Movie Monsters in Literature: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

With Halloween quickly approaching, we have monsters on our minds. Several creepy creatures have become prevalent in modern culture after evolving from roots in classic literature or ancient indigenous belief. In this Oct. 27-31 series, Movie Monsters in Literature, we feature one of our favorite beastly brutes each day and examine their origins and influence in literature, film, and popular culture.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tells of a complex story featuring mystery, science, and a unique twist on good versus evil.  The plot of the story focuses on a scientist who studies human psychology and attempts to separate his two personalities: The rational socially accepted side and the more basic primal side. He is successful, and develops two distinct persona:

His original self—Dr. Henry Jekyll—is an upstanding citizen in his community. He is a scientist and a socialite who appears at parties, volunteers and is generally well-liked.

His alter ego—Mr. Edward Hyde—is a degenerate who indulges in selfish, unsavory acts with no empathy for those around him.

In Literature:

Author, Robert Louis Stevenson was always interested in a person’s internal struggle between good and evil. Everyone has thoughts or urges that they know are illegal, socially unacceptable or just wrong and consciously can identify them and not follow through on them. Stevenson wanted to create a story where someone was given an outlet to act on these ideas. In 1886 the novella: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published. While the characters have stayed very popular, the story as a whole explores many themes and is an excellent read and often featured on suggested reading lists.

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Films featuring Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

The characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are fantastic for film. Because the book was narrated in the third person, readers hear about the actions of two separate men from outside observers, only learning at the end that they are one in the same. There have been several films that feature this conflicting character. There are often two ways of depicting the character. One is a change in personality and change in the character’s dress. The other depiction is physically changing the character. While both are acceptable adaptions, we often see the physical transformation become a ‘brainless’ character. This differs from the original story as Mr. Hyde may have been irresponsible but he was not unintelligent.

For younger students, a 1986 cartoon may be the most appropriate.

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For older students there is a popular movie, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that portrays a drastic physical transformation between the two personalities.

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However if you are looking for a more accurate portrayal of the original story there is a 2003 TV movie where no physical  transformation takes place, but there are major personality and mannerism changes.

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There are many more adaptations that can be found on film with many variations, including Jerry Lewis’ ‘The Nutty Professor’ later re-adapted by Eddie Murphy.

Cultural References:

The singular character that struggles between personalities has been used in several other mediums. There are several comic book characters that suffer from a Jekyll/Hyde syndrome. Can you guess these popular comic book characters?

Bob Kane the creator of Batman saw the 1931 film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and was inspired to create one of Batman’s most notorious foes.

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Stan Lee also created a popular comic book character featuring a scientist who transforms after an accident. He will be seen in the upcoming Avengers sequel Age of Ultron, and you may not like him when he’s angry.

[toggler title=”Answer” ]The Hulk[/toggler]

There is another famous Marvel creation that also features a scientist that has a primal side and rational side. This X-Man changes physical appearance but keeps his rational mind.

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Can you think of any other popular characters?

Of course, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is still very popular today. You can find the book’s influence in many mediums, from a themed restaurant in New York, to Broadway and more.

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