Much in the same way that reputation proceeds the characters in Victorian literature such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the novel’s twist proceeds its unveiling. The story by now is all too famous for collegiate readers to experience the shock. This is a very interesting example of how the reputation of a story can affect the way it is experienced.
When first published the novella was a smash hit, at least according to this Glencoe Library study guide. This begs the question, for how long was the mystery of this novel still a mystery. While classic murder mystery novels such as those written my Agatha Christie (some of my favorites guys, you must read at least And Then There Were None), retain some degree of infamy, they rarely achieve pop cultural status that lasts over a century. Jekyll and Hyde has become synonymous with split personality disordered individuals. As such the fact that Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same does not surprise readers, a fact which may have surprised Stevenson.
As I was reading I could not help but wonder what the effect would be if I had not known they were the same. H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds suffered a similar but opposite effect when it was read on the radio and people did not think it was fictional. In this case the story’s reputation, in this case, the reputation that it was a story, failed to proceed its delivery, causing mass pandemonium and uproar. Ironically, a great mystery novel author, should never write a mystery novel too great.