Science Fiction and Views on Humanity

The story The Island of Dr. Moreau plays about like an old version of science fiction, before it became better known for robots and space.  The text not only has monsters, whose origins were given a reasonably logical explanation, but also delves into the philosophical questions about humanity and playing God that come with that step.  The fourteenth chapter, Doctor Moreau Explains, gives plenty of scientific background for the creation of the creatures, calling it the “triumph of vivisection” (52).  Yet, along with the new knowledge comes the philosophical questions that accompany new possibilities.  For instance, Prendick, the protagonist, says that the only reason for the need of the horror of vivisection to come to pass should be “some application” for it (54).  As the doctor of the island goes on about his discoveries, the audience is left to wonder about the importance of these discoveries and its uses, and whether those uses are worth the pain and suffering that the victims must go through.  Reading the text as science fiction leads the audience into pondering these questions due to the allowance suspension of disbelief given by the lecture on how the creatures came to be.  As a science fiction text, the audience can still enjoy the action and suspense, but are given something to think about when faced with each of the creatures.  This way, the text prompts the audience to ask questions ranging from whether the humanized animals should be given the same rights and consideration as humans to is it ethical to how this new operation can be applied in order to benefit mankind.  Science fiction allows the audience to think about topics that do not come up in daily conversation, but still lead to questions that reflect the reader’s views on humanity.

 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Science Fiction and Views on Humanity

  1. smboehm

    I agree completely with your post. I think it’s interesting to read this novel with the science fiction genre in mind because it almost gives a justification for the grotesque practices of Dr. Moreau’s animal vivisection on the island. At the time, animal vivisection was a disputed topic in Britain, with many of the opposed supporters being female. It is possible that Wells was trying to create an allusion to females when referencing the beast people and their place in humanity and given rights on the island. The science fiction aspect of the novel allows readers to explore the topic of animal vivisection in relation to not only grotesque behavioral experiments, but also the question of human rights.

  2. I agree with your post that The Island of Dr. Moreau could be classified as a science-fiction novel. The novel tries to define a boundary between morality and science, or at least leave it up to the reader to determine where that boundary is. This novel was written at a time when science as a subject was expanding and people were wondering how far the reach of science could go into nature. By attempting to answer these scientific questions in the form of a fictional narrative, it is evident that The Island of Dr. Moreau could be placed in the science-fiction genre.

  3. gpwestland

    I think it’s interesting that you mention the purpose of Dr. Moreau’s experiments. TO me that’s exactly where Wells’s Island of Dr. Moreau falls out of the category of just being a suspenseful and gruesome science fiction story. To me, Wells indeed drops this issue to make his audience reflect on where humanity at the end of the 19th century was heading. The way he describes the monstrous practices of Dr. Moreau are to me evidence that he does not necessarily approve of the ways humanity tried to control the world by ratio, which was a very big issue in these days. The emphasize on pain and the gruesomeness of the experiments tells the reader that humanity should not try to dominate creation at all costs.

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