Tag Archives: vivisection

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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Space, Aliens, and the Unknown?

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a very interesting work since it can be classified into many different genres, but I believe it fits best in the genre of science fiction. According to Wikipedia, science fiction is a genre “dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting.” Since the main theme of the story is vivisection and the transformation of animals into humans through scientific means, I feel like it almost fits almost perfectly into this genre.

When I think of science fiction, my mind immediately goes to the Star Wars saga. While that may be a little more typical science fiction, according to the definition given above, The Island of Dr. Moreau fits as well. Vivisection was a very contentious topic in Britain around the time of the publishing of this work (“Our History”, par. 4), and the central idea to this novel is what the implications of this technology would be.

When Prendick first saw the Beast People, he thought of how “never before had (he) seen such bestial-looking creatures” and with the realization that they were almost human in form but had “an irresistible suggestion of a hog” (Wells 29) sent him into shock and questioning what they were and the situation he was in. The idea of animals turned into humans is very strange, and gives me the same feeling as something alien, which leads me to put this work in with other science fiction works as well.

 

“Our History.” British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. BAUV, n.d. Web. 7 Feb 2011. <http://www.buav.org/about-us/our-history/&gt;.

 

 

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