Let’s talk about an intriguing feature of the human mind - its ability to do good and to do evil.
For this, I am going to use a classic that I read about a year ago - Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louise Stevenson. I was blown away by the stark and dark premise of this book. It is written so beautifully, artistically and thoughtfully that it haunts you and makes you think and feel for Jekyll and be fearful and wary of Hyde. The book is set in Victorian London of the 1880's which in itself is a very interesting era. Imagine narrow cobbled streets, the fog and the mist, a lonely walk in the night, a man struggling to keep his inner demon from taking control, a man willfully giving in to his inner demon, a huge mansion shrouded in mystery, a doctor mixing chemicals and concocting a strange powder with an eerie power and irrevocable consequences.
This book keeps you hooked till the very end by creating a great atmosphere of tension, mystery and curiosity. Spooky backdrops, a profound story line and beautiful, evocative descriptions make this book a gem. It brings you face to face with the eternal struggle of a man who is unable to keep his inner monsters on leash.
Dr. Jekyll is a man of science and experiments - seeking new frontiers of knowledge and alleviating suffering. Since childhood, he has had a companion - Mr. Hyde, who is forever lurking in his shadow and fighting to take control of his life. And, Mr. Hyde is up to no good. He is a man of vice, forever seeking glory in pleasure, and has no conscience. Mr. Jekyll is the good half and Mr. Hyde is the bad half and the two together make up the protagonist of the story.
After years of trying, Dr. Jekyll is unable to exorcise the evil within him, so he finds a scientific way to express his darker side and lets Mr. Hyde loose into the world. As Mr. Hyde prowls the streets in darkness, he is a fearful sight and an impending threat to mankind. For a while, Jekyll lives the good life and Hyde goes about being his immoral self. This fleeting period of harmony and balance lasts for a short while. Soon enough, Hyde starts fighting for total control and Jekyll is unable to stop his perverse other half from dominating. So, Jekyll does the inevitable and takes his own life while he still has the chance.
One way of looking at this book is that it discusses a unique and a very true trait of human psychology - man's nature and ability to be good and bad, strong and weak, intelligent and dumb, kind and vicious. Just as light behaves as a particle and a wave, human nature is steeped in dual shades - the light and the dark forever battling each other for control. The naive among us often wonder - how someone who seemed so good and kind could commit murders or how someone so smart could make a dumb decision or how someone so independent and stable could cling so desperately to their companion - but this book so wonderfully reminds us that - like day and night - all of us have Jekyll and Hyde in varying proportions within us.