The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
Here we have a true classic by a master observer of the human creature. I first became aware of this tale when I saw the movie in the late 1970’s, as a child. I enjoyed it, although so much time has passed since then that I have no idea if that big screen adaptation remained true to the novel, although I suspect not. It was remade in 1996 but that film does not feature in my mind, so either it was crap or else I didn’t see it (or I have received a brain injury that excluded that particular feature).
In any event, the title is known the world over, and we can only imagine the stir it caused upon its publication in 1896. Considering that the Time Machine was published in 1895, and The Invisible Man in 1897, we can see just how big a sensation Wells must have been in his day. I expect his artistic bed was never empty (typical male, I hear you women say, always fixated on sex).
Edward Prendrick is an educated seafarer who finds himself stranded on an unnamed island (Noble’s Isle is suggested) in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. It is here that Prendrick meets the charismatic Dr Moreau, a discredited English vivisectionist who, along with his colleague Montgomery, is engaged in a range of incredibly gruesome experiments and procedures upon a variety of animal species.
As Edward becomes aware of the true nature of the island and the numerous humanesque figures he observes, he endures a massive moral and emotional crisis. Moreau has assumed a god-like status among the creatures, his creations, but it transpires that even gods can fall.
The pace of The Island of Doctor Moreau is relentless. It’s not a long novel, yet a full and intriguing adventure is solidly presented. It has aged well. There are many opinions upon the metaphorical layers of this story. I believe that it is, like Orwell’s Animal Farm, a commentary upon aspects of humanity and, in particular, the European penchant for setting themselves up as colonial masters (and Lords) over a brutalized populace, who are then moulded to better fit the social norms of European culture and behaviour.
H.G. Wells was a known socialist and humanitarian, at a time when the major powers of Europe were involved in a free-for-all global land grab, with the resultant suffering and barbaric practices that such wrought.
The creatures of The Island of Doctor Moreau are a varied bunch in differing levels of distress. They are obliged to conform to ‘human ways’ but, as Moreau ominously points out, ‘The stubborn beast flesh grows day by day back again…’ It will be seen that even as European culture was imposed upon foreign lands, the original ways of the indigenous people returned and the colonies thus fell. The Island of Doctor Moreau can be seen, in that context, as a damning indictment of colonialism.
If we consider the human character of Moreau’s creatures, we can see the improprieties involved in the mating rituals which now span both human and animal. The issue of bestiality is unavoidably apparent, with suggestions by some commentators that Moreau was in the process of designing a feline-based ‘mate’ for himself. It’s hard to know if that is the case in this novel, as evidence for such is scant.
Whilst on the subject, I wonder why the term is not ‘beastiality’ as opposed to bestiality? I would have thought that it would be preferable not to have the word ‘best’ associated with any practice that involves humans having sex with animals. But then, what do I know?
I am of the opinion, however, that Melania Trump should be prosecuted for such an offence as having sex with an animal, as her husband is certainly a pig. I would forego pressing any charges of her causing harm to an animal, as Donald is one brute that I feel no sympathy for. But that’s another story.
The Island of Doctor Moreau is an entertaining read. It’s one that I would recommend, if only to knock it off your list of renowned classics that must be read. Pride and Prejudice is not on that list. Nor is any play by William Shakespeare. At least H.G. Wells writes in a manner that can be easily interpreted, some 121 years later. I haven’t a fricking clue about half of what ole Willy was on about, and am too disinterested to try. Am I a bad person?
You will finish The Island of Doctor Moreau in two or three light sittings, and I hope that you will take some small measure of satisfaction from it. At least then, when Hollywood does the inevitable remake starring Anthony Hopkins as Moreau, Daniel Craig as Prendrick, and Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman as two of the mutated creatures, you will feel mighty smug having read the original. and the best.
Sult scale rating: 7 out of 10. Good enough to keep you out of trouble for a time.