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Pee Your Pants This Week With Robert Louis Stevenson
Well, guys, the shrewish lady of October has arrived. You know this wench well. She comes like a spiritual mosquito, here every year to suck away those warm, lazy September afternoons and replace them with dead rodents and a never-ending frost.
(At least if you’re from the Midwest. If you’re in LA or something and you get like one degree cooler, I am sending you so much hate right now).
But it’s all about attitude, people. In order to avoid the embrace of this harlot for as long as possible, I think we should make the entire month one giant, sexy preparation for Halloween. We can talk dedicate this month to—you guessed it—scary books! Each week I’m going to review a creeptastic novel that makes us all want to pee our pants. That way by the time Halloween rolls around, we shall have properly built up our endurance, and will be well-equipped to binge watch scary movies and gorge ourselves with stale discount candy from Wal-Mart. So take that, October.
Though I don’t really know how this makes us better.
Actually, it does nothing but distract us from the inevitable.
But about that Halloween!
Look out! It’s…SCIENCE!
Few things are more terrifying than the oh-so-treacherous god of “science,’’ after all. Say, you know Robert Louis Stevenson? (Thumbs up for graceful segways!) You know, the guy who writes fun stories about pirates and schoolboy shenanigans? Forget about that crap. Let’s talk about his psychologically disturbing Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
(Note: This post contains spoilers. Although if you actually don’t know the twist of this story at this point, I’m really going to judge you. Hard. Seriously, do you live under a rock?)
This is probably one of the most classic fictional explorations of multiple personality disorder ever written. Kudos to Stevenson for popularizing the idea of an evil “double”; he’s been ripped off so often that if I were him, I’d make the effort to bust out of the grave and sue a couple of people for plagiarism.
The plot: Dr. Jekyll is your typical everyday scientist who enjoys wearing lab coats, bubbling chemicals, and playing God. He occasionally takes a break to re-write the Ten Commandments. Then he goes back to playing more God.
The twist: A huge dose of humble pie.
The lesson: Wearing lab coats can make you cocky.
Honestly, when it comes to scary stories, Jekyll and Hyde is an interesting addition on the bookshelf simply because it’s not a blatant “horror” tale. It’s not gruesome like Poe (shout out to his strange fascination with stuffing bodies in small spaces) or disturbing like Lovecraft (the king of ‘wtf’). I think what makes this one scary is the fact that it hits close to home. It draws on our innate desire to escape the consequences of our actions and asks an intriguing question: If we had no conscience, how free would we be?
That's the whole point of Jeykll’s experiment. “I learned to recognize the…primitive duality of man,’’ he muses. “…If each…could be housed in separate identities, life would be relived of all that was unbearable…It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together....” (57)
But as we know, the result of this grand experiment is hardly uplifting. Dr. Jekyll tries to free himself of morality, only in the end to discover that he cannot. Kinda like Raskolnikov, Dr. Frankenstein, and all those other losers in literature who thinks they’re better than ethics. You think they’d learn at some point.
(Like the people who keep complaining that McDonald’s should offer “healthier” food. Because we all legit go to McDonald’s to chomp on lettuce leaves.)
Jekyll’s “liberation” merely serves to make him addicted to his own vice. It breeds an attachment to his inborn darkness, to the point where he relishes it and can do nothing but throw himself into its damning arms. Readers are left to consider that when such dark desires are crystalized, they become a parasite. They are far from freeing; they are ensnaring.
So if you're ever tempted to perform questionable experiments in your basement lab (I know you have one), take a sec to think: will this make me kill someone later this evening?
And then just go for it. YOLO.
What's YOUR favorite scary book?
Any recommendations? Let me know. Until then, I look forward to seeing see you nerds next week for more urine-inducing literary discussions.