I went into reading this novella thinking that I knew what it was. There is a lot of osmosis with classic works of those that have influenced other great works. In this case, a lot of people reference Fight Club or Mr. Robot as seeds that sprouted underneath the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tree. But it was different. I thought it was about a person who is mentally ill, and how his extreme dissociative personality disorder turns him into something completely different.
But I was wrong. The novella is about addiction and how it affects us. First of all, bit by bit, we become more and more deformed. Stephenson is great in this. He shows both the mental but also physical deformation of this titular character. Jekyll is a beloved, kind man. He has a lot of friends who love his company and worry about him whenever he isn’t keeping in touch. His servants all praise him. In their eyes he is the best possible employer He is tall and handsome, healthy and successful.
But it all changed.
He gets introduced to a drug. This drug morphs him into the deformed monstrosity that is Mr. Hyde. In this deformed version, he hurts and kills people. The patient, caring man is replaced by an animal with only an instinct for destruction. He doesn’t feel anything, even when he beats a man to death or tramples a child to death. He is completely different from Jekyll, even to the point that Jekyll’s longest-serving butler claims them, Jekyll and Hyde being different people. “That thing inside,” he says “is not my master, that is not his face, his behavior, nor his voice.”
A tragic tale of a man who was exemplary in every sense, but was dragged down to hell by a simple, impure chemical.
I read the free Project Gutenberg version which can be obtained by clicking here.