Robert Louis Stevenson's novel is a classic because it is a worthwhile exploration of the human heart. Like Frankenstein, it is a fascinating exploration of the propensity for and appeal of evil in man as well as the loss of control that many scientists experience. Clearly, there are lessons to be learned from those that would play God. The narrative, however, is rather disappointing in that Jekyll dies well before the ending.
Rather than finding the sentences "ponderous," the reader can delight in a writer who has a command of British English. The banal vocabulary and simple sentences of current pulp fiction pale in comparison.
Oh come on, I love this novel! It definitely shows us the darker side of human nature. One point that can be made is that we all have a Jekyll and a Hyde, even if we don’t transform completely. Everyone has a good and bad side. You have to understand this duality. Stevenson’s point was that everyone has these sides, and ignoring them only leads to our destruction while embracing them, or at least heading them off, makes us better people.
The only good thing about this novel is that it reveals that everyone has a dark side and even suggests that people like Dr. Jekyll who seem almost completely good may have a darker side than others who seem less righteous and benevolent. Otherwise, the novel is hard to read because it is written in a stuffy, pretentious style full of circumlocutions, hints, metaphors, euphemisms, independent clauses, parentheses, semi-colons, and affectations--all of which is obviously intended to impress the reader with the author's eloquence and erudition. Here is a sentence taken at random:
This person (who had thus, from the first moment of his entrance, struck in me what I can only describe as a disgustful curiosity) was dressed in a fashion that would have made an ordinary person laughable; his clothes, that is is to say, although they were of rich and sober fabric,were enormously too large for him in every measurement--the trousers hanging on his legs and rolled up to keep them from the ground, the waist of the coat below his haunches, and the collar sprawling wide upon his shoulders.
There is no relief from the succession of such ponderous sentences. They seem to be disguising the fact that there is very little action or substance to the story. Everything that is unimportant is described in detail, while everything that is important, i.e., the actual deeds of Mr. Hyde, is left unsaid. The structure of the tale is awkward. There is a long buildup to the final chapter, which explains what should probably have been explained at the beginning--and what has become perfectly obvious to the reader by the time he gets to it. Fortunately, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is not very long, and it is mercifully broken up into short chapters featuring some of the dullest and stuffiest characters in English literature, all of whom can do little except sit in front of their fireplaces and drink port.