The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in 1886 and was instrumental in launching the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, to literary fame. The novel, a mystery thriller about a respectable man who takes a potion to occasionally become a dark and evil character, was written as a "shilling shocker." Popular during the Victorian era (the mid-1800s to about 1900), shilling shockers were short, graphic, and inexpensive books eagerly consumed by the masses –like those cheap romance novels you find in the supermarket. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been in continual publication for over 120 years.
We know, you’re not going to be taking some weird potions and unleashing your inner Mr. Hyde anytime soon. But seriously – have you ever tried to be good all the time? Flat-out "pleases" and "thank yous" and keeping your room clean and doing charity work and being respectful and eating your brussels sprouts and minding your parents and your manners? Many people would go crazy being "good" all the time.
Dr. Jekyll admits that one of his "flaws" is a tendency towards, as best we could figure out, happiness. Dr. Jekyll opted to be a grave, somber man, and before he knew it, his inner Wild Child was begging to be unleashed. So he came up with a perfect little solution: he created an alter ego. Except, instead of a Peter Parker/Spiderman deal, Dr. Jekyll went in the opposite direction and created an evil alter ego via some mysterious potion. His alter ego, Edward Hyde, who has a completely different appearance and personality, gets to do all the fun and illegal things that Jekyll, or any normal person, can’t. Although we don’t get the juicy details, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Hyde is a pretty perverse, wicked, sinful, foul guy – all around NOT the kind of person you want to meet in a dark alley.
Apparently there’s some sort of consequence to all this evil-doing, what with Hyde taking over and everyone dying. So it’s best not to try Dr. Jekyll’s experiment at home. Read the text instead, because if you haven’t figured it out already, the point of this book is so sharp we could spear fish with it. What with being a "shilling shocker" and all (tabloid stories not unlike trashy romance novels), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a clear-cut (if still Victorian ) manner and clocks in at fewer than 150 pages. So in a shameless rip-off of Nike: Just read it.