Book Club: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (+ Jan Book)
A controversial custom cover at the Shda3wa Boardroom, where some liked it and some didn't. Let us know what you think, and whether it reflects the story. But only if you read the story, don't be a douche. I like it, but I can see what the Board Members are saying about some lost opportunities here.
We've gotten a bit slacky with the book club during the last few months of 2015. I'd largely like to blame Alex + Ada, but no, it comes back to me. To us.
We're picking up momentum again, and packing on a lot more bloggorial content in the next few months. So. Love us. Forever.
ANYWAY. LET'S TALK ABOUT THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.
Though I've mentioned this before, it's really tricky to tackle a classic with the goal of reviewing it at the end. It's like, imagine I'm the douche who hates a classic... No. I don't want to be that douche. I can't be dishonest about myself, either, so if I end up being the douche who hates the classic on the inside, then I have to be that douche on the outside, you know?
LUCKILY I'M NOT A DOUCHE TODAY. The first thing I need to warn you about is that The Mysterious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde looks deceivingly short, but don't let it fool you, it is no quick read; the writing style will throw you in for a loop. Robert Louis Stevenson's prose is tough to swallow, because we're simply not accustomed to this complex, almost philosophical, writing. Still, if you take it slow, and stop every once in a while and explain to yourself what the heck the guy's saying, you'll be fine. I promise it's worth it.
While most of us enjoyed the almost-dictionaryesque writing, Ali Haji felt like it was a drag. True, a lot of the "major" events in the book are written out so subtly, that they tend to casually pass by without your realization if you're not focused. Personally, that's why I found it so fascinating, it's like the British movies that Eddie Izzard talks about (see short video below, for reference). Actually, Eddie Izzard describes it perfectly so I'm going to have to ask you to watch the video before you continue, thank you. It's only going to play the first minute.
So, yes. There will be a moment or two when you say, "Wait, did something big just happen without anyone freaking out?" There will also be a moment or two when you say, "Wait, why's everyone freaking out?" So it's a cool multi-layered plot where you get to truly understand what it's like to be in the characters' shoes without being spoon-fed the info. Still, if Ali Haji didn't enjoy it, it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's unlikely you've ever read a book like this. So... consider that.
Within the events, the book also explores philosophical concepts that, at the time (1886), were probably unprecedented. Great vocabulary, by the way; there were so many new words I highlighted for future usage.
I think we all loved the protagonist. Ugh. Crush. There's a dry humor there and an appeal that clicked with the other characters, so we could all relate to why the character is popular both inside and outside of the book. Branching out of that point, what's really great is that we didn't get confused between the characters; they were characterized so distinctly that it wasn't an issue to jump around the narrative and figure out who's who. Cough can't say the same for one of our previously reviewed books.
Maybe the one issue we all experienced is that the last chapter was difficult to pull through and finish completely. Actually, a few of us gave up at the last five pages and just had the one person who finished it explain the last bit. The final chapter was a shift, stylistically, towards a much slower pace. It's just a shame that it had to end slowly, but it's okay, overall.
While I understand that it's a classic tale that most of us know enough about by now, the cover was a total spoiler. Notsomuch the Kindle cover, because it's just text, but the covers with images on them. Maybe avoid those if you're out to read the book. The Kindle version is free, by the way.
At the end of it all, we could all agree that this book deserves to be a classic, and it's clear why. The idea behind it can and has transcended into a universal concept, and was a stepping stone for the creation of many pop culture figures inside and outside of literature, like The Incredible Hulk and Two-Face. Where would we be without Hulk and Two-Face? Where?
This is definitely one of those stories that get better once you dig deeper and get into the nitty gritty behind the lines. I suppose that's why it's a classic, although I don't know anyone who's studied it in school. I'd teach it. I'd teach this book.
There are several themes that came to life while we were discussing the tale:
The Importance of Reputation (heh that's also exactly how Sparknotes worded it. We can totally teach this.)
This isn't some cutesy claim on how reputation helps you make friends, this is some real deal shit. The inherent horror of the story is subdued within the abnormal social behavior of Dr. Jekyll; people don't just disappear and shut themselves in their rooms for months, not because it's merely inappropriate, it's unheard of. It's scary. Something bizarre is happening behind the scenes, but no one can really talk about it, and obviously, no one thinks it's a science experiment going horribly wrong.
While this is the cause behind all the feelings of horror throughout the book, it becomes most clear in The Incident at the Window, when Mr. Utterson was walking with Mr. Enfield and they saw Dr. Jekyll chilling outside of his window, only to have Jekyll freeze in mid-conversation with a look of horror on his face before suddenly shutting the window in their faces. "They turned and left the court without a word.. They were both pale; and there was an answering horror in their eyes. 'God forgive us, God forgive us,' said Mr. Utterson."
That's hardcore. It's subtle hardcore. It was a moment where a reader would usually pause and wonder why everyone freaked out; technically, nothing happened. There was an implication of something horrible going on, and sometimes the terror itself is more horrifying than its cause.
Anything outside the norm of social behavior was a potential cause for chaos. Even outside the actual scientific experimentation itself, Mr. Utterson maintains this theme throughout the entire plot by refusing to divulge all his suspicions about Dr. Jekyll. Even in a moment when there was CLEARLY something wrong, in The Incident of the Letter when Mr. Guest pointed out that Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll have the exact same handwriting, Mr. Utterson was still all cool, "Rather quaint." If any moment were to be flagged as a freak-out moment, it would have definitely been that one. This was a moment opposite to the window incident, where nothing seemed to happen but everyone freaked out, whereas here something clearly huge just happened but no one blinked an eye. It's a fascinating subtletey. So kudos to Mr. Utterson. I guess this is one of the reasons he's such a favorable protagonist, the fact that he's always aware of his behavior and respectful of his peers. You trust him. Love Utterson.
Good vs. Evil (or The Duality of Human Nature)
Tale as old as time...
The good versus evil theme was certainly nothing new, even at the time of Robert Louis Stevenson, but this specific take on the duality of human nature is definitely something that propelled this piece of fiction into the classics shelf. Yes, Dr. Jekyll was researching the problems of human nature and how there's a good side and a bad side, but his solution to this ethical dilemma isn't to subdue the evil within ourselves, but to literally separate it from our person. His arguably scientific theory was that the only way for humanity to thrive is for each person to separate his dual nature into two completely different human beings, so that the good side can be good and live their life without the burden of evil, and the evil person can go about fulfilling their evil or selfish purposes without being held down by a conscience. He created a potion that he hoped would eventually accomplish this, but at the time, all it did was transform Dr. Jekyll into his evil alter ego. A scary physical transformation, I can imagine, but all it did was tear Jekyll up even more, mentally and emotionally.
Sparknotes make an interesting point on whether or not Dr. Jekyll actually proved that human beings are actually two people; perhaps humans are, first and foremost, amoral. This takes a Freudian turn, of course, and is an almost intuitive assumption for human nature. Basically, the writer might be saying that Mr. Hyde is simply Dr. Jekyll's original persona without the barriers that society has built on his behavior. Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jekyll's id, if you will. Still, the fact that Mr. Hyde really REALLY enjoyed hurting people and committing murder suggests that he's acting on more than just basic human instinct, but is taking the societal barrier (the superego, since I decided to go Freudian) and smashing it into bits. He doesn't want to get rid of the superego, he wants to hurt it.
So maybe Mr. Hyde is not even the other side of Dr. Jekyll, but sort of a reversed mirror image...
He's not a theme, but I just wanted to let you guys know that I love him. Sparknotes describes him as "a largely unexciting character and is clearly not a man of strong passions or sensibilities." Uh FUCK YOU SPARKNOTES. He's just SUBTLY exciting, with his dry sarcasm and humor. There's a reason that all the characters are drawn to Mr. Utterson, trusting him almost completely with their secrets, despite the fact that he doesn't divulge any of his own, and that on its own is an interesting element to his character. There was no character development here, but I bet he undergoes a major personal shift just after reading Dr. Jekyll's letter at the end of the book, like something inside him exploded. It's interesting that the cliffhanger isn't really in the plot itself, but in the characters and their reactions to the plot after it was all over.
Also, "'If he be Mr. Hyde,' he had thought, 'I shall be Mr. Seek.'"
TL;DR Our Review
Bader: 4 Stars
Noor: 4 Stars
Reem: 2.5 Stars (because of the spoiler cover)
Ali: 2 Stars
WE RECOMMEND IT
JANUARY BOOK CLUB PICK:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
- Fiction, Thriller, Classic
THANKS FOR READING IF YOU ACTUALLY READ EVERYTHING!
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