27 October, 2013, Hiding Dr. Jekyll

I always remember being told the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as being about split personalities to the point that Dr. Jekyll wouldn't even know what Mr. Hyde had been up to. Even if there was a certain amount of awareness, it always still involved losing control. Mr. Hyde would take over, and there was nothing Dr. Jekyll could do about it. Even when he liked it, he had no control. Kind-of like a drug induced rush, I guess. Dr. Jekyll had to have his fix and damn the consequences. Now, I suppose a lot of these slight differences simply come out of the fact that lots of different people have played with the story and the idea. There have lots of different essays and adaptations and whatnot. The consistently important detail was that Dr Jekyll gave up control to this other person living in his head called Mr. Hyde.

So, imagine my shock and surprise when I actually read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the very first thing I discovered was just how little the formula did. It changed his appearance. That's it. Full-stop. It changed Dr. Jekyll's flipping appearance. None of this split personality jazz. It simply wasn't there. The closest the story got was from Dr. Jekyll's own notes in which he described distilling his dark side or however exactly he put it. I don't have a copy of the story right in front of me. But, here's the thing about those notes, they were very clearly the work of an unreliable narrator.

The formula changed Dr. Jekyll's appearance, which was allowing him to live out his darkest fantasies without fear of scandal because nobody could prove it was him. It was that other guy. That disguise. Allowing Dr. Jekyll to hide in plain sight. Yeah, that's right. We're in pun territory. Not only did the formula allow Dr. Jekyll to hide his more exotic impulses but it also literally changed his hide. So, yeah, Mr. Hyde is hiding Dr. Jekyll while also saving Dr. Jekyll's hide.

So, yeah, this is one of those zeitgeist things, I guess. Now, unlike the other two I've mentioned in this here space, this one doesn't seem as absolute as I used to think it does. I always heard the story of Macbeth described one way, and I always heard the underlying theme of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep one way. But something wonderfully interesting has happened of late with the two faces of Dr. Jekyll. I have stumbled across descriptions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that weren't so absolutely focused on the split personality misunderstanding.

So, I don't go over-the-wall the same way I used to when Jekylls and Hydes were mentioned. Also why I've kept putting off vomiting forth my deranged scribblings about the good doctor and his lack of multiple personalities. The zeitgeist may not be so absolute on how to interpret the story. Good. Good. All for the good.

That and I do feel rather sheepish about the last two lost zeitgeist rants. Seriously, am I really so important to the ineffable freaking universe that I'm the only one with a dissenting opinion when it comes to certain topics such as Macbeth and dreaming androids?

Anyway, next I'll probably go on about how Romeo and Juliet were just a pair of selfishly self-centered little punks who deserved to die. Seriously, they were like fourteen. How long was their infantile infatuation going to last? A couple of weeks? Just imagine those two in ten years regretting every minute of it. Hating each other. Romeo was at the party chasing some other girl. Suddenly, it's all Juliet? Rebound. Eternal romance, my ass. Yeah, death was the best thing that happened to those two.

copyright © 2013 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved