By Allie Reczek
When we think of Halloween stories and the terrifying characters associated with them, we tend to think of witches, zombies, vampires, or even the horrid Frankenstein’s monster. However, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not like these frightening stories at all. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, is a Gothic novella published in 1886. The main character, Dr. Henry Jekyll, is known as a brilliant scientist, currently questioning the internal psyche of man. He is incredibly handsome and widely respected by all who know him.
During one of Jekyll’s experiments to understand the good and bad inside of us all, he develops a potion to transform humans into their evil counterparts. Taking it himself, Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde—gruesome to look at and dangerous to the core. He commits murder while in the body of Hyde, but eventually transforms back to the good Jekyll after consuming another potion. After repeated voluntary transformations, Jekyll becomes unable to control when he becomes Hyde, even without taking his experimental concoction. Knowing that soon he will be Hyde forever and people will be after him for his crimes, Jekyll decides that there is nothing else he can do but take his own life.
There are several movies based off of this novella, however the 1931 version directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March is widely considered to be the best adaptation. Despite its 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie takes a different approach to this story. Many of the supporting characters in the movie are not included in the novella and vice versa. In the movie, Jekyll is about to marry his fiancée, Muriel Carew, but after unsuccessful attempts to stay as Jekyll, he decides that he has to let her go. When he is Hyde, he murders dance hall girl, Ivy Pearson, after she rejects him and fears his horrifying appearance. Unlike in the novella, instead of Jekyll ending his own life and leaving a suicide note, he is shot and killed while he is Hyde. Although this was a movie made in the 30s, I was surprised at how realistic the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde appeared. Even without the movie magic of 21st century films, this adaptation did a great job at maintaining an engaging storyline that I am sure terrified audiences when first released.
So… Flip or Flick?
Flip! While the movie should not be overlooked, I think the book did a better job at explaining this horror story. This novella explores the idea of good and evil, allowing readers to question if we can ever overpower the evil inside us all or if it is only a matter of time before it takes over. Through its classic 19th century European stylistic writing and thought-provoking ending, this book is a perfect fit for anyone looking for a psychological thriller this Halloween season. This story reminds us that it is not witches, zombies, or vampires that are scary, but rather it is what is inside of us that is truly the scariest thing of all.
Allie Reczek ’22 CLAS is a current senior at Villanova, majoring in Psychology with minors in Communications and Sociology. She works in Falvey Library as a Marketing and Communications Assistant.