Reading List to Complement Study of the ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (1886)
Whatever set texts you are studying for English, it's always a good idea to read around them. Often it is easy to come across recommended reading lists that have plenty of suggestions of what to read next, but no clear indication for people who are new to those texts about what they are set to gain from reading each or any of them.
I've compiled a list of some of the texts I have found enriching to read alongside the 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', and listed them here with information on what I think links them to this set text, how long they are, how complex I have rated them to read (1/5 = easy peasy; 5/5 = take it steady and make notes as you go along) and links to buy them if you are interested. By no means is this exhaustive, yet there is an interesting range.
If you're looking to challenge yourself and develop your study of English, there is no doubt that you should be independently reading widely. After all, reading should be the first love of any student of English! I'd love to hear any additional suggestions you have for complementary reads as well, especially anything outside of the Victorian era, or anything that takes a different form to the novel.
Want to explore these ideas further? Keep an eye out on the website and social channels for themed webinars where you can join in the rich conversation, or book in for an hour long online tutorial with me.
1. Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad (1899)
Conrad's story of darkness, division and duality is an intriguing companion read for Jekyll and Hyde. Marlowe, the protagonist, ventures to the Congo and narrates his experiences of divided society; control and constraints; power imbalances; what it is to be human; and the duality of man both in the sense of the individual and society. We meet Kurtz, who is both a genius and a 'God' as well as a tyrannical perpetrator; he is an interesting mirror to hold up to the characters of Jekyll and Hyde.
Colonialism is a key idea within HoD, and it's certainly worth tracking the (often uncomfortable) descriptions of the 'natives' and comparing these to the descriptions of Hyde.
Length: 144 pages
2. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1866)
Written by the same author, this novel was published in the same year as the ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. What are the similarities and differences across the two narratives? What do we learn about our author and the issues that pervade his writing as a result of this wider reading?
Length: 136 pages
3. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
Published nearly 20 years after ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, Gilman’s famed novel deals with similar societal fears as Stevenson’s, but in rather different ways. Colonialism and Empire, gender relations, education, and individuality are core themes of the text; even a cursory read of this novel should give you some clear contrasts with Stevenson's earlier commentary on similar themes.
Length: 146 pages
4. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Locked doors, open windows, secrecy abound, there are clear commonalities between 'Dracula' and Jekyll and Hyde. The titular character of the novel is similarly 'dual' to Jekyll and Hyde - one moment a gracious and welcoming host, the next, a terrifying threat.
Structurally, there are links between the texts as well, as 'Dracula' is made up of a range of different narrative viewpoints, and the truth of the 'monster' is not revealed until much later in the plot.
Length: 408 pages
5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1817)
Stevenson and Shelley's narratives are alike in their exploration of monstrosity. What does it mean to be alive? How can one person contain multiple identities? What is the boundary between genius and madness? Was the study of science going too far? What are the repercussions of man 'playing God'?
Length: 280 pages
6. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H G Wells (1896)
The Gothic elements of Jekyll and Hyde evidently lend themselves well to comparison with other Gothic novels. Another that I recommend is 'The Island of Dr Moreau'. An isolated scientist plays with the physical form, humanity and identity; others are afraid of his discoveries and ultimately his experiments go horribly wrong - need I say more?
Length: 108 pages
7. She by H Rider Haggard (1887)
Both Haggard and Stevenson wrote for children and adults, and both explored ideas of the ‘other’ as well as control and containment of ideas that were not deemed socially acceptable. 'She' is a narrative which examines ideas of colonialism, masculinity, discovery and control.
Length: 317 pages
8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
Can man be divided? Wilde's narrative certainly suggests too that good and evil can be separated in the human body and mind. Ultimately, this separation (as with Jekyll and Hyde) leads to indulgence and ruin. The revelation of what has come of this behaviour is saved until the final pages, akin to Jekyll's final recount of events.
Length: 224 pages
9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)
Lunacy, asylums, control, constraint, deception, secrecy, mystery - for a clear backdrop of the Victorian society that Stevenson was later writing in, this is an engaging read. Surprisingly for a novel of the time, Collins is able to get into the action reasonably early on and maintain it for the vast majority of the hefty tome.
Length: 728 pages
10. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
The duplicitous narrative of this text alone is sufficient in making clear its relevance on this list. Most of the plot is told twice by both the editor and the sinner - religion, radical views and murder only add to this. The fact that Robert, the 'sinner' experiences a split identity, loss of control and ultimately commits suicide, proves that this text is wholly comparable to Jekyll and Hyde, in terms of plot, structure and narrative.
Length: 210 pages
11. The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1846)
Two identical men meet. They start as friends, they end as enemies. The double of the protagonist ends up controlling the main character's life, who then begins to see multiple doppelgängers and ends up committed to a mental asylum.
Duality, control, and identity are explored in similar ways in this text as in Jekyll and Hyde, yet the protagonist suffers a different ending that is nonetheless representative of the strict Victorian societal expectations.
Length: 135 pages
12. The Ebb Tide’ by Robert Louis Stevenson (1894)
The good, the evil and the in-between are explored in this short tale of imperialism, with a hefty dose of religion, plotting, violence and guilt. A read of 'The Ebb Tide' allows us a deeper understanding of Stevenson's views on the aforementioned themes.
Length: 112 pages
13. The Uncanny’ by Sigmund Freud (1919)
What is the Uncanny? Essentially, it is when something familiar is in some sense simultaneously unfamiliar, such as seeing a doppelgänger. Freud's core essay on the matter clarifies the origins of the Uncanny, as well as using 'The Sandman' by E A Hoffman as a basis to categorise it.
Given that the ideas of duality, place, and the 'shared' spaces of Jekyll and Hyde are central to the story, there is plenty that fits with Freud's explanation of the Uncanny.
Length: 240 pages
14. From The Idea of a University: ’Discourse 8: Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Religion.’ By John Henry Cardinal Newman (1852)
Newman's representation of Victorian societal expectations goes hand in hand with Jekyll and Hyde. If you want to understand how religious men were supposed to behave in terms of pursuing, gaining and sharing knowledge, this is a must read; it certainly helps to contextualise Lanyon's behaviour and attitudes towards his close friend.
Length: 5 pages
15. From The Descent of Man: ‘Natural Selection and Sexual Selection’. By Charles Darwin (1871)
For views on 'devolution', degeneration, and the relationship between 'savages' and the 'civilised', this is a quick read that focuses on radical scientific views of the time.
Length: 12 pages
16. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by David Edgar (1996)
A Level studies require an understanding of different representations and interpretations of a text. Therefore, it is always worthwhile to read texts based on and inspired by a set text. This play script is one suggested starting point.
Do the same themes come through as strongly in this version? Do the stage directions add to or take away from the original narrative? Is the sense of place as strong as it is in the novella?
Length: 86 pages