Tag Archives: The Island of Dr. Moreau

Parallels between Jurassic Park and The Island of Doctor Moreau

After analyzing The Island of Doctor Moreau, I was reminded of the film Jurassic Park. I feel that these two stories share many similarities, both in their structure and in their possible messages. Both stories take place on a tropical island, remote from civilization for the sake of privacy. In The Island of Doctor Moreau, there is even something reminiscent of prehistoric times in the description of the island: “It was low, and covered with thick vegetation, chiefly of the inevitable palm trees” (Wells 17). The island is also volcanic and rocky. Compare it to some pictures from the film: (one) and (two). This setting gives the islands a wilder feel, that there is something not quite controlled about them.

Both begin with an outsider (Prendick in one, and a Dr. Grant in the other) introduced to the island. The outsiders have different proposed roles in the story, but they serve much of the same function for the plot: they pass judgment on the science they observe and bear witness to the disintegration of the careful plans of the creators. In both, the scientists (utilizing methods that were very popular at the time) attempt to “play God” – to manipulate life to an extent never dreamed of until that point. Both Hammond (the mind behind Jurassic Park) and Moreau took an existing technology and extended it further than anyone else. But they reach too far in their goals, and their creations go bad.

There is some foreshadowing of this loss of control in each. In Jurassic Park, this comes from the initial attack of the raptor on the park worker, the incident which calls for outside interference. Later we learn that the dinosaurs, despite all being bred to be female, are also somehow reproducing, breaking a “law” – this one of nature, that females cannot breed with each other. In The Island of Doctor Moreau, this comes from the dead rabbit carcass, and breaks the law established by Moreau that the Beast Men are not to eat meat. Despite all of their “prettying up” with science to control them, the base nature of the animals comes out.

In Jurassic Park, the collapse of the park is brought about by Dennis Nedry. He fits into a villain stereotype of the time in that he is bumbling, slovenly, and fat, reflective of a general societal disdain for men who fit that description. In The Island of Doctor Moreau, the end is catalyzed by the cougar breaking free of her confines. I found it interesting that this is a female creature who is to blame for the downfall of the island – perhaps this, like in JP, reflects how society viewed women?

And in the end, there are lessons to be drawn. Both are cautionary tales of hubris in scientific endeavors and in meddling with what we do not understand fully.

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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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“Books—bright windows in this life of ours, lit by the shining souls of men.”– The Island of Dr. Moreau as Science Fiction

H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau is a highly versatile novel which can easily be classified within numerous genres. However, the most applicable genre to the theme of the novel and the overall specifics is that of science fiction. Science fiction can be defined as the stylistic genre which incorporates elements of the unreal, specifically through use of technology or scientific discoveries, in order to create novelty. Because of the setting of the novel, the overall mystique surrounding the island, and additionally the experimentation which takes place in this work, The Island of Doctor Moreau is a novel which deftly adheres to the definition of what science fiction entails.

The situation which surrounds Prendick’s salvation is one of mystery. The events seem fantastical and purely by chance. Floating in and out of consciousness, Prendick is unaware of how he is saved and who he is saved by. Unsure of who to owe his salvation to, the reflective period of the first few chapters aid to the mystery. As one that was unaware of his surroundings, the beginning of the novel has an air of uncertainty and the idea of Prendrick being an unreliable witness to his own salvation is established. The entire novel, in fact, is reliant upon Prendrick’s disbelief at the situation he has found himself in. This air of mystery of the island and its inhabitants reinforces the unreal aspect of science fiction genre.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the experimentation which takes place on the island is the integral aspect which stabilizes this novel’s science fiction classification. “These creatures you have seen are animals carven and wrought into new shapes. To that– to the study of the plasticity of living forms– my life has been devoted (53)”. As Doctor Moreau explains to Prendrick in this quotation, the “humans” which Prendrick has been encountering on the island were not born into their present state. The experimentation of Doctor Moreau molds and mutilates them into something supernatural, also reminiscent of science fiction. With the unnatural experimentation as the vehicle for advancement on the island, The Island of Dr. Moreau can further be cemented as a work of science fiction.

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Science Fiction and Fairy Tales

I think it is quite difficult to place The Island of Dr. Moreau into one specific genre.  H.G. Wells wrote this book at a time before science fiction was really considered a genre of literature.  With this being so, I do believe the genre that most fits this book is science fiction.  I also believe that some aspects of fairy tales are present in this book.

I think this book does fit into the genre of science fiction for a few reasons.  First of all, the subject of this story involves scientists!  Vivisection, the main subject of this book is very much a science fiction idea.  The fact that some of the characters in the book were vivisecting animals to make them into humans is absolutely absurd, and quite horrifying.  Especially with European scientists having a big debate about the ethics involved with animal vivisection at the time this book was written; makes the book and its subject even more scary.

One way The Island of Dr. Moreau connects to other things, (specifically fairy tales) that we have read so far, happens near the beginning of the book.  An old man, who we later find out is Dr. Moreau tells Prendick, “Our little establishment here contains a secret or so, is a kind of Bluebeard’s Chamber, in fact” (Wells 21).  I was so shocked when I read this in the book!  This is a blatant connection to fairy tales, for “Bluebeard’s Chamber” contained the bodies of the past wives he had.  If anyone reading this book knew anything about Bluebeard, they would know if a secret “kind of like Bluebeard’s Chamber” was on that island, it would have to be a huge and horrifying secret.

The fairy tale of Bluebeard served as a lesson (when it was told orally and especially once it had been written down) to be learned and a forewarning to wives about how terrible marriage can be.  I believe The Island of Dr. Moreau teaches the same kind of lesson; being that advances in science and attempting to control nature will not work.  Nature will most always run its course.

 

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