The Island of Dr. Moreau, Science Fiction at its Finest

Although the genre of Dr. Moreau could be argued, it most clearly fits into the category of science fiction. The novel provides an attack on vivisection, as Dr. Moreau attempts to transform animals to humans. The story then pushes the limits of science, and in the process questions morality.

Vivisection has a long history in scientific research; however the scope of it within the novel is clearly stretched beyond the realm that it actually ever touched. Therefore the novel is not in the genre of fantasy, but rather science fiction as many people of the time were afraid of vivisection as it was believed to be a real scientific possibility. As people learned through Darwin’s theories, that we may share a common ancestor with animals, people soon began to feel a connection to animals. Thus, something such as vivisection would question to what extent scientific research, overshadow human morality?

An interesting technique Wells uses to help the reader understand this concept is placing the majority of the emotional weight in the story within the characters of the animals, not the men. This shows man as solely on the conquest for scientific progress, lacking compassion. The animals seem to be human in nature, “save for the grossness of the line, save for the grotesqueness of the forms, I had here before me the whole balance of human life in miniature, the whole interplay of instinct, reason, and fate in its simplest form”. (Wells 73-74) This also makes the reader question what are the qualities of being human outside the physical body? The novel is truly science fiction as it examines the dangers of science and technology in relation to humanity. How far are we allowed to go with science and where does morality come into play?

The telling of this tale as a novel is able to get to the heart of the matter the quickest. Unlike previous plays we have read which were acted out upon stage, or fairy tales that would have been passed orally, the telling of the story as a novel, keeps it from being altered each time it is told. This is important as Wells is assured his story will reach and effect society, in just the manner he wants.




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2 responses to “The Island of Dr. Moreau, Science Fiction at its Finest

  1. Sophi

    I really like how you mentioned that people were afraid of vivisection because, despite Moreau’s story taking on a science fiction vibe, this was something to truly be feared. As human beings, sharing a multitude of qualities with other animals (since we are animals ourselves), it could be feared that if experimentation could be performed on live animals, would humans be next?
    It’s also interesting how you emphasized the heaviness of emotion in the “beasts” as opposed to the only men on the island. Unaware of H.G. Wells’s stance on animals and emotions, I would go as far to say that it may be possible that he did this to illustrate (to scientists and to the readers) that other animals have enough intelligence to distinguish pain from pleasure, as Dr. Moreau tries to downplay earlier in the story, so that such issues can be contemplated on a scientifically ethical standpoint.

  2. I like how you brought a few facts/history of vivisections into the text. It helps you further argue your thesis and makes it easier to persuade the reader. I also like how you proved your point about the text not fitting the genre “fantasy”. The statement you made regarding Wells’s technique also proves true in the novel. By giving the emotions/feelings to animal, it shows men as “unhuman”, not feeling anything or having any sort of emotion. Great post!

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