Chris's Reviews > The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
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May 07, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-reads, 2012-favorites, all-time-favorites
Read in May, 2012

Reading The Invisible Man inspired me to re-read this classic. I will be writing a review when I finish.

*******

It isn't a surprise that The Island of Dr. Moreau is often listed as one of top 100 novels of all time. Dripping with atmosphere and filled with a pitch dark portrayal of the suffering inflicted on the world by man's callous and wanton infliction of pain and atrocity in the name of "science," The Island of Dr. Moreau provides an anti-creation story with the amoral Dr. Moreau as God the creator. With hardly an unnecessary word, this short novel rushes relentlessly through a nightmarish landscape to a dark, inevitable conclusion, leaving deep philosophical, scientific, and theological unease in the reader.

Pendrick is ship-wrecked and rescued by Montgomery, a fellow Englishman who is in the process of transporting animals to an island in the South Pacific. Of particular note is Montgomery's assistant, whose aspect and physiology are unsettling. He seems to be animalistic in features and movement. The other sailors share Pendrick's unease and summarily throw Montgomery, his assistant, and their animals, along with Pendrick, off the ship upon reaching their destination. If the assistant was unnatural in appearance, he is nothing compared to the "men" that assist in bringing the party ashore to what Pendrick later discovers is an island under the charge of Dr. Moreau---a literary figure rivaling Ahab in obsession and malevolence.

Moreau and Mongomery make no attempt to disguise what is happening on the island as Pendrick is quickly driven outside by the screams of agony of Moreau's latest experiment. Pendrick describes the screams as "if all the suffering in the world were given one voice." Running to the beach in fear and to escape the awful suffering, Pendrick encounters the other residents of the island---the "men" and other creatures created by Moreau on this anti-Eden with Moreau as a demonic counter-part to God.

Transformed and reborn in the pain of Moreau's scalpels, the island is populated by hybrids of all types of animals. Some human in form, some animal, some the stuff of nightmares that make one think of Lovecraft's monsters. These creatures are held in place by "the Law" which governs their behavior and a twisted form of society that places Moreau at the apex as its Creator and God.

Moreau's control of his Eden is tenuous as it requires him to maintain his God-like stature in the eyes of the "men" who are reverting daily more and more to their animal instincts. Even as the nightmare moves towards its inevitable conclusion, we are left to wonder, along with Pendrick, at what truly is the difference between man and the other animals, as well as the use and value of science and religion in society.

Wells later classified this book as a "an exercise in youthful blashphemy" and one can clearly see why he might say this as Moreau creates commandments ("the Law" of the creatures), the threat of torment (in "The House of Pain") and places himself as the creator and God of creation to keep control over these creatures. This makes Moreau that much worse than even the most terrible of his creatures because, even as he describes the abominations created by Moreau, Pendrick tells us that while animals are capable of terrible violence and cruelty, "it takes a real man to lie."
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message 1: by Charlene (new) - added it

Charlene You know, I don't think I've ever read Dr. Moreau? How did I miss that?


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