The Island of Dr. Moreau by Tina Tran

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AUTHOR'S BIOGRAPHY
         H. G. Wells (1866-1946), is an English author, socialist, and teacher, who focused his studies and writings on futuristic characters and worlds. His most renowned works are The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) and War of the Worlds (1898). Having written one of the world’s earliest modern scientific novels, Wells is considered to be one of the fathers of science fiction introduced the world to new levels of morbidity, power, and altered distinctions between man and a higher power.

         Utilizing images of robotics, World Wars, warfare tactics and weapons, Wells enhanced futuristic settings. As a prophet and pessimist, Wells’ writing epitomized global issues. His commentary integrated nonfictional and fictional elements, utopian and dystopian short stories, travel sketches, histories, and socio-political controversies. In addition to his accentuation of futuristic qualities, Wells greatly focused on both human and nonhuman qualities by creating bestial humanoids.

       Herbert George Wells was born on 21 September 1866 in Bromley, Kent County, England. Son of Sarah Neal, maid to the upper classes, and Joseph Wells, shopkeeper and professional cricket player, the Wells were poor. Wells’ parents separated, living apart from one another.

        At an early age, Wells had a natural proclivity to reading and writing. He studied at Thomas Morley’s Academy for a few years, but financial hardship eventually forced him to drop out, seeking employment. His parents unable to study for his education, Wells became an apprentice to a draper. 

        Wells won a scholarship in 1883 to the Normal School of Science in London, realizing his love for biology and Darwinism. The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) illustrated concepts of eugenics, scientific experimentation, Darwin’s theories, and religion. Unable to complete his degree, Wells lost the scholarship, challenged by financial hardship. H.G. Wells then moved to Fitzroy Road in London and began a life with his aunt and uncle, tutoring and studying at his uncle’s academy. Wells’ cousin, Isabel Mary, was married to Wells in 1891, but the marriage lasted a mere four years when he wedded Amy Catherine Robbins in 1895. Wells’ then had two sons with Robbin, George Philip and Frank Richard.  Wells had affairs with various women, who influenced his feminist characters. 

         Wells published The Time Machine (1895), The Wonderful Visit (1895), The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents (1895) and The Invisible Man (1897). Wells continued his futuristic works through essays and articles on politics, liberalism, democracy, and on society.

         Wells worked with his son, George P. Wells, who was a zoologist and author. The two also collaborated with biologist Sir Julian Huxley in writing The Science of Life (1930), touching on topics of modern civilization, government and education, comparing them in the East and West. Wells studied and observed controversial issues of fascism. His deathday was August 13, 1946 in London.

SYNOPSIS

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        H.G. Well’s science fiction, The Island of Dr. Moreau, depicts the vague distinction between man and beast. A madman, who is imprisoned on a faraway island far away from humane society, becomes entangled within his messy web of a mind. Obsessed with the concept of perfection, Moreau drives himself insane, sculpting and tearing into the bodies of nature’s creations. A lone traveler, Prendick is lost at sea, revived to health by Doctor Montgomery. Prendick travels alongside Doctor Montgomery who takes him to an unnamed island. Accompanied by his bestial companion, M’ling, Montgomery leads the journey to his mysterious island.

    Having landed on the island, the captain of the ship and Dr. Moreau refuse to offer a home for Prendick, but the islanders pity the man and provide him with a home. The animals that were stored on the ship were brought to Doctor Moreau’s hidden laboratory, housing Prendick in a separate room. Unable to control his curiosity, Prendick creeps into the laboratory after having heard horrific screams. Paralyzed with fear and horror, Prendick is introduced to Moreau’s art of vivisection. On the operation table laid a grotesque animal, bleeding from the cuts carved into its body.

       Sculpting a puma into the image of a man, Moreau’s hunger for perfection shuts out the gruesome screams of the animal. Terrified, Prendick runs into the wild jungle, encountering appaling hybrids of man and beast. Panicking, Prendick returns to his room, demanding a rational explanation from Montgomery, who refuses to speak a word. The next morning, Prendick walks into Moreau’s operation room, setting his eyes on an atrocious creature on the table. At first glance, Prendick is convinced that Moreau’s sick intentions are to vivisect humans into beasts and fears that he is the next victim in line. Scrambling into the jungle, Pendrick runs into the Ape Man who brings him to a colony of humanoids. The Sayer of the Law, who pronounced himself as leader of the colony, began to recite the law. Their law focused on humanizing the creatures, frowning down upon bestial qualities and actions.

        Moreau bursts into the colony, unable to capture Prendick who escapes into the jungle. Prendick runs towards the ocean, choosing death over becoming Moreau’s experimentation. At this point of the novel, Moreau and Montgomery explain to Prendick that their goal is to create humans from wild animals. For eleven years, Moreau was entirely consumed with the perception of perfection.  Accepting the explanation as logical, Prendick begins to live on the island.

        Walking with Montgomery throughout the jungle, Prendick spots a half-eaten rabbit. Against the Law, eating flesh and tasting blood is greatly frowned upon. Intending to further humanize the Leopard Man, Moreau calls an assembly of the Beast Men. Pitying the poor creature, Prendick shoots the Leopard Man, sparing him of the pain of Moreau’s scalpel.

        As the puma escapes from Moreau’s agonizing lab, Moreau chases after it. The two battle one another, resulting in the death of one another. Drunken, Montgomery shares his alcohol with the Beast Men. Murdered by the Beast Men, Montgomery leaves Prendick as the remaining human on the island. Fortunately for Prendick, a ship drifts ashore. Dumping the corpses from the ship, Prendick gathers his necessities and sets sail the next day.

       Picked up by another ship three days later, Prendick is perceived as insane by the crew. Avoiding censorship from society, Prendick consumes himself with the study of chemistry and astronomy. He is picked up by a ship only three days later, but when he tells his story the crew thinks he is mad. Uncomfortable among humans, Prendick cringes from the idea of vivisection, living in solitude for the remaining of his life.


THEMES

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Disfigurement:
    Disfigurement alters the appearance, form, and function of many objects. From a flower to one’s mind, disfigurement revises God’s creations. Scientists like Dr. Moreau, Frankenstein, or Dr. Jekyll are tangled in their own minds – their own confusing webs of desire. These scientists devote their lives to create a new form of life – obsessed with perfection. It is not perfection that God aims for when creating life, but imperfection. Humans are imperfect and human flaw is inevitable. These scientists devote their lives to accomplish the impossible, continuing to heighten their vanity and cruel thirst for perfection. Not only do these greedy men alter the physical appearances of others, the minds of their victims are also disfigured. Scientists are what they perform – they disfigure. Disfigurement is detrimental and when the glass cup overflows, disfigurement clings onto the minds of the foolish, clawing away every sense of reality.

ExcessivePride/Narcissism
    Excessive pride is the result of absolute power and branches from disfigurement of the mind. As the thirst for perfection and power stirs the commotion of humanity, levels of vanity and narcissism rise. It is hunger that leads to excessive pride, which is the greatest downfall of man. This vanity alters humanity’s view of life, deforming a scene of nature’s creatures to an image of screaming monsters. An obsession for perfection is the result of vanity, which transforms into a desire to gain at the harm of others. It is the thirst for hidden knowledge that is the impetus to mankind’s madness.


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Punishment
    Defying the laws of nature comes with definite punishment because those who choose to play God demolish the balance of nature. This foolishness and selfishness is accompanied by eternal punishment. The foolish is forever shunned from society, locked within the imprisonment of their minds – an inescapable, incurable madness. In a way, nature slashes back at those who disfigure its original beauty through creating obstacles that prevent the thoughtless from achieving success. Punishment also appears in the form of death as seen in The Island of Dr. Moreau, who is murdered by his creations. Sculpting human characteristics and features into a creature of nature also implants humankind’s tendency towards anger, hunger, and selfishness. This reprogramming of nature’s tendencies imbalances nature, which in turn destroys cosmic order.


RELATION TO SCIENCE & PROFIT

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        Hunger plays a relatively large role in man’s search for absolute power and knowledge. Whether it is resurrecting the dead or altering God’s creations, the art of science is driven by a fusion of curiosity, desire, and pride. Many believe that their fate is to fill the role of God – to have absolute control over all; living and dead. Fate, depicted through prophecies is unalterable. With the power of a prophet, a man who possesses the absolute knowledge may control his own destiny. Holding the knowledge of both Heaven and Earth ensures immortality, an endless life, which in turn alters the individual’s view of life. A sense of absolute authority then branches into vanity and narcissism, disfiguring one’s mind. The powers of God are only suitable for gods and are detrimental to humans. Those too weak and foolish are completely destroyed by the extremities of absolute knowledge and power. As water overflows out of a glass cup, so do the knowledge and life from the fragile minds and bodies of mankind.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

At, Art Sonic. "H.G. Wells - Biography and Works." The Literature Network: Online Classic         Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Web. 30 May 2010.     <http://www.online-literature.com/wellshg/>.

"GradeSaver: The Island of Dr. Moreau Study Guide : Short Summary." Study Guides & Essay         Editing | GradeSaver. Web. 30 May 2010. <http://www.gradesaver.com/the-island-of-dr-moreau/study-guide/short-summary/>.

Wells, H.G. The
Island of Dr. Moreau. Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor, 2008. Print.