Tag Archives: robinson crusoe

Elements of Science Fiction and Defining Humanity in The Island of Dr. Moreau

Even though the genre of The Island of Dr. Moreau can be debated, as  I read the story I interpreted as science fiction. This is due to the many scientific elements in the novel that are stretched farther than they actually go in real life. With the scientific context of the book, the reader gets the impression that these humanized animals can actually be created in the lab. During the time the book was written, this was an actual fear of many people since vivisection was just started to become present in experiments. However, today this may seem a lot more far fetched than it did at the time and would be seen as highly immoral. When explaining what is happening on the island to Prendick, Dr. Moreau mentions how it is a science that has been delved into before, thus giving the science in the story credibility. “You forget all that a skilled vivisector can do with living things…alterations in the secretion of fatty tissue. I have no doubt that you have heard of these things? ” (pg 45) Most science fiction furthers innovations and discoveries that have already been made and exaggerates them, this is exactly what H.G. Wells does in this novel. With this novel, Wells even leads the reader to question what defines humanity. The animals that Moreau has humanized in the story look enough like men, however he can never get rid of their animalistic tendencies completely. The Beast Men are in a constant battle to maintain what makes them men as opposed to beasts. Prendick makes this realization in Chapter 16, “Before, they had been beasts, their instinct fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living as things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackle of humanity…” (pg 65) This also brings the question of morality at hand, not only do they undergo an immense amount of pain during the changing of their body, they also have to live in denial of their basic instincts for the rest of their life.

This novel also relates to quite a few of the other stories that we have read for class. It makes connections with The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, An Enemy of the People, and Bluebeard. The Island of Dr. Moreau like The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe brings the theme of the Island out. Dr. Moreau’s island does differ greatly from Prospero’s and Crusoe’s island, but it has the element that Crusoe is ruling his own island. Moreau creates laws and rules over his beast men, which mirrors how Prospero and Crusoe rule their respective islands. What really sets them apart though is that Moreau creates a law system and the people on the island, whereas Prospero and Crusoe claim an already occupied island and never create laws, they just assume power. Also, Moreau lacks the colonial aspects of The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe. The Island of Dr. Moreau also draws connections with An Enemy of the People since Dr. Moreau was hated by the public when some of his lab experiments were exposed. This is very similar to how Dr. Stockmann became an enemy of the people for trying to expose the polluted water of the baths in his town. However, Moreau goes away and continues to experiment in peace while Thomas stays and tries to spread his discoveries, but clearly both are men of science and innovation. Another story we’ve read that The Island of Dr. Moreau connects with is Bluebeard, it is even mentioned in the story, “Our little island establishment here contains a secret or so, is kind of a Blue-Beard’s chamber, in fact.” Although Prendick not being allowed in the lab at first is not a defining characteristic of the novel, it still draws a very clear comparison to the fairy tale Bluebeard.

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Violence in Literature

From the stories we’ve read so far, it appears that violence has made a name for itself in literature.  It becomes an important aspect of literature in that it keeps the attention of the reader bated.  Witnessing another human (especially a beautiful, young girl) being cut up into pieces in an unholy way hooks our attention on a vulgar level.  It invokes a sense of dread to see what happens next and before we actually come to the said chopping of pieces, we sense it is coming.  So, not only does this dread increase the weight of the story, it motivates us to read farther. 

Without some act of violence (or threaten of imposing violence), there is no motive for rescue.  For example, in the Robber’s Bridegroom we know already that there is some dark fate in store for the girl when her fiancé tells her his house is “in the dark forest” and he’ll mark the way with ashes.  The sense that some grisly end awaits her at the house in the dark forest, heightens our curiosity and deepens our concern/interest in what will happen to the girl.  (In this case, however, she confronts him and rescues herself.)

In Robinson Crusoe, the act of cannibalism (or his fear of it) adds a new element to the story.  Cannibalism is what appears to be Robinson’s greatest fear on the island:  for him, living in isolation for 24 years doesn’t seem to compare to the thought of being eaten alive and is what keeps him from venturing out to the main land.  In this story, violence becomes the “added boost” to take the story to another level and provide the character (Robinson) a situation of even deeper danger.  This makes the story to (some of) us  more interesting and more worth reading. 

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