Sunday, June 3, 2012
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Encore, Encore!
Thanks to Man of La Book's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge, I have now read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde three times in as many years. [Most of my previous thoughts on Jekyll & Hyde can found HERE and HERE.] I'm not complaining....I love this late Victorian Gothic morality play about the division of good and evil that lies in every person. It's just that I'm not sure I've got much that's fresh to say about this one on my third go round. That being the case, I may not be able to do this review without spoilers--so beware!
As I mention in a previous review--the story tells us all too well that if we are not very careful, then evil can overtake us. Once started down the road, lesser sins can soon lead to bigger until finally it becomes near impossible to turn back and become what we once were. It is particularly difficult for those with addictive personalities--one looks for bigger and better thrills and that is part of what leads one further down the road.
I think what strikes me most this time around is a very tiny moment in Jekyll's final days. It's a point that I didn't really take note of before. After the murder of Sir Danvers, he is determined not to let Hyde loose again. He spends a good two to three months suppressing the "child of Hell" and begins to feel very good about himself. He has used his time trying to repay good for the evil Hyde has done. He has been immersing himself in spiritual studies. He begins to compare himself to other men--"comparing [his] active good-will with the lazy cruelty of their neglect." And you know what they say about pride...it goeth before a fall. Jekyll is setting himself up for a doozy. In almost every list of the seven deadly sins pride is considered the most serious. It represents the primary fault that led to Lucifer's fall. The moment when Jekyll begins to feel prideful about how well he's done in suppressing Hyde and making reparations for his behavior is his point of no return. From that time on the potion no longer works as well--he finds himself turning into Hyde with very little effort and with no notice, right there in a public park.
The only other thoughts I have are in connection with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In the original story, Hyde is depicted as much smaller than Jekyll--a shrunken, "little" man; pale and dwarfish; "particularly small and evil-looking." And, yet, the League graphic novel (and movie, for that matter) portrays him an almost-giant, an Incredible Hulk type (less the green skin) with immense strength. If we allow that Jekyll/Hyde actually survived (rather than committing suicide as Stevenson's story relates), then, for Hyde to have become as large and strong as he is in League I see no way for him to ever appear as Jekyll. Hyde would have to have completely subdued his original persona to grow to such proportions. Stevenson mentions towards the end that Jekyll feels as though Hyde had grown--but even at that, Jekyll's clothes still hang on him, many sizes too big.