 2021

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