Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reflections: The Island of Doctor Moreau

Adam C. Zern opines on H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau:

"Having read The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, I knew H.G. Wells could put together an entertaining and intriguing story.  The Island of Dr. Moreau is intriguing at times but not terribly entertaining.  Its more macabre story has some symbolism worth debating but the overall narrative fell a little flat.

To begin with, I didn't care all that much about the protagonist, Edward Pendrick.  As a reader, you don't know that much about him and aren't exactly filled with compassion when his life is imperiled.  Pendrick reacts to his circumstances and provides an outlet for the audience to feel as confused and uncertain as he does but there's not much else to him.  Neither Montgomery or Moreau, the other two main human characters in the story, give very much to sympathize with.  Moreau's efforts in vivisection and subsequently re-writing the rules of nature aren't explored enough in the book, except for a brief speech by Moreau and the time the reader is given to spend with his creations, to truly understand Moreau or care about what he's doing, whether that caring were to lead to approbation or hatred. 

The most interesting aspect of the story is the pseudo-society established by Moreau's creations.  Their Law and its controlling influence has a parallel to human societies and their morals, mores, and laws.  I think it's hard to ignore Wells' slight at religion in The Island of Dr. Moreau, but that's merely my perception of what the story was attempting to portray.  That portion of the book is the one worth debating.  None would defend vivisection but I think there can be a very vigorous debate had regarding what law, religious or otherwise, does for our human nature.  Is there such a thing as human nature or are we merely just showing a more refined sense of our animal nature?  Can our more bestial tendencies truly be tamed?  The Island of Dr. Moreau at least provides an avenue to discuss those interesting topics.

Of the three H.G. Wells books I've read thus far, The Island of Dr. Moreau was definitely my least favorite.  It came and went without my noticing all that much.  There are a few ideas in the book worth pondering, but nothing compelling enough to recommend it above other far more interesting books."

Other Topics of Interest
Reflections: The Time Machine
Reflections: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Reflections: The Lost World
Book of the Month: October

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