Advanced Literature summer class 2: Jekyll & Hyde

Our discussion of Jekyll and Hyde turned out to be very thoughtful, even though a couple of the men were absent (ie. in lockup). This is unfortunate, because when things keep changing, when a routine is constantly broken, it can seem unreal, and anyone who experiences it that way is going to feel isolated from the community.

We started by talking about Mr. Hyde. The men were  surprised by his appearance. They thought he’d look like a werewolf, or at least have fangs or something like that, but in book he’s a normal men. Stevenson describes Hyde as “much smaller, slighter and younger” than Jekyll, who actually feels “lighter, happier in body” when he’s wearing the shape of Hyde. He may not be physically repulsive, however, but there’s something about him that gives people the creeps. “There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why”, says one man who meets him. “He gives a strong feeling of deformity, althjekyll-hyde1ough I couldn’t specify the point.” To the lawyer Mr. Utterson, “he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation.”
The men also found Jekyll different to how they’d imagined him.“He seems older. Not so innocent,” said Sig. “In the movies he’s always this handsome young guy, but in the book he seems very different.” Stevenson describes Jekyll as “a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty.” Later he describes himself as almost an “elderly man.” “Also, when he’s Hyde, he looks different on the outside, but he’s still Jekyll on the inside,” said Steven. “His thoughts don’t change. It’s always Jekyll’s point of view, even when he’s Hyde.” I asked them to finish the novel by next week, when I’ll be out of town. Our next class will be two weeks from now.


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