Six Degrees: From James Moriarty to Edward Hyde
Last week, on the magical trail of discovery known as Six Degrees of Kool books, Jenelle Schmidt wrote about the quintessential detective, Sherlock Holmes. Though I have never had the pleasure of reading one of his stories, I am certainly familiar with this famous character as well as many of the supporting characters. Among these, Jenelle mentioned one James Moriarty. This villain was described as both brilliant and violent and willing to take things into his own hands if his underlings were not up to the task.
It may be a bit of a stretch, but I saw a similarity in Holmes’ nemesis and Edward Hyde from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These “two” characters are iconic in their own right and it’s likely that even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve heard about the “strange case” of the man who uses a chemical concoction to transform himself into an malicious, thoroughly evil persona.
While at first glimpse one might not see a resemblance between the polished criminal mastermind of Moriarty and the monstrous, depraved Hyde, I find them similar in certain ways. You see, Hyde represents Dr. Jekyll’s desire to act out his baser impulses without feeling any pangs of guilt or regret. The well-to-do, sophisticated aristocrat appears to have everything going for him on the outside, but he decides to intentionally feed this demonic aspect of his personality and give it an outlet. It was Jenelle’s use of the phrase “go take care of it himself” in describing Moriarty which struck a chord with me. Because that’s what Hyde is for Jekyll, a means to take matters into his own hands.
It’s never really clear how much intelligence Jekyll retains while transformed into his alter ego, but there certainly seems to be a ravenous, cunning, instinct towards whatever is cruel or immoral. He seeks to take advantage of others, to use them as objects of abuse for no other purpose than some sort of morbid, perverse egoism. It’s not a pretty following the trail of Hyde’s exploits as he slinks about London, leaving fear and misery in his wake. Too late, Jekyll realizes that Hyde is becoming more and more in control of him and he is eventually forced to seek help from his former friends to save himself from his own evil impulses.
Among these friends is the lawyer Gabriel Utterson. When this even-keeled, likable man first learns of the existence of Hyde, he is drawn to investigate what he is about, even before Jekyll reaches out to him. He seems to have a strong moral compass for the more he learns about Hyde, the more he seeks to help those who are suffering at his hands, especially Jekyll.
Utterson enlists the aid of another of Jekyll’s friends, Dr. Lanyon to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Edward Hyde. Apparently Lanyon and Jekyll had a falling out in the past for professional reasons and yet, like Utterson, his desire is still to help his former friend whom he realizes has gone very far astray from what he once was. Though he doesn’t take as active a roll as Utterson in uncovering Hyde’s true identity, he suffers quietly in the background as Jekyll, much like an addict who has lost all control, slowly self destructs and there is apparently nothing Lanyon can do about it.
Mr. Poole, Jekyll’s butler, is a relatively minor character in the story, but he plays and important role, first in covering up for his master’s comings and goings as Mr. Hyde and later in alerting Utterson when he begins to fear for his master’s life. While there is nothing terribly unusual about him, one can only imagine the kind of anxiety he must have been living under having to share a house with the horrifying Mr. Hyde.
This story is actually rather short with very few other characters. Sir Danvers Carew, a member of parliament is mentioned briefly as the victim of one Hyde’s acts of violence. An apparently good-natured, harmless old man, no motive is ever given for Hyde’s murder of him, but his death is sort of the pivotal moment of the novel when Jekyll comes to realize that Hyde’s evil has gone too far.
So, not a lot of characters to choose from, but hopefully if you decide to take up the banner of Six Degrees and connect to a character of your own from another novel you’ll find something to spark your interest. Even if you’d just like to post once and give it a try, I’d love to hear what you think about it. You can find out more about the Six Degrees series/game by following this link.
Until next time, happy reading, and you might want to avoid drinking any strange concoctions with bubbles or smoke coming out of them.