The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson and Dr Jekyll is currently fascinating me as a content marketer – not because I fancy being marooned on a Treasure Island – Great Yarmouth is as remote as one already – but I’m embarking on a learning journey with my son, who in Year 11, is studying that man’s novella.

It’s a weird old fiction too.

What’s strange is that Stevenson never lived in London (and who can blame him?) yet describes it in all its foggy glory throughout the novel.

I say novel, loosely, as when I downloaded it to read, last night, I was expecting a hefty duty of a week’s reading, typical of great Victorian novels, but the Kindle stated bluntly, it would take me one hour to read.

No wonder exam boards and teachers pick it.

One hour and the rest of the year watching Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo and Juliet” (that’s what I’d have done anyway back in the day before I left the political cesspit that is teaching).

The narrator and protagonist is a bit of a bore, Mr Utterson, the type you’d find now posting motivational corporate memes on LinkedIn or repetitive tweets on the nature of man, but his friend, Dr Jekyll, unlike the roads here in Norfolk, is dualled.

He has a dual personality which we the reader are initially lulled into thinking is two people.

Dr Jekyll has two distinct parts to his property in a wealthy part of London: the grand front and the rear laboratory or cabinet, with separate entrances.

Mr Hyde has accommodation away from this house in seedy Soho, as his bolt hole too, which is furnished as a pretence for when Jekyll needs to escape.

It whisks along at a fairly brisk pace too and I wonder now, what Robert Louis Stevenson, would make of Britain and Europe and the US in 2017.

He was an intrepid traveller you see – he did that trek across the Cevennes with his donkey, canoed from Antwerp to France, as you do, met his American partner near Paris and married in California with his later years spent in Samoa.

Nigel Farage would presumably have hated the man.

Apart from his travels though and the events of the novel: rages, duplicity and death, I pondered longest on the psychology of man.

1884, I believe, was the age of Darwinism and the debate of Science v Religion; the dual aspects of Dr Jekyll would now be termed perhaps as schizophrenia, but we seem to be entering a new age of concern for mental health welfare.

1888 were the years of the Ripper in London so tolerance for mental deviation was not high on anyone’s agenda (thanks Paul Jones for that reference).

Depression, bi-polar disorder, societal anxiety, mood swings, mental illness no longer carry the stigma of 1884 or even 1984 (think Basil Fawlty) and I think that now in 2017, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, those good and bad aspects of the human condition would be treated sympathetically.

Strategies may well now be provided to resolve these split personality issues, through medication, CBT or counselling.

Stevenson may not nod approvingly at the world’s politics in 2017 but the steps taken towards a better world for mental health sufferers would surely gain his assent?

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