R L Stevenson's Split Personality Tale
This is the story of a scientist Dr. Jekyll who discovers a drug that can separate the good side of his personality from the evil side. Instead of adopting the good side, he embraces his evil side and exults in the joy of being pure evil without any moral constraints. Problem starts when the acts of evil start crossing boundaries and he begins to regret his actions when his regains his regular personality.
One area where this tale is different from the regular split personality story is that the drug results in a physical transformation as well and the two persona look like different people physically. So the evil persona Mr. Hyde transforms into Dr. Jekyll to escape the hands of law. In the Dr. Jekyll form, he deeply regrets his actions and starts dreading the transformation into Mr. Hyde. But the experiment goes out of control and he is unable to control his transformation into Mr. Hyde. He needs a constant dose of medicine to maintain his Mr. Jekyll persona. That brings the challenge of procuring the components of the medicine in the Mr. Hyde form in which he is a fugitive sought after by the police.
It is also a tale that is allegorical. It kind of reflects the conflict we face in curbing the evil that resides within us. All of us have a Mr. Hyde within us and are often tempted to indulge in him for temporary pleasure. But too much indulgence can result in Mr. Hyde taking over our entire self and lead us along the road to perdition.
Of course, this book is different from typical science fiction in some ways – this story neither weaves a story around the impact of a specific scientific discovery nor is it an exploration of futuristic, alternate or alien societies. It is more a philosophical, personal reflection kind of story. But then it does not get too reflective and pedantic like literary works. After all it is R L Stevenson! So we have a taut story line that keeps the reader on the tenterhooks that gives some food for thought at the same time.
I for one would definitely give this work its rightful place in the history of science fiction.
Coming up next Tuesday: Going back in time with Mark Twain