I am continuing to work though a backlog of books that I have picked up from a variety of places. I found a Scott Brick narrated audiobook of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde free as a promotion last summer.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a story everyone knows but I at least have never read. I was surprised how little the original story actually contains. The audiobook version that I listened to was 3 hours and most paperback versions I found were less than 100 pages.
Essentially the story is boiled down a few basic elements and others have added to it. Since I am not worried about real spoilers (the story has been out almost 130 years) I will hit the highlights.
The story opens with a lawyer and his friend on a walk. The friend recounts a story from the previous evening where a strange man trampled a young girl and kept going without even noticing her. The crowd was horrified and brought the man back to the family of the girl. She was injured but not too seriously. The man eventually pays off the family to get people to leave him alone. He writes a check to be drawn from Dr Jekyll’s account (a prominent local citizen). The lawyer happens to be Dr Jekyll’s lawyer.
The lawyer is concerned that Dr Jekyll is being blackmailed by the strange other character. He starts investigating and eventually runs into Mr Hyde. When he confronts Dr Jekyll about his suspicions (Dr Jekyll has left all of his money to Mr Hyde if he disappears or dies), Dr Jekyll asks the lawyer to drop the investigation and trust him.
This type of story goes on for a while, Dr Jekyll is greatly disturbed and ashamed of his relationship to Mr Hyde but we are not sure what that relationship is. Eventually a maid witnesses a man she believes is Mr Hyde beat an old man (also a member of Parliament) to death on night. That leads to Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde story coming out and Dr Jekyll being afraid of being arrested.
In the final portion of the story Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde discloses his story to the Lawyer (the Lawyer then dies of shock). Then Dr Jekyll starts slowly losing control of the transformations. He cannot find the components of the formula to change himself back to Dr Jekyll and starts changing spontaneously whenever he sleeps. Dr Jekyll eventually is lost to Mr Hyde.
It feels like a Victorian morality play. If you loose control and give into your baser instincts, those baser instincts will eventually take over. I don’t really get the sexuality aspect. The Lawyer and the men find Mr Hyde off-putting and strange but the women are attracted to him (although that never is developed.) Much of the interesting parts are not really in the original story.
I think it is good to read some of these original classics (especially if you can get them free on ebook), but they are not always better than the modern versions. With many classics, we have seen them so many times as movies, or parodies of the original story (how many times as the Christmas Carole been recreated as a children’s story?) that we do not actually have a sense of what was in the original story and what has been added. I read the original Bram Stoker’s Dracula about two years ago and really liked the story. I tried to read Frankenstein a couple times in the last couple years and could never get more than half way through.