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Robert Louis Stevenson
He was born in Edinburgh, the son of Thomas Stevenson, joint-engineer to the Board of
Northern Lighthouses. He enters Edinburgh University in 1867 to study engineering but, since he had no interest in his father's profession, changes to law and was admitted to advocate in 1875. He showed his interest in literary career by student contributions to The Edinburgh University Magazine in 1871 and The Portfolio in 1873. Even in his childhood his health was extremely poor; as an adult, there were times where he could not even wear a jacket for fear bringing on a haemorrhage of the lungs. In spite of this, he was all his life an enthusiastic traveller: an account of his canoe tour to France and Belgium was published in 1878 as An Inland Voyage, and Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes followed in 1879. In this year he travelled to California by emigrant ship and train: his account of these experiences was published posthumously in 1895 as The Amateur Emigrant. In America he married Mrs Fanny Osbourne, whom he had previously met in France. It was for her young son, Lloyd, that Treasure Island (1883) was originally devised. After a brief stay at Calistoga - recorded in The Silverando Squatters (1883) - he returned to England, determined to stand or fall by his ability to earn a living by writing.
Stevenson contributed to various periodicals, including The Cornhill Magazine and Longman's Magazine, where his best-known article ,,A Humble Remonstrance" was published in 1884, in reply to Henry James's ,,The Art of Fiction". This friendly controversy about the relationship between life and art led to a lifelong friendship. Stevenson's essays and short stories were collected in Virginibus Puerique (1881), Familiar Studies of Men and Books (1882), New Arabian Nights (1882), The Merry Man (1887), Memories and Portrays
(1887), Across the Plains (1892) and Islands Nights Entertainment (1893). In addition to
Treasure Island, his novel include Prince Otto (1885), The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Kidnapped (1886) and its sequel Catriona (1893), The Black Arrow (1888), and The Master of Ballantrae (1889). He left unfinished Weir of Hermiston (1896) and St. Ives (1897 and 1898), which was completed by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Minor works include his charming books of poems, A Child's garden of Verse (1885) and Underworlds (1887), and his fustian dramas, Deacon Brodie (1880), Beau Austin (1892) and Admiral Guinea (1897), written in collaboration with W.E.Henley.
Stevenson left England in search of health in 1888 and never returned. After sailing for a while among the Pacific islands, he settled in Samoa and bought the Vailima estate. Here he enjoyed a period of comparative good health and literary productivity. He died suddenly from a cerebral haemorrhage and was buried on the island where he had been known as ,,Tusitala" or ,,The Teller of Tales". During his period of residence in Samoa, Stevenson had become fascinated by the Polynesian culture and incensed at the European exploitation of the islands, engaging in various letters to The Times in London on the islander's behalf. In the South Seas (1896) and A Footnote to History (1892) document his indignation; even more important are his two South Sea novellas, The Beach of Falesá (1893) and The Ebb-Tide (1894). The Ebb- Tide is a condemnation of European colonial exploitation which prefigures Conrad's Heart of Darkness, while The Beach of Fales á was so inimical to Stevenson's readers and publishers that its full text has only recently been published (1984). Both stories expose the myth of a romantic south sea paradise and indict a mercantile European culture which will sacrifice everything in its hope of financial pain.
Long categorised merely as a belletrist and writer for children, Stevenson is not being widely revalued. It is unlikely that his poems and plays will ever revive, but his novels are beginning to take their rightful place in the adult tradition of early modernism. His interest in the romance, which he explores in Victor Hugo's Romances (1874), A Gossip on Romance (1883) and A Humble Remonstrance (1884) shows his search for a fiction which would avoid the trap of representationalism, his focus on incident as a type of narrative epiphany, and his use of old forms for new purpose.
Mr Utterson, a lawyer, is a very queer man, whose friends are either relatives or he knows them since his childhood. One of these friends is Mr Richard Enfield with whom he walks every Sunday morning through London. At one of those walks, Enfield tells him the following story:
Once he sees at a corner how a wicked man, Mr Hyde, tramples over a little girl. He catches Mr Hyde and then he demands a lot of money from Mr Hyde. Everybody is surprised when Mr Hyde gives him a cheque which is signed by Dr Jekyll.
When Mr Utterson comes home he opens his safe and takes the last will of his personal friend Dr Jekyll and opens it. He reads that the heir of Dr Jekyll is a certain Mr Hyde. Mr Utterson wants to find the reason for that and thinks: "if he is Mr Hyde I am going to be Mr Seek". He waits four hours behind Dr Jekyll's door and when he sees Mr. Hyde entering the door and he talks to him.
Years later an old maid sees in the night two men coming down the street. Suddenly one of them knocks the other down with a cane and runs away. When the police comes the man is already dead. The maid says that the murderer looked very wicked and so Mr Utterson suspects Mr Hyde to be the murderer. Together with a police officer he searches his house and finds a piece of a bloody cane which he recognises as a present of his to Dr Jekyll. But Mr Hyde has disappeared.
Later Utterson receives a letter from Dr Lanyon in which tells him this little episode:
He gets a letter in which Dr Jekyll asks him to take a valuable drawer with him and to hand it over to a certain Mr Hyde. When he gives the drawer to Mr Hyde he asks him if he has strong nerves and when he nods, Mr Hyde takes a powder out of the drawer and swallows it. Suddenly Mr Hyde changes into Dr Jekyll and says ,,thank you" and disappears.
When Dr Lanyon sees this he cannot sleep anymore and he knows that his days are numbered. He fells sick and two weeks later he dies.
A few days later Pool, Dr Jekyll's servant, comes to Mr Utterson and tells him that there is something wrong with Dr Jekyll. So they go together to Dr Jekyll's house and when they cry that he should open the door he gives no answer. So they open the door themselves and there they find the corpse of Dr Jekyll and a letter, in which Jekyll unveils all his secrets:
When he was a boy, he was very interested in chemistry and he found a powder with which a man can change into another man. He swallowed this powder often and became Mr Hyde. But sometimes he changed into Mr Hyde without having eaten the powder and when he ate the powder he became again Dr Jekyll. But he became very frequently Mr Hyde. Because of this and the fact that Mr Hide became a criminal he could not longer bear it and committed suicide.
Mr Jekyll: He is a well educated British gentleman and scientist.
Mr Hyde: He is the incorporation of all evil. Even his appearance is terrible.
Mr Utterson: Mr Utterson, the lawyer, is a noble gentleman. He is telling the story and is also involved a Jekyll´s friend.
Dr Lanyon: He is a noble British gentleman, friend of boths, Dr. Jekyll and Utterson. He so shocked getting involved in the story that he becomes a victim himself. Pool: He is Jekyll´s butler.
Structure of the Book
I found the story on a CD of the "Gutenberg Project". This book has ten chapters which all have a headline and are not enumerated. The first chapter draws the characters of Mr Utterson and Mr Hyde. The story evolves slowly and is told in a very obsolete, already unusual language. Although the reader has from chapter two on the idea the Jekyll is very close to Hide, the solution is not told before the chapter before the last, when a letter from Dr Lanyon uncovers the whole story and the book ends with Dr Jekyll's version of the story in form of a letter.
Language that was used
Stevenson wrote this book in the language which was only spoken of the noble brits. They do not say directly what they want but always use a extremely polite and rather complicated way to tell their thoughts and questions.
The mystery of Jekyll and Hyde is gradually revealed to the reader through the disparate narratives of Mr Enfield, Mr Utterson, Dr Lanyon and Poole, the butler at Jekyll's house. The respectable Dr Jekyll wants to separate the goods and evil aspects of his nature. By means of a transforming drug he has secretly developed in his laboratory, he succeeds in freeing his evil propensities into the repulsive form of Mr Hyde. Initially he finds it easy to return to the personality of Jekyll, but in time this becomes more difficult and he finds himself slipping involuntary into being Hyde. Eventually his supplies of the drug run out and he cannot manage to reduplicate the chemical formula. Hyde is now wanted for murder and Jekyll kills himself. The body discovered in his sanctum is that of Hyde, but the confession Jekyll leaves behind that two men were versions o the same person.
The story is attracted much commentary, being read as another version of the Scottish
Arminianism of James Hogg's Private Memories and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, as a variant of the doppelgänger myth, as a pre-Freudian study of Ego and libido. G.K. Chesterton noted, however, that Hyde is not a diabolic alter ego but a diminished part of Jekyll's whole personality, pure evil where Jekyll is a mixture of good and evil. Jekyll's deluded belief that, because man is dual rather than hole, the good in him can hence be separated from the evil, provides a study in degeneration an ultimate human responsibility.
I liked this book very much. It is a strange story with very simple characters.
Mr Utterson is a perfect gentleman who not only tells us the story but is also personally involved because Dr Jekyll is a friend of him. Mr Hide on the other side is disgusting and wicked. So it is clear that we do not have to like him.
All gentlemen in the story are mainly shocked by the strange facts they experience.
I found it funny, that there are no women involved, besides a maid who doesn't even seem to have a character.
The story was written some time before Siegmund Freud and before psychology found details about mental decease's like schizophrenia and split personalities. So it is interesting to read that people have been thinking even a long time before that about those problems.
- Quote paper
- Anna Peterka (Author), 1998, Stevenson, Robert Louis - The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/95535