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Mary Reilly / Dr. Jekyll Comparison

By soicygoonsquad Feb 21, 2010 709 Words
Mary Reilly
Mary Reilly the movie, and the book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are similar in many ways, but like the other 120+ films based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella, it is also very different. Both Mary Reilly’s theme and story line are different from the book’s. To begin, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has different dynamic characters. The story is told mainly through the eyes of a no funny business lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson. Utterson sees a strange man known as Mr. Hyde; trample a girl in the streets of London late at night. Due to Utterson’s curiosity, he takes a closer look into the event. Utterson thinks an old friend of his, Dr. Jekyll, is being blackmailed by the same strange man he saw that night. From that point on, the story follows Utterson as he attempts to discover exactly why an upstanding citizen like Dr. Jekyll, is involved with the strange Mr. Hyde.

On the other hand Mary Reilly tells the story of Jekyll and Hyde from the point of view of a housemaid named Mary. Mary is a maid working for Dr. Jekyll in his house. Mary subconsciously thinks of the respect differences between herself and the upper-class Dr Jekyll, and is afraid of consequences that would occur if anyone caught her stepping out of place. Dr. Jekyll asks about the scars on Mary’s hands, but she feels she is unworthy of his conversation, and it isn’t her place to speak with Jekyll. He coaxes her into conversation and she tells him the story of the rats and her father. Dr. Jekyll is intrigued by her story, and has further conversation. Later after they part, the butler criticizes Mary for talking to Dr. Jekyll, and questions her, saying that it isn’t her place to be conversing or socializing with her “master”. Throughout the rest of the movie, Mary and Dr. Jekyll become closer, and talk frequently. Robert Louis Stevenson using Utterson as the narrator allows the story to have a more mysterious feel. Utterson is an outsider to the exploits of Jekyll and Hyde. He tries to find out what is going on from an outsider’s perspective, and doesn’t know the truth until Hyde’s body is found. The book’s ambiguity forces the reader to use their imagination, and come to conclusions based on facts and evidence Utterson reveals, such as the letter from Lanyon and the letter found next to Hyde’s body at the end of the book, which explain everything. The reader never receives the full picture until the very end.

Mary Reilly gives the story through a more direct perspective. It takes place inside the house of Dr. Jekyll, basically showing everything that Utterson couldn’t discover unless he was there. The difference in setting shows more about Dr. Jekyll’s personality, and shows the process of his downfall more directly.

Themes of duality and social class are mainstays of the novella, but Mary Reilly focuses on several other themes not included in the book. The dual nature of man is a present theme in the movie, but it isn’t emphasized as much as it is in the book. The central theme I saw while watching the movie was more about social class than duality. For example the movie focuses on social classes between servants, social statuses of women, and in general how the social class system wasn’t a good thing. The book enforced stereotypes of rich powerful men being near perfect and poor men having bad morals, bad habits, and being criminals. For example when Hyde pays the family of the girl he trampled restitution, Utterson is stunned because he believes people with money don’t do irrational things, and only low class people could commit crimes of that nature. The book doesn’t have any women as dynamic characters. The women included the book are portrayed negatively, either as servants or prostitutes. Mary could read and write, and the film portrayed her as independent and smart. Also romance was another theme incorporated into the movie, Mr. Hyde wanted Mary, and Mary wanted Dr. Jekyll.

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