Classic book review: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Jekyll and Hyde movie poster

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1886. It is a short novella (about 70 pages) and often found in a book of collected works. The version I bought included Markheim, The Body Snatcher and Olalla.

The basic plot is so well known I won’t detail it here. It is a bit strange how it is revealed through the book, though. Until the final reveal at the end of the novella the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde is obscured – it is suggested that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll for some reason.

Reading the book with the knowledge of the plot from such quality remakes as Looney Toons it is a bit frustrating that Dr Jekyll is so rarely in the plot and Mr Hyde is not sinister so much as unaware of his violence.

The book is supposed to be one of the first theories and novelizations of bipolar disorder, but in this case it is self-inflicted. Dr Jekyll has created a potion which allows his suppressed darker side to come out. This split-personality is not only apparent in his actions but also his appearance. As his transformation to Hyde becomes more frequent this darker version of himself grows in stature and power, until eventually the changes start taking place without this need for the potion.

At this point Jekyll becomes scared that he has lost control and attempts to stop traveling down this path. Unfortunately, Hyde has become too strong and the story ends unhappily for pretty much everyone.

The story is really about the conflict between good and evil in man’s nature. Stevenson seems to be suggesting that a carefree life reveling in sin can be a relief from the stress and strain of a life upholding the law and right behaviour. As Christians we know that life is difficult and that the struggle is not for our own purposes but to fulfill God’s will for us.

The ugly side to Stevenson’s idea of this low behaviour is that it is related to or represented by appearance. Hyde is depicted as short, stocky, hairy with a thick forehead – evil. Jekyll is tall, fair, elegant – good. This seems to be paternalism at best and racism at worst – other nations must be less developed than the English due to their lower appearance, cultures and respect for law and justice.

It was good to read this novella to understand the original, not just the modern translations, but I did feel uncomfortable with some of the concepts and the conclusion of the story seemed to be one chapter short – not everything was tied up neatly and explained.

External link: Wikipedia entry for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Rugby world cup loss

There seems to be a lot of hysteria about after last Saturday’s loss in the rugby world cup (RWC) to England. I was watching the game and the short version is “the better team won on the day.”

Wallabies realising theyve lost

People are looking for scapegoats, saying we did something horribly wrong, but really we were just outplayed. Our players were trying, just not executing well enough. On another day we might have comprehensively outplayed England, but it didn’t happen last week.

It is a shame and disappointing, but life goes on. Probably the most annoying thing is how the road to the final has opened up with New Zealand also losing. England v France taking on the winner of South Africa v Argentina.

I think people need to get some perspective and applaud our team for the fine ambassadors they were for our country and we all need to learn to lose gracefully. Then we can get back to the drawing board and try to do better next time.

WordPress upgrade – 2.3

Wordpress Logo

This weblog is written in a online framework called WordPress. WordPress was setup back in 2003 by some folks who were jaded with Movable Type and decided to make a free, open-source blogging platform that was user friendly and highly extensible. That it is, though it’s popularity means that it is a target for hackers and other malcontents, no security through obscurity here, I’m afraid.

They’ve just updated the release version to 2.3 and it brings a few cool features that were missing before but most desirable.

  1. Tagging support – tagging is different to categories. Categories I have but a few (and could probably get away with less) – beer, church, tech, entertainment, personal. Tags are like “key words” and good for searching on and also giving the gist of an article. Categories you would expect to reuse, tags can be one-off.

  2. Update notification – a big AJAX pop-up in the admin screen lets you know if there is a new version of wordpress, or even more helpfully, your plugins. This will reduce vulnerabilities and help get new features faster. The plugins I use (Akismet & Bad behaviour for antispam, Google XML Sitemap for submission, for tunes and Markdown extra for writing) will now be at the latest version, simply and easily.

  3. Canonical URLs – this means that a page such as my Irish Cream mixture now will always show its proper address in your internet browser, not index.php?p=160 which would also work.

  4. Pending review doesn’t do much for me as this is a single user blog, but I can see it would be handy for an author/editor sort of setup.

  5. Better WYSIWYG post writing – I write in markdown via the text editor, so again, not much good for me.

If you are running a WordPress site, update to version 2.3 for the security updates and love the extra features that make life easier that are part of it.

Akelos Logo

For the web gurus out there, another cool project I came across recently is Akelos. Akelos is a PHP framework – pretty much a copy of ‘Ruby on Rails’ for PHP authors. I read a good guide to it in Linux Format UK magazine and it looks like a really simple way to make quick, quality web applications.

I might be ramping my website/linux support business up again soon so Akelos looks like an excellent web development tool that means I won’t have to learn another programming language (Ruby).