This week, I found another timely classic on the Gilmore Girls reading list: Robert Louis Stevenson’s ominous novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Alas, I couldn’t find the episode in which it appears. Please do let me know in the comments if you know!
So why is this chilling exploration of the duality of human nature especially relevant today? Well, it’s about the duality of human nature. As long as humans survive, we’ll have to wrestle that beast. Stevenson’s novella also meditates on the limits of scientific exploration, discovery, and knowledge – what we are capable of and what we cannot escape about ourselves. Technological capabilities continue to raise ethical questions and problems, as they should.
The names Jekyll and Hyde have become cultural touchstones, a shortcut to reference a person who seems to make a 180-degree turn (though the narrative is about more than that). The story has been adapted every which way, from applying the plot as a metaphor to retelling the original. As a result, most modern-day readers probably know who Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are to each other, even if they’ve never read Stevenson’s story. (Just in case you’ve managed not to have the plot spoiled, I’ll leave it at that).
I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the first time this year and knew where the story was going. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to read it without knowing what it was building to. Would I have predicted the ending? Would I have been (more or differently) horrified? Who knows?
Even with knowing the plot, though, I felt the creepy, unsettling vibe Stevenson cultivates. The narrative hovers around the exact relationship between Jekyll and Hyde. Suggestions, allusions, and hints layer one on top of the over, creating a mood of tension, suspense, and unease until the truth is finally revealed at the end of the story.
If you’ve never read it, I recommend it. It’s a short but densely packed read that, while a bit of a downer, can at least help us come to terms with inescapable paradoxes about human nature and discovery we still struggle with today.