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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde book cover
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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde book cover

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll1 and Mr. Hyde (often condensed to simply Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or even Jekyll and Hyde) is a novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson about a lawyer, Charles Utterson, who investigates the strange link between his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the misanthropic man Edward Hyde. It was first published in 1886 without the initial determiner "The"!

It has been suggested that this book was written under the influence of a psychedelic drug. At the time of writing, Stevenson was being treated with the fungus ergot at a local hospital. Contrary to some rumours ergot contains no LSD, but contains similar substances in unpredictable quantities. It is from derivatives of these that LSD was synthesised, in an effort to produce pure forms of the active ingredients of ergot. It is possible that the book would therefore carry out the theme of the struggle of the self and this was brought about by his accidental experiences with the drug, contributing to his feelings of losing control.

This investigation begins as a matter of curiosity and concern despite Jekyll's assurances that Hyde is nothing to worry about. That changes when Hyde is seen committing a savage murder of a respected Member of Parliament. As Utterson assists in the investigation of the crime, Jekyll becomes more and more reclusive and sombre as Utterson comes to believe that the doctor is abetting Mr. Hyde.

Eventually, Jekyll isolates himself in his laboratory gripped with an emotional burden that no one can comprehend. Another friend of Utterson, Lanyon, suddenly dies of a horrific emotional shock of which Jekyll seems to be connected. Eventually, Jekyll's butler comes to Utterson to ask for his help to deal with a stranger who has somehow entered the locked lab and killed Jekyll. Together they discover that the stranger in the lab is Hyde, and they break in only to find Hyde dead from suicide and Jekyll nowhere to be found.

Eventually, Utterson reads two letters left him from his deceased friends. The first one is from Lanyon and reveals that he witnessed first hand that Hyde is none other than Jekyll physically transformed into the other identity by means of a potion of Jekyll's design.

The other letter is a confession from Jekyll which reveals what occurred when he realized that every man has two aspects within him -- good and evil -- which constantly wage war upon him. Acting on the theory that it was possible to polarize and separate these two aspects, he created a potion that could change a man into an embodiment of his evil side, thereby also making pure his good side. After using the potion on himself, Jekyll became physically smaller as his evil nature became predominant; this persona was called Edward Hyde. After a few trial runs as Hyde, Jekyll soon began to undergo this change regularly in order to indulge in all the forbidden antisocial pleasures that he would never commit as Jekyll. However, the Hyde aspect himself began to grow stronger and beyond Jekyll's ability to control it with a counter-agent. After Hyde had committed murder, Jekyll decided to stop taking the potion, but eventually the addiction to the Hyde form proved too strong to resist, and he took the potion again.

Jekyll eventually began to change into Hyde without the potion, and the potion's counter-agent began to lose its effectiveness until Jekyll could only remain in his original form while the potion was in his system. Eventually Jekyll ran out of the unique components to the potion, and in particular a "salt" of which he had initially acquired quite a large quantity. New supplies of this salt did not produce an effective potion, which he initially attributed to an impurity in the new supplies, but finally concluded that it was the initial order that was impure, and that an "unknown impurity" in it was vital to its effectiveness. As he had no way of acquiring any more of this impure salt, he was doomed to remain as Hyde permanently.

Legacy

This novel has become a central concept in Western culture of the inner conflict of humanity's sense of good and evil. It has also been noted as "one of the best guidebooks of the Victorian times because of its piercing description of the fundamental dichotomy of the 19th century outward respectability and inward lust" as it had a tendency for social hypocrisy. The story has been adopted in numerous stage and film productions.

The most famous modern adaptation of this story is the comic book character, the Hulk, the powerful and brutishly emotional alter ego of an emotionally repressed scientist who comes forth whenever he experiences extreme emotional stress like anger or terror.

This book was the inspiration behind Two-Face, a supervillain Bob Kane created in 1941 to battle Batman.

A Marvel Comics supervillain was named after Mr. Hyde (see Mister Hyde (comics)).

There have been a number of film adaptions of the novel, some of which (such as Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde, one of two in which Hyde is a woman) update the story to the present day.

The character(s) of Jekyll and Hyde appear in Alan Moore's comic book, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the film based on it.

This is a motif which is often applied, for example in the following BBC news report Shadowing the Conservative leader (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4258095.stm) in which the analogy with Jekyll and Hyde is clearly meant "Over the course of our filming we sometimes felt that Michael Howard seemed unsure of the image he wants to project of himself and his party. At times it was the new, touchy-feely Tories, at others - as with immigration and asylum - it was hard-line stuff. A kind of Dr Jekyll and Mr Howard."

Most recently there has been a Broadway musical made of the tale, "Jekyll and Hyde" (http://www.jekyll-hyde.com), written by composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, which blends the dark Victorian feel of the book with a pop-opera overlay.

Notes

1 Stevenson insisted that Jekyll be pronounced gee-kill, as this is the correct Scottish pronunciation of the name.

External links

de:Der seltsame Fall des Dr. Jekyll und Mr. Hyde fr:L'trange Cas du Dr Jekyll et de Mr Hyde ko:지킬 박사와 하이드 씨 ja:ジキル博士とハイド氏 sv:Dr. Jekyll och Mr. Hyde es:El extrao caso del doctor Jekyll y mister Hyde

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