Like all great horror stories, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reveals the reader's own fears, rather than conjuring monsters out of whole cloth and taming them by refusing to give mystery its due. Modern "horror" writers are just peddlers of atrocity, whereas a poet of the soul like Robert Louis Stevenson makes us stare into the murky abyss of human evil, an abyss that resides in each of us. But he doesn't make us stare like voyeurs; we stare as he warns us of the danger.
The story is well-known: a doctor separates his "good side" from his "bad side," but the bad side can't be tamed and the incredibly depraved Mr. Hyde unleashes a reign of wickedness on London. A lawyer friend of Jekyll's discovers the mysterious link between the two seemingly separate individuals too late, and everything ends badly. Dr. Henry Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde permanently, and we're left wondering whether he'll be captured or commit suicide.
In many respects, the short novel is a way for the eternal judgment-obsessed Stevenson to explore human nature. It's a good creepy story, but Stevenson was a thinker and didn't write any story, let alone one as dark and heavy as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, purely for entertainment. The idea that man has a fundamentally flawed nature is one humans have fought against since the beginning of time, but Stevenson confronts it head on, not settling for trite answers.
Is Jekyll actually a good person? It's a moot point. He's man with a conscience, at any rate; Hyde is man without any. From a Christian perspective, Dr. Jekyll can be seen as regenerate man, while Mr. Hyde is man turned over to his own devices. It's a moral fable, a cautionary tale, and a philosophical exploration, all told in Stevenson's beautiful, immediate prose. A genuine classic, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde should be read by everyone whono longer fearsthe sin of which any humanis capable.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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