There is an obvious under tone of science fiction in H.G. Wells’ novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. For instance, Dr. Moreau practices successful vivisection on the animals on his island. However, the theme that is most evident in the text by Wells is that of Gothic horror because of its focus of violence, mystery, degeneration, and all things grotesque.
When Prendick first arrives on the island, he is surrounded by secrecy. Dr Moreau tells him, “Our little establishment here contains a secret or so, is a kind of Bluebeard’s Chamber, in fact.” (Wells 21) The reference to the Bluebeard fairy tale not only sets a mysterious tone; it seems to foreshadow a horrific and bloody future for the protagonist. Like in Bluebeard’s Chamber, blood is a theme in the novel. The sight of a bloody rabbit is the source of horror for Prendick and Montgomery because they know it means the animals on the island have become accustomed to the taste for flesh, despite being told not to.
The atmosphere of the island and its inhabitants is one the narrator often describes as grotesque; a expression he uses in about sixteen different instances. As a theme of Gothic literature, it is concerned with monstrous and misshapen beings. A description of the islands animals illustrates this: “all of which were prognathous, malformed about the ears, with large and protuberant noses, very furry or very bristly hair, and often strangely coloured or strangely placed eyes.” (Wells 62) Also, the decay that the animals show in their human traits relates to the Gothic genre. This degeneration is apparent as the narrator describes the animals return to their previous beast-like ways; for instance when the hyena-swine is eating the St. Bernard: “its lips went tremblingly back to its red-stained teeth, and it growled menacingly. This was an animal that, previously, only ate fruit and exhibited human-like tendencies.