I read Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau as a piece of Gothic literature that applies science fiction for the horrific qualities characteristic of its genre. The harrowing tone and diction establishes the Gothic qualities of the story, supplemented by science fiction terrors to heighten the trepidation.
The Gothic influence is evident from the horrific tone and diction. For instance, after the death of Moreau, Prendick explores the setting for Dr. Moreau’s vivisections, and he begins to describe the pile of woods that hosted the surgeries: “They seemed to be gripping one another in one last revengeful grapple. His wounds gaped black as night, and the blood that had dripped lay in black patches upon the sand. Then I saw, without understanding, the cause of the phantom, a ruddy glow that came and danced and went upon the wall opposite” (Wells 85). The connotations of his diction and the dark tone, heightens the horror that is idiosyncratic of the Gothic genre. This disquieting construction of The Island of Dr. Moreau is supplemented by science fiction. The science fiction element expands the capabilities of terror with its ability to implicate new forms that, in the context of the story, are real and conducive to science’s limitless possibilties. The island is inhabited by subhuman beasts created by Dr. Moreau. They possess claws, teeth, speed, and strength capable of killing men. When Prendick first encounters these subhumans, he is aghast: “What on earth was he – man or animal? What did he want with me? I had no weapon, not even a stick. Flight would be madness” (Wells 30). His fear not only derives from the beasts’ physical capabilities to assault him, but also their complete foreignness. This not only adds dimension to the horror, for psychological terror is now implicated with physical terror, but it also situates the novel in the Gothic genre. The horror construct of the novel is not just augmented by science fiction, it also supplements the science fiction itself by exhibiting the corrupting power of scientific progress when it is void of ethical limitation. Dr. Moreau feels justified for his vivesections by claiming that “this store men and women set on pleasure and pain, Prendick, is the mark of the beast upon them…the thing before you is no longer an animal, a fellow-creature, but a problem… The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature” (Wells 56). Dr. Moreau is villainized for being jaded to mutilation and his lack of natural sensibilities. This allows the examination of the enthralling quality of progression, and the corruption and apathy that associates the quest for perfection.