Mary Reilly is a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through the eyes of a servant named Mary Reilly. Set in Victorian England, she serves at Dr. Jekyll's manor and grows devoted to him as he struggles with his sinister alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll created Mr. Hyde through various experiments in his laboratory. In the beginning, Dr. Jekyll exhibits interest in Mary beyond any other servant. For instance, he inquires about the scars on her hands and neck and asks her to write a letter explaining how she received them.
The story opens with her letter, revealing that her abusive father locked her beneath the stairs and released a rat that bit her repeatedly. Eventually, Mary keeps his secrets and visits his lab. Throughout the story, Hyde has committed numerous crimes, including murder.
As Hyde gets into trouble, Dr. Jekyll relies on her as a confident, with some sexual tension hovering between the two. Despite Hyde's crimes, Mary senses that Dr. Jekyll is her equal due to the sadness within them, but the class differences between the two proved to be an invisible barrier. In addition, she chose not to leave his side after Hyde threatened her at the end of the story. After Dr. Jekyll committed suicide, she still exhibited devotion to him.
Mary Reilly is a variation on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), a classic study of good and evil. Born and reared in Calvinist Edinburgh, Stevenson rebelled against his Puritan upbringing and, as a young man, led a Bohemian life, sometimes consorting with harlots. Dr. Jekyll is a handsome, “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty,” but like Stevenson, he was “wild when he was young,” indulging in irregular pleasures, suffering a “perennial war among my members.” Thus, Dr. Jekyll “stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life” before he began the chemical experiments that enabled him to separate the good and evil elements in himself and to turn into the “wholly evil” Mr. Hyde. Jekyll equivocates that Hyde alone is guilty of the sins he commits; when he turns back into the respected doctor, Jekyll is entirely innocent. The evil in Hyde was already a part of Dr. Jekyll before being distilled into its own pure form, however, and at first, Jekyll feels an exhilarating freedom when living a double life as Hyde. After Hyde commits a series of atrocities and a murder, Jekyll’s conscience takes over, as well as his sense of self-preservation, and he determines to become Hyde no more. By this time, however, his body chemistry has been so altered that he becomes transformed into Hyde without taking the formula, and it is increasingly difficult to provide the antidote. Finally, trapped forever in Hyde’s body, Jekyll commits suicide as his lawyer and butler break down the door to his laboratory.
There is no point in retelling The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde only to tell it again. It has been staged, has been filmed at least...
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