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What I am reading

this is the highly subjective way I read and interpret literature

(I mostly read classic belles-lettres, but you’ll find some examples of trashy readings here and there as well)

This is what science without the humanities would look like

The Island of Doctor Moreau - H.G. Wells

A little heads-up: there’s a long review following.


As a big fan of H. G. Wells, I was planning on reading The Island of Doctor Moreau for quite some time and I am glad that I finally got around to do it.
The beginning of this novel was really great, but then I fount it to get a bit messy. There are a lot (yes, A LOT) of passages in which Prendick is wandering around the island and describes the jungle, the beach or just the landscape in general. I absolutely don’t mind that, but many of those passages were so oddly placed. For example, if you were a castaway on a strange island and being chased (because you were a bit naive and hysterical) until you can hardly stay afoot, would you just sit down and start wondering about your beautiful surroundings? Maybe those action scenes were a bit much for the audience back then and Wells had to calm them down with the description of a nice beach or a clear stream after all the excitement? Whatever the reason, many of those landscape-parts definitely felt odd.

Also, how can Prendick be so naive and stubbornly wrong? To be honest, it is quite clear from the very beginning, that Moreau is trying to turn animals into humans and not the other way round as Prendick beliefs for quite a long time.
I also don’t understand this late 19th century revulsion at „strange“ creatures. Although Prendick goes constantly back and forth between repulsion, fear, pity, and sometimes even sympathy I think, I cannot understand why he is disgusted by the „Beast People“ and not by Dr. Moreau.

The one character I do understand is Montgomery. He and the „Beast People“ are actually the only ones I am considering as being human. Moreau is obviously portrayed as the mad scientist and Prendick (especially in the last third of the novel) is the impersonation of English imperialism, arrogance and presumptuousness. Instead of being thankful to the animals for accepting him as one of their own, instead of cooperating with them and treating them with respect, he tries to rule them. He tries to make himself their new master and enslave them. And why? Because he thinks himself superior (although he clearly is not, because he relies on the help of the „Beast People“ for food and protection).

But what is The Island of Doctor Moreau I wonder? Is it a pamphlet against blind and cruel science? Against the „I do what I must, because I can“ dictum some people adopt as soon as they put on a lab coat? Is it Wells attempt to show that man is not special, but just another animal? Or is there also a hint of the exact same fear of „going native“, of the de-evolution from man back to beast that haunted Joseph Conrad so much?

If I have learned anything from those innumerable hours of watching the classic Dr. Who, it is that one crucial question which everybody should ask themselves whenever any other creature is impacted by ones action: „do I have the right?“ If Moreau would have done so, he might have been a better doctor.