The Island of Dr. Moreau

Meet the Author:

H. G. Wells (website)
     Herbert George Wells was born September 21, 1866 in Bromley, Kent County, England. As a child, his affinity for literature was jumpstarted by an injured leg leaving him with too much free time. Intrigued by the new worlds books offered and hoping to write his own book, he entered a private school. His family’s financial misfortune forced him to leave and take a variety of jobs before receiving a scholarship to a London college. There, he learned biology under Thomas Huxley. When he took to writing, his studies in biology inspired The Island of Dr. Moreau. His later writings held a strong political slant, leading to a steady loss of reputation as his later works promoted unpopular ideas. Wells died on August 13, 1946 at the age of 79.

Book Summary:

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          Edward Prendick is shipwrecked and is brought by his rescuers to an isolated island. The island is inhabited by strange animalistic people and led by an infamous scientist named Dr. Moreau. Horrified by the excrutiating screams and the thought that he would become the next test subject, Prendick flees. Moreau’s assistant, Montgomery, explains that Moreau is trying to create humans from beasts and that Prendick is not in danger. However, the most dangerous beasts begin to rebel against the laws they were given and Moreau’s latest experiment breaks free, leaving Moreau and Montgomery dead. Prendick spends months trying to escape the island, during which the Beast Men increasingly revert to their animal natures. After returning to civilization, he finds himself unable to tolerate other people, seeing beasts in them.


          Wells, when writing The Island of Dr. Moreau, drew upon modern issues. At the time during which the novel was written, British scientists were in disagreement over the issue of animal vivisection. Animals were not thought to suffer until the late 1700s. Groups for protecting animals began to form in the 1800s. By the end of the 1800s, the British scientific community was split on the vivisection of animals. Meanwhile, throughout Europe, concern was rising that the evolution of humanity would reverse. The looming threat of degenerate criminals toppling known society sent shockwaves through Western civilization, eventually culminating in the 1900s in the form of eugenics programs.


          The major themes explored are reflected in Wells’ inspirations. There is a divide between a human and an animal that is paradoxically wide yet narrow. The Beast Men are unlike humans in that they are utterly non-human and are almost universally rejected or reviled. At the same time, they scream in suffering or dread the divine punishment of their great leader like a human. Through his invasive surgeries, Beast Men living spaces, and the Law, Moreau tried to shape the Beast Men into mimicries of human form and society. This did not grant them humanity but emphasized the divide. At heart, they are not humans even though they are able to suffer all the same. The other major theme of the book is the limitations of what can be done in the name of science. Moreau is trying to break a natural boundary of living beings by painfully cutting open existing life and changing it to match it to his own image. Moreau makes them like humans yet they are not treated like a human, just a mockery of civilization for whom he is the deity.

Science and Profit

          The Island of Dr. Moreau is a lesson in the dangers of uncontrolled experimentation. Dr. Moreau is shown experimenting without restraint to satisfy his curiosity and profit from reaching where others drew the line. His utter disregard for the pains his experimental subjects suffer lead to a scandal and his ejection from the scientific community. In isolation, he continued unabated and was killed by his own creation. Moreau is not necessarily out for money as the word profit would suggest but his reasons nevertheless are about improving his status.

Word Count: 660

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Last Updated: 6/2/10 at 9:34 P.M. PST

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