I haven’t read much Robert Louis Stevenson. I had the illustrated version of either Treasure Island or Kidnapped when I was growing up, but I’m not quite sure which one it was and I just couldn’t get into whatever it was. Something about it put me off, and I had carried that around with me, so much so that I never read anything by him and thought I wouldn’t like his work that much. I can’t say for certain why I picked up The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I suspect that it might have something to do with having a mash-up book where Sherlock Holmes works on the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on my shelves, and wanting to be familiar with the original before I read it. I enjoyed it so much! I regret that I didn’t read it sooner, and now I wonder if I will go back and think that all his other books are awesome.
The novella starts with two gentleman, Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield, who walk together each week. The men are seemingly indifferent to each other, but the walk is the part of the week each values the most. While they are out walking Mr. Enfield relates seeing a strange man emerge from a door in an alley they pass, and how the man became involved in an altercation with a child, in which he intervenes. Mr. Enfield realizes that he might know more about the story than he first suspected.
I loved the way that this story unfolded as a story within a story and letters that directed the reader to other letters. I had a problem with Frankenstein because Shelley didn’t put enough thought into the plausibility of the creation story of her monster, but here Stevenson carefully considers why Dr. Jekyll would have created the potion that he did, how its properties affected him when he took it, and the implications that it had for humanity. I loved the idea of studying the attempts to separate aspects of human consciousness. It was all very clever and I loved every minute of it. Stevenson proves with this little gem that human minds and people are some of the scariest creatures on the planet in our efforts to understand and improve upon the design of our own species.