Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another Classic: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde -- and The Hoff

So I'll express a little ignorance here. Like everyone, I was familiar with the concept of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I had no idea it was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, of Treasure Island fame. Obviously, Stevenson is a writer who wanted to stay on the forefront of writing fads and trends. A good thing.

I also had no idea they'd made the book into a Broadway musical. Starring a singing David Hasselhoff.

So I have read it. And Stevenson nails the basics of science fiction, with the Idea and the Madness Behind the Idea. Which he sums up neatly in Dr. Jekyll's letter to his lawyer friend:

The hatred of Hyde for Jekyll was of a different order. His terror of the gallows drove him continually to commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate station of a part instead of a person; but he loathed the necessity, he loathed the despondency into which Jekyll was now fallen, and he resented the dislike with which he was himself regarded. Hence the ape-like tricks that he would play me, scrawling in my own hand blasphemies on the pages of my books, burning the letters and destroying the portrait of my father; and indeed, had it not been for his fear of death, he would long ago have ruined himself in order to involve me in ruin. But his love of me is wonderful; I go further: I, who sicken and freeze at the mere thought of him, when I recall the abjection and passion of this attachment, and when I know how he fears my power to cut him off by suicide, I find it in my heart to pity him.

The Idea, of course, is that each person inside himself or herself balances both good and evil -- while the madness behind the idea is that sometimes we let the bad guy out, whether by choice or by potion. And when the choice or potion stop in their efficacy, it's harder to keep the bad guy from coming out.

The book may have application in studying addiction. Or human nature. Certainly, it's a classic worth reading, whether The Hoff is singing it or not.

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