Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Just as an introduction to H.G.Wells's novel here while I have the book at home! My youngest son has swiped it off to read at school and I've snuck it out of his backpack to node about it while he's on Winter Break. I have yet to see a movie that does justice to what H.G. Wells intended in his writings...the moral questions inherent in the meanings of his writing, while the two movies that I know of appear to focus on the special effects of horror it really is worth the read for theological insights. Now available in The Great Grand E2 Book Lotto! .
H. G. Wells along with the likes of Jules Verne gave birth to the genres of science fiction and fantasy. While Verne focused on the hard science story, Wells reflected on fanciful science. They both envisioned and wrote about a terrific number of scientific advancements a century before science caught up with their speculations.
Wells predates even Hitler's death camps in The Island of Dr. Moreau as he tells the story of a mad scientist that has been banned from London and socially exiled by his peers to an uncharted island in the middle of the Pacific. Here he goes forward to carry out his appalling surgical experiments on both imported and indigenous animals with the goal of turning them into human beings.
Pendrick becomes shipwrecked and an unwitting guest, horrified at first, accepting in the interim and finally he becomes the leader of the poor creatures Moreau has altered both in brain and body.....
"If I may say it," said I, after a time. "you have saved my life"
"Chance," he answered; "just chance."
"I prefer to make my thanks to the accessible agent."
Thank no one. You had the need, and I the knowledge, and I injected and fed you much as I might have collected a specimen. I was bored, and wanted something to do. If I'd been jaded that day, or hadn't liked your face, well--; it's a curious question where you would have been now."
This damped my mood a little.
"At any rate--" I began.
It's chance, I tell you," he interrupted, "as everything is in man's life. Only the asses won't see it. Why am I here now-- an outcast from civilization--instead of being a happy man, enjoying all the pleasures of London? Simply because--eleven years ago--I lost my head for ten minutes on a foggy night."
Well's grabs far into the human psyche, even beyond the physical attributes of humans and dares to define humanity, to ask about the very existence of the creature within each of us, and inquires of the reader.....mayhap, given the right set of circumstances and the lack of civilized laws, we too could revert to the wild.
Today, organ transplants happen daily, but the year this story was published 1896, even speculating about these ideas, much less trans-species implantations, was cause enough to be exiled without question from the medical community.
The theological implications of The Island of Dr. Moreau are undeniable. The creatures worship Moreau "their creator," keep his laws as commandments and are punished if they transgress those laws. Moreau suddenly dies leaving the haplessly shipwrecked Pendick struggling uncertainly to control the lesser brained beasts by alluding that a vengeful Moreau will return if they don't continue to keep the law. He preys on their fears of being subjected to more surgery in The House of Pain......and the reader is sympathetic to his plight of unwitting compliance to Moreau's legacy.
Then Well's serves a crushing blow...all of the creatures return to the wild after the breakdown of the laws. The threat of pain isn't enough to keep the mark of the beast from creeping back in and overcoming their underlying natures and they revert. Even as Moreau 'saw' the man in all creatures, Wells shows the reader the beast in all men....he asks us to answer hard questions.....Are they our laws that keeps us civilized? Are they our civil laws that keep man in order? Would the beast that is in us , which is always seeking self-aggrandizement, overcome our higher sense of altruism if there were no laws, no leaders, or nothing worthy of our faith?...questions Wells dare to ask us and we ourselves. A fascinating read full of vivid imagery, exciting and horrifying opening up new avenues of thought challenging the reader to a difficulty and important introspections....... truly a mark of great literature.
The Island of Dr. Moreau is Well's second major classic work of fiction after The Time Machine Each of his works is fraught with philosophical questions. Clearly throughout his body of work he was a man clutched in moral conflict, and his dark pessimistic view of mankind's future makes for brilliant fiction. He imagined himself as a social architect and cautionary prophet spending the decade of the 1930's warning that humankind was posed on the brink of disaster, crusading for a new social order through his many essays on constructive sociology.
Wells died in 1946 at the age of 80 after a lifetime of writing over one hundred books, short stories and articles.

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