Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

(Originally published on my old blog and since uploaded here)

This is an intriguing book from start to finish. For very strange reasons. It isn’t what I would image as an amazing book. I had to read it for my English GCSE coursework, and when I heard that we had to read it, I groaned in despair. The book, when described to me has always sounded painstakingly dull. It wasn’t until I read it, that I started to understand what the book was trying to express.

It certainly isn’t the longest book in the world. At just 65 pages, of A5 you can imagine how short the story might appear in real life. It’s such a light and flimsy book that imagining that there is enough room to cram in the story and great emotions and understand feels some what impossible. However, some how the writer manages it. Possibly due to the experiences he developed from writing other well known novels such as ‘treasure island’. There are some pieces of information in which people may think they are missing out on something or other, but in reality it is just leaving the rest to the readers information.

Even just reading the first page, a clear theme starts to follow. For me it appears to be about social and moral expectations of the time the book was written. The opening page explains the behaviour of the lawyer Mr Utterson, it doesn’t seem very interesting at a quick glance, until we start to establish that his behaviour in some ways is not his own. It is rather the behaviour of the social class that his job puts him in to. Looking at it in much more in depth, it seems that social classes some what rule over peoples own personalities, and that acting how you want is not something that meets the social expectations of the respectable classes. Forcing people to be something other than themselves.

This some what, after reading the entire book, I realise something to do with the main person in the book. After all Dr Jekyll created a powerful medicine to adapt his mind to think in a different way to let him do what he wanted to do without getting identified and his social status ruined. Of course, what his other personality became was a cruel and horrible person.

However, I do question if this story has got a in depth meaning of something slightly different. To me it feels like it is implied that social expectations make people want to stand out and do extreme things to get away. It’s just like social expectations of the modern day, of those with brains or money to go to university or to want to follow certain lines of work and education. In reality though, those people that don’t want to in a way rebel. Just like Dr Jekyll taking his concoction to kill those that create those social expectations of him.

The extreme is never or very rarely the right thing to do, but it certainly does make me question what social and moral expectations are doing to people. It leads me then further to question what social classes are doing to people, do they define the people instead of the people truly defining them? Even after 100 years of the book been thought up, the points put across by the writer still strike completely true. People should learn from this book, to stop those in society with expectations placed upon them getting so extreme that we cannot stop them.

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