Evil and Not Quite Evil…

I’ve started working on my version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so I’m deep into the definition of evil. It’s feels a bit fuzzier than it was in Robert Louis Stevenson’s time. Our post-modern aesthetic blurs everything into a muddy swamp of degeneracy, transgression and entertainment. Nothing, or seemingly nothing, is too much or too far out there for long, as all the most outrageous actions or ideas just push the envelope further and further.

Does it ever break?

The dictionary definition of evil is reprehensible, wicked or sinful and rising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct. That certainly has an archaic ring to it. Wicked — what a great word! And sinful is another great word. Evil, both wicked and sinful, is full of drama and behavior that is out-of-bounds.

Monsters are out-of-bounds — outside the normal boundaries of nature. But they are not always evil. At least not in contemporary entertainment where vampires can be heroes (Angel) and werewolves are hunks (True Blood). But still the dance of good versus evil is a compelling storyline ripe for rewriting and reconfiguring.

Still in the early stages, and initial pages, of my novella and yet I’m already defining each character’s relationship to morality and moral codes. We all have some kind of morality. The moral compasses of my characters don’t always point to true north, but that’s true of real people too. I don’t think we like those true north people all that much. We want our heroic figures to be a bit flawed and hazy on the details of morality — just like us.

So back to my new manuscript and “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”


  1. I’m very interested in your work. We do need to adapt the old understandings of evil to our modern context. We certainly do not define women who use herbs for health and healing as evil, but we also do not always recognize the lies and manipulation that permeate our society as evil.

    Best of luck with your project.

    • Candy

      It really is time for new definitions. A great deal of what was once considered EVIL now falls under other headings. The “demonic” possessions of one era are the neurological disorders of another. The wicked habits of one time are the sexual explorations of another. When I read the Robert Louis Stevenson original, I was struck by so many changes in how we few truth and life. So… I’m trying to write a story in the muddy present.

      Thank you for you support. I will need luck for this project!

  2. Hi there Candy,
    I am liking this so far and I can’t wait til your book comes out. I think you have done your homework when it comes to evil and good. I know this will be a great novella.

    • Candy

      Still in the early stages, but I hope to have it out before the summer. As it takes place in July/August/September, I’d love to have it in electronic readers hands in July.


  3. Fabulous! The more I read your posts, the higher you are moving on my TBR list. Maybe I can get some monster time in over Christmas vacation. On a related note, I remember being forced to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in my ninth grade reading class. It was sheer torture to read from it for timed speed readings. I think that qualifies Mrs. Barth (we liked to call her Mrs. Barf) for membership in the evil category!

    • Candy

      More than a few “Barf-y” teachers are in one of Dante’s special circles.

      When I read it this summer I was struck by aspects of the story that don’t get picked up in the movies and popular culture references and I’m playing off some of them in my version. Stevenson creates a group of friends that want to rescue their old buddy the doctor. The friendships are key and I’m running with that one in my version. The relativism of evil is also form our time and not theirs — of course he wrote this around the time Freud was just starting to ponder the ID and the EGO. LOL… lots of work to do!

  4. Metan

    It does seem that in time past the line between what was considered ‘good’ and ‘bad’ was far more defined than today. We really are in a time where what was ‘evil’ is now shown as ‘good’.
    As you said vampires and werewolves are the new heroes and what about television characters like Dexter, a ‘good’ serial killer. In the same vein the dark tortured sides of superheroes are being shown more as well!
    Lucky the envelope is quite elastic 😉

    • Candy

      Yes, I think Dexter is a perfect example of the ambiguity of our age!

      I watch the show and feel myself going back and forth between wanting him to continue on his path and wanting him to be caught. The envelope is very elastic!

    • Candy

      So far I’m skirting around that issue, but I may have to address it. In American pop culture the outlaw receives more applause than the straight out hero. We seem to embrace both the ambiguity and the dark side in everyone. My good doctor character feels stifled by always doing good. Being a good student, a good daughter, a good doctor, a good friend…. is a lot of good for one person, and yet, in the end it’s better to have taken that road than to have been genuinely bad.

      Or is it?

  5. mmmm – tricky one this. Are ‘good’ and ‘evil’ two separate concepts, exclusive of each other? Or do BOTH reside in the individual as potentialities, awaiting only a stimulus? eg a torch is just a torch (inanimate) until it is switched on?
    Psychologically speaking, the potential for good and evil resides within each of us. It is as well that we understand this .. we each have a Mother Theresa and and a Medusa within. We do NOT have to act upon either of these … but we do need to acquaint ourselves with our own darkness .. face the shadow in order to de-potentiate it.

    • Candy

      Yes! And that was one of the fatal flaws in Dr. Jekyll’s plan to free his good self from the desires of his bad self. We need them both — the aggression/ambition of the “bad” half is useful, and the compassion of the good half balances it out. At the risk of letting my nerd flag fly here, I happily recall the episode of Star Trek when Captain Kirk is divided in two by the transporter. His good half is excellent at seeing all the options and the ramifications of each choice — so good he can’t act. He needs his “bad” half, the one that ACTS!

      I love the idea of Mother Theresa and Medusa as your polar opposites, as my character is a woman. Thank you so much for that particular dichotomy. I will let it hover in my imagination as I write about my good doctor and her experiments.

  6. Another interesting point to ponder is that the bible reminds us that evil doesn’t always come packaged the way we expect. In the original text the serpent in the garden was “a shining one” not some ugly talking reptile. There is also the warning that the demonic can disguise itself as an angel of light. Just because something is supernatural doesn’t mean it is from God. When people don’t know that, it’s easy to be tricked. Also our word wicked has a root in the same word as wicker, which is twisted.
    Hope you’re back to as normal as NYC can be and the storm is behind you.

    • Candy

      Twisted and evil creatures, and inclinations, can arrive in pretty packages. It’s interesting that this is clear in bible stories while in traditional fables, fairy tales and legends, Ugliness is often a mark of evil and beauty an indication of goodness. The “ugly” witch has a tortured soul and wicked ways. In contrast, the lessons that “what’s inside is what matters” and that evil can slip into the flock — like a wolf in sheep’s clothing — are clearly better cautionary tales.

      Given the reality of “packaging” in our society, it’s smart to have a finely tuned sense of “smell” to detect deception and potential evil. I’ve had some pretty weird dates that started on the Internet and ended, just as they started, in public. That whiff of deception overwhelming a surface that seemed more than OK.

      Most, but not all, of the New York area is back to normal after the storm. It may be years before everybody is back.

  7. Mary’s comment about the serpent in the Garden of Eden is pertinent. I have written about Lilith, first wife of Adam (according to the Midrash). Lilith as serpent appears to Eve. It was a necessary act in order to get Adam and Eve OUT of the Garden of Eden, away from dependency and unconsciousness, to live in the real world and experience mortality, choice, free will etc etc …
    It is interesting and relevant that Lilith and Eve were banished into the wilderness …
    I have also blogged about this if you care to check it out on http://www.gardenofedenblog.com. On this blog are details of my book .. “In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories by Susan Scott”. It is available as an e book …

    • Candy

      Just added to my to-be-read list!

      The iconic role of women in the old and new testaments and in the world, in general, always seems to be a dance of good & evil. As most of the principle characters in my new Jekyll & Hyde are women, I’m making sure to create fully nuanced, real women and not symbols that represent temptresses and saints. Women are too often relegated to these roles. I’m more interested in telling the stories of real women.

    • Candy

      It seems to be leading some of my characters in circles!

      The entire notion of good & evil in a post-modern setting is an adventure in characters analysis. Work, work, work…

      Thanks for commenting.

    • I don’t know about updating this bad baby, because It is one of my favorite classic tales along with a christmas carol. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is so creepy and edge of your seat read and the movie is so spellbinding!