Well if you are being English geek technical it’s a novella. But hey, I’d be shocked if you hadn’t heard of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s a bit of a landmark for me, since I am just finishing my final year of university as an English major and it was the book I wrote my 4th year paper on. I enjoyed reading and thinking about the book, which was a nice change. There is a lot under the surface that can and is exploited every time someone adapts the novel.
My course was Disability and Victorian Lit, which is not an angle that is often examined by pop culture when it comes to this novel, but when you start reading looking for disability you would be shocked at how often the word pops up. So what was my boring old paper about?
Hyde is most scary to the characters of the novel when he is doing something transgressive, and more specifically transgressive against the social codes and laws of the time. He beats an old man who engages him in boring pleasantries, never uses his manners, and cannot control his emotions. On top of his forgetting to mind his ‘p’s and ‘q’s, he also takes special pleasure in breaking the laws, which makes him weird by almost anyone’s standard. I mean, if murder is punishable by death, what kind of weirdo would kill someone for fun? He must be mentally ill, and that leaves anyone who meets him searching for a disability on his body that does not exist.
Besides my paper there were tons of other topics that were discussed, like about how Hyde could be read as a closet gay man, which was fascinating when you think about it. Being an English course the variety of interpretations you get is always fun, because it’s so hard to be wrong when you can find proof. I think English majors would make good lawyers.
Despite having never read the book before I chose it from the list of books we could write on I had seen the Mamoulian film for my Horror and Gothic Film course, and have been interested in the text ever since.
There are so many things that can make Hyde terrifying, thousands of ways to make him frightening, and from all that you can get from the novella you would never guess how short it is (some 70 pages in my copy). More than that, it’s been popular since it was first published over 100 years ago, so there must be something there that keeps the generations coming back to it. Me included.
Let’s say ironically, the shortest book I read was one of the most interesting.