Award-winning screenwriter, Sheldon Higdon considers himself a “wannabe zombie” and a
“superhero in training.” In reality, he’s a working writer, husband, and father. He currently has over 40 short-stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces published. He is going to talk about the classic monster/monsters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Higdon says that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde speaks to the “duality of humans.” He states that everyone has “two sides.” For him, it is a story of the reality of being human and wearing “masks.” He says, “We always are wearing two masks, and in some cases several more. We see it all the time but never pay close attention to it, except when we see it on the news.” Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for Higdon, is like the serial killer, who shows his or her pleasant side to the neighborhood, while doing unspeakable deeds. This leads to the situation where the neighbors say, “She/He was always nice. . . Helped the person by mowing their lawn in the summers. Shoveled their driveway in the winters. Babysat their kids.” Higdon points out, “You don’t know who you think you know.” This is the horror at the center of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is simple. The good, Dr. Jekyll, makes a potion that released the evil, Mr. Hyde, which is all the negative parts of Jekyll’s personality. This has driven many interpretations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s meaning to the story. Higdon believes that Stevenson might have created the story based on two aspects of his life—that he suffered from tuberculosis and that he was an only child. Higdon says that only children “create imaginary friends”, and he postulates that the character of Dr. Jekyll might have been an only child and thus dreamed up Mr. Hyde. Higdon also believes that Stevenson’s serious illness might have been personified in the character of Mr. Hyde. “Hence why the many descriptions of the man were so vague. Illness can have many symptoms. Too many to go into great detail about without boring someone,” Higdon says. He also points out that Stevenson probably wanted to “entertain the readers.”
In the story, Mr. Hyde is never well described. Most of the characters state that there was something off about him, but they couldn’t give great detail. As mentioned, Higdon feels that may be because Stevenson personified his lifelong illness as the character of Hyde, but he also said it ends up being the readers’ job to imagine exactly how awful Hyde looks.
Mr. Hyde’s looks are not the only thing that makes him monstrous. His deeds speak volumes as well. “Hyde was portrayed as a man who had no good qualities,” Higdon says. He points out that this includes his physical appearance as well as his deeds. Higdon describes the character as “emotions dressed in skin running on animalistic instincts.” This is very fitting description of the character. He further points out that Mr. Hyde never asked to be created. The character’s birth into the world is the result of Dr. Jekyll’s embarrassment of his own animalistic behaviors and wanting to rid himself of them. That left Mr. Hyde void of positive emotions and a moral compass.
Higdon believes that modern audiences can draw a very powerful lesson from this well-aged story. It is: “Be careful of what you create, because you have to live with it, and its repercussions, for the rest of your life.” Although he points out that no one will make a “mad” creature, they can “create social madness” through his or her activities in social media and online. For Higdon, that might be the modern-day Mr. Hyde.
Higdon is currently seeking a home for several manuscripts. He is currently writing a YA thriller and an adult horror novel.