Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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To truly appreciate the greatness of the short psychological thriller and science fiction novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one must approach this 19th century novel with new eyes, unfettered by the recent film versions of the tale, and of the common cultural knowledge of what transpires over the novel's last few pages. Even people who have never read the book or seen a film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ‘know what happens' at the climax and ‘know' the truth or spoiler ending, that the two protagonists or adversaries are the same man, both warring for one body. Even people whom have watched Looney Toon cartoons and seen other parodies of Stevenson have become aware of the novel's cultural significance—to say someone has a Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde personality means they are of a divided self, one good and one bad half both in character. In other words, as a work of art and fiction today the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde labors under the unfortunate burden of most readers knowing its surprise ending, and as a novel of tense and taunt prose, built upon suspense, this is a huge mark against it as a literary artifact of interest. But the novel's first readers would not have had this benefit, or detriment, when reading the mystery. Instead, the contemporary readers of the novel would have wondered why such a strange and deformed man was lurking around Dr. Jekyll's lair. They would have assumed, no doubt, that the good doctor was going to be murdered, much like the story's narrator, rather than the peculiar, nefarious truth—that the odd Mr. Hyde was Dr. Jekyll's strange, divided, doppelganger of a self. Hyde is of course a murderer, and this status causes Jekyll to commit suicide to ‘kill' Hyde, before his evil self is convicted for the publicly humiliating crime—or goes forth to kill again. The novel begins when a lawyer, named Utterton, hears of a young woman being trampled by an evil stranger named Dr. Hyde. To pay off the girl's...
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