Wells Reflects Personal Views in “The Island”



H.G. Wells’ story, “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” is, among numerous things, a science fiction adventure:  but when I read it I thought there were strong, religious-satirical undertones (of course completely uncomic).  “Religious satire” because it was my impression Wells deliberately parallels events in the story to religious themes (specifically Christianity) and in doing so, belittles religion.  We see this when Montgomery and Prendick make a mockery of the beast people by telling them the dead Dr. Moreau is up in the sky watching them.   It is also made evident when the beast people hypnotically and unquestioningly repeat their mantra (“the Law”). 

By self-proclamation, H.G. Wells was an atheist and a proponent of Darwinism (“God the Invisible King,” Wells).  With this knowledge of Wells’ background, it is no mystery that “The Island of Dr. Moreau” would be tainted with sentiment to reflect his personal views.   Just like the other stories we have read, Robinson Crusoe and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the authors had an agenda hidden in their books.   In the latter, the authors were promulgating religion, or the idea that a better life is associated with a belief in God.  However, in the former, the author seems to infer that to worship a higher power, a “Maker,” makes one stupid and animal-like.

An example of reference to religion is made is when Prendick is in the huts of the beast people and he hears their blind repetition of “the Law.” (“The Island” p. 43)   Among the “long series [of] mostly quite incomprehensible gibberish,” they say, “His is the Hand that makes.” (p. 43) Moreau is their creator and they have a worshipping, fearful attitude of him–they are commanded to “salute” and “bow down.” (p. 65, 88).  They also have this long list of Laws they must memorize and obey: it rules their lives, and defines their moral code.  They also live in fear of breaking this Law, for if they do there is the consequence of being sent back to the “House of Pain.”  Prayer is a crucial aspect to any religion.  It is my opinion that here, Wells parallels the beast people to the religious who have memorized and committed to obeying the laws of God:  that they are blindly stupid like these beast people.  And (just like the Law of the beast people) in the laws of God there are stipulations, that those who break the laws are at risk of punishment and Hell. 

Montgomery and Prendick mock the beast people’s brutish ignorance by telling them that the dead Dr. Moreau is up in the sky, watching them.  Prendick says, “He has changed  his body . . . For a time you will not see him.  He is . . . there . . . You cannot see him.  But he can see you.  Fear the law.”  (p. 80)  This parallels exactly to the story of Jesus Christ, who “changed his body” first to come to man’s world, and then again when he died.  “For a time you will not see him” are the words of Prendick–almost identical to the words of Jesus: “Yet a little while am I with you.”  And the thought of Dr. Moreau hovering up in the sky, watching the beast people’s every move correlates with the general concept of most religions–especially Christianity–that there is an all-powerful Deity high above in the Heavens watching our every move to see whether or not we sin. 

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Wells Reflects Personal Views in “The Island”

  1. I definitely picked up on the satire, too. There are definite parallels with the religion in the book between the treatment of the beasts and Christians, how they are told to commit to these uncanny laws, and if these commands are disobeyed, there can only be death. The satire was made completely apparent when Prendick covered for Moreau’s death, claiming he is now in the sky watching over all their actions. Prendick’s ability to convince these subhumans of this farce really questions the rationality of religious faith. I almost wrote my post on the satirical nature of the novel, but I feel like the unavoidable satire did not really come through until late in the novel.

  2. Samantha Cooke

    There is, without doubt, an anti-religious undercurrent in The Island of Doctor Moreau. When reading the book, I was also struck by the mocking parallels to Christianity, which become most apparent towards the end of the book, with the death of Doctor Moreau. I found it interesting that the one man who never truly subscribed to Moreau’s beliefs, who perpetuated the myth for his own gain, was the only one who escaped the island, who “found salvation”. Also interesting to me was that, as you said, Moreau was clearly made a Jesus-figure, but the depiction of Moreau as a god is more a god of the Old Testament, of older religions, a harsher and less nurturing deity. Perhaps this is just an exaggerating element of satire, or perhaps this is Wells’ subtle way of expanding his satire to encompass multiple religions.

  3. vrosengrant20

    The text does carry elements alluding to Christianity, the society reflected by the beast people being the penultimate example. With the beast people practicing a parody of Christianity, that leads to Dr. Moreau being a twisted example of God. Dr. Moreau created the beast people by trying to change animals into a reflection of his own image and is the one that punishes the wicked in the House of Pain, the equivalent of Hell. Yet, Dr. Moreau dies in the text at the hands of one of the beast people. This event could reflect the punishment for a mortal trying to play God or as a message of how God is a farce.

  4. gpwestland

    It’s interesting to see how you read this anti-christian undertone in Well’s Island of Dr. Moreau. When I read it I felt the contrary. I have to admit that I didn’t know beforehand that he was atheist which most definitely will have influenced him in some ways. However, to me Wells depicted very well how human being tried to be like God. Indeed Dr. Moreau is pursuing his own creation and also his own religion. But then in all that we see that he fails miserably. First of all he admits that his beast people are not perfect yet and that some of his creations didn’t work out that well and second we see that the beast people themselves are in nature just beasts and are only mechanically ‘human’. They can count and say a few sentences but that’s it. I think Wells wanted to point out how human being is limited and that we can never imitate how God create everything.

  5. I agree witj your post completely. Dr. Moreau being an atheist plays a major role with his mockery of religion in the novel. By portraying hisself as (“God the Invisible King,” Wells puts this in his work when Montgomery and Prendick made their mockery of the beast people bystating the dead Dr. Moreau is up in the sky watching them. Obviously, Dr. Moreau is not God nor is H.G. wells so this accounts for his religious satire in the novel. I had no idea Wells was atheist until our class discussion and reading this post. I can see why you chose “religious satire” as a genre of the text.

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