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Tony Grist

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Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde [Feb. 27th, 2011|10:03 am]
Tony Grist
Is Dr Jekyll a universal fable- or a fable about what Christianity- more especially Puritan Christianity- does to people? The introduction to the Oxford World Classics edition (by Emma Letley) goes on about how very very Scottish it is. Presbyterianism- with its fetish for public rectitude- makes it inevitable that people will lead double lives. Last night I read the book at a sitting. For all its familiarity It still packs quite a punch. 

Two things i had forgotten: 

1. that Jekyll was never a "good" man but had always lived a divided life. What the potion does is to isolate- and intensify- the part of him that is enslaved by his "undignified" vices.

2. That Hyde- far from being the the hulking apeman of the movies, is a creepy, white-faced dwarf. There is certain pathos about him. Jekyll's clothes are far too big for him and he has to roll up the trouser legs and sleeves- for all the world like a child playing dress up. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: daisytells
2011-02-27 01:30 pm (UTC)
I relate the Hyde/Jeckyll story to that of an active alcoholic. He drinks something and his whole personality changes for the worse. At first he can control it a bit, but later on, with or without the "elixer", Hyde takes over. For those who have had an alcohol problem and later recovered this story is very personal.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-02-27 02:29 pm (UTC)
That's right. Jekyll's story is an allegory of addiction. I think it makes the story all the stronger that we never actually learn what his "undignified vices" are.
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[User Picture]From: stevegreen
2011-02-27 04:52 pm (UTC)
The inspiration, of course, was the Edinburgh politician Deacon Brodie, who led a real double life.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-02-27 05:54 pm (UTC)
...and about whom Stevenson (in collaboration with W.E.Henley)had previously written a play.
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[User Picture]From: stevegreen
2011-03-01 06:15 am (UTC)
Decent pub, though, or at least it was when Ann and I drank there during the 1990 Edinburgh Festival.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-02-27 03:39 pm (UTC)
Calvinism is essentially a disease, like syphilis only more wasting and degenerative.
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[User Picture]From: calizen
2011-02-27 04:57 pm (UTC)
Quite a number of fanatical religions have that about them.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-02-28 10:11 am (UTC)
Indeed, though still one must admire the resistance Calvinism puts up to any attempt at treatment. I don't know that the US will ever recover, not in my lifetime.
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[User Picture]From: calizen
2011-02-28 06:07 pm (UTC)
Quite agree with you. Thought we had a chance for change in the 70s and nope, the Calvinists and the like were just taking a breath to jump back into the fray.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-03-01 11:44 am (UTC)
I think hope today lies in technology and demographics, if you could call that "hope". Communications technology is increasingly giving children an alternative to the culture of their immediate family and the God-bothering segment of the population appears to be shrinking. But such technology is a very, very mixed blessing, so the cure could be conceivably worse than the disease.
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[User Picture]From: calizen
2011-03-01 04:58 pm (UTC)
I love your words "God-bothering". How right on that is!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-02-27 05:56 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't quarrel with that...
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[User Picture]From: bigherman
2011-02-27 07:55 pm (UTC)
In my Masterworks of Brit Lit class I took last quarter, we talked about the nature of good and evil in people, mostly. I think the bottom line we came to was that no one is perfect, and trying to be is great folly, as Dr. Jekyll proves. You can't just pop some medicine and excise the parts of your personality or desires you don't like.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-02-28 10:20 am (UTC)
Exactly. Stevenson grew up in Presbyterian Scotland and saw how the pressure to be seen as utterly respectable and righteous turned people into hypocrites. As a young man he led a bit of double life himself- using an assumed name to explore the seamy side of Edinburgh life.
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[User Picture]From: stevegreen
2011-03-01 06:17 am (UTC)
There's a real opportunity for a play there: Dr Stephenson &...
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