At times exhilarating, and at times a spectacle of science, The Island of Doctor Moreau still holds up today. It’s hard to believe it was written in 1896, where it garnered much backlash from the general public.
They believed it to be blasphemous (more on that later), and downright disturbing. It’s funny to think that back in those days people were so easily offended; whereas now – people are, well, easily offended!
Last month, I read The Exorcist, and as you can imagine, the religious themes on show there are much more direct.
The story is an account of Edward Prendick, an Englishman who becomes shipwrecked. He’s rescued and brought to an Island by Montgomery, one of Doctor Moreau’s creations.
This leads Prendick to discover the secrets of the Island and the horrific scientific research that’s taking place. He also meets Doctor Moreau, who plays God amongst his creations; trying to further both his research and the evolution of mammals.
Creating a Theme
There’s certainly a theme of divine creation going on here. What right does man have to create new breeds of creatures, especially those that fall between the valley of human and animal?
It also poses questions about the order in which we are ruled.
The creatures believe that Doctor Moreau is the all-powerful God; most importantly, always watching over them and judging their actions. This is why they dare not; walk on four legs, drink from puddles, eat the flesh of other animals, claw at trees or chase man.
By reiterating this law amongst themselves, they’re further solidifying Moreau’s beliefs into their own living capacity, as well as every newcomer to the tribe.
Although the story is conclusive and offers a unique perspective on society, there were times when I felt the book was a little lacklustre.
Thankfully, these phases were few and far between; even in a book of this size.
In an essay titled ‘The Limits of Individual Plasticity‘, H.G. Wells explains the reasons why he believes the science in his book is plausible. This includes the vivisection experiments to bond the DNA of both humans and animals.
Despite these claims, modern science has shown that this isn’t the case.
The Island of Doctor Moreau is a well thought out book that raises plenty of questions on the morality of creation and manipulation. Who are we to interfere with nature? And what gives others the right to rule over us?