The Island of Doctor Moreau
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First edition cover
|Author||H. G. Wells|
|Published||1896 (Heinemann, Stone & Kimball|
|Preceded by||The Wonderful Visit|
|Followed by||The Wheels of Chance|
The Island of Doctor Moreau is an 1896 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, who called it "an exercise in youthful blasphemy". The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection. The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature.
At the time of the novel's publication in 1896, there was growing discussion in Europe regarding degeneration and animal vivisection. Several interest groups were formed to oppose vivisection, the two largest being the National Anti-Vivisection Society in 1875 and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection in 1898.
The Island of Doctor Moreau is the account of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked Englishman with a scientific education. A passing ship takes him aboard, and a man named Montgomery revives him. Prendick also meets a grotesque bestial native named M'ling, who appears to be Montgomery's manservant. The ship is transporting a number of animals which belong to Montgomery. As they approach the island, Montgomery's destination, the captain demands Prendick leave the ship with Montgomery. Montgomery explains that he will not be able to host Prendick on the island. Despite this, the captain leaves Prendick in a dinghy and sails away. Seeing that the captain has abandoned Prendick, Montgomery takes pity and rescues him. As ships rarely pass the island, Prendick will be housed in an outer room of an enclosed compound.
The island belongs to Dr. Moreau. Prendick remembers that he has heard of Moreau, formerly an eminent physiologist in London whose gruesome experiments in vivisection had been publicly exposed.
The next day, Moreau begins working on a puma. Prendick gathers that Moreau is performing a painful experiment on the animal, and its anguished cries drive Prendick out into the jungle. While he wanders, he comes upon a group of people who seem human but have an unmistakable resemblance to hogs. As he walks back to the enclosure, he suddenly realises he is being followed by a figure in the jungle. He panics and flees, and the figure gives chase. As his pursuer bears down on him, Prendick manages to stun him with a stone and observes the pursuer is a monstrous hybrid of animal and man. When Prendrick returns to the enclosure and questions Montgomery, Montgomery refuses to be open with him. After failing to get an explanation, Prendick finally gives in and takes a sleeping draught.
Prendick awakes the next morning with the previous night's activities fresh in his mind. Seeing that the door to Moreau's operating room has been left unlocked, he walks in to find a humanoid form lying in bandages on the table before he is ejected by a shocked and angry Moreau. He believes that Moreau has been vivisecting humans and that he is the next test subject. He flees into the jungle where he meets an Ape-Man who takes him to a colony of similarly half-human/half-animal creatures. Their leader is a large grey thing named the Sayer of the Law who has him recite a strange litany called the Law that involves prohibitions against bestial behaviour and praise for Moreau.
Suddenly, Dr. Moreau bursts into the colony looking for Prendick, but Prendick escapes to the jungle. He makes for the ocean, where he plans to drown himself rather than allow Moreau to experiment on him. Moreau explains that the creatures called the Beast Folk were not formerly men, but rather animals. Prendick returns to the enclosure, where Moreau explains that he has been on the island for eleven years and has been striving to make a complete transformation of an animal to a human. He explains that while he is getting closer to perfection, his subjects have a habit of reverting to their animal form and behaviour. Moreau regards the pain he inflicts as insignificant and an unavoidable side effect in the name of his scientific experiments.
One day, Prendick and Montgomery encounter a half-eaten rabbit. Since eating flesh and tasting blood are strong prohibitions, Dr. Moreau calls an assembly of the Beast Folk and identifies the Leopard-Man (the same one that chased Prendick the first time he wandered into the jungle) as the transgressor. Knowing that he will be sent back to Moreau's compound for more painful sessions of vivisection, the Leopard-Man flees. Eventually the group corners him in some undergrowth, but Prendick takes pity and shoots him to spare him from further suffering. Prendick also believes that although the Leopard-Man was seen breaking several laws, such as drinking water bent down like an animal, chasing men (Prendick), and running on all fours, the Leopard-Man was not solely responsible for the deaths of the rabbits. It was also the Hyena-Swine, the next most dangerous Beast Man on the island. Moreau is furious that Prendick killed the Leopard-Man but can do nothing about the situation.
As time passes, Prendick becomes inured to the grotesqueness of the Beast Folk. However one day, the puma rips free of its restraints and escapes from the lab. Moreau pursues it, but the two end up killing each other. Montgomery breaks down and decides to share his alcohol with the Beast Folk. Prendick resolves to leave the island but later hears a commotion outside, in which Montgomery dies after a scuffle with the Beast Folk. At the same time, the compound burns down because Prendick has knocked over a lamp. With no chance of saving any of the provisions stored in the enclosure, Prendick realises that during the night Montgomery has also destroyed the only boats on the island.
Prendick lives with the Beast Folk on the island for months after the deaths of Moreau and Montgomery. As the time goes by, the Beast Folk increasingly revert to their original animal instincts, beginning to hunt the island's rabbits, returning to walking on all fours, and leaving their shared living areas for the wild. They cease to follow Prendick's instructions and eventually the Hyena-Swine kills his faithful companion, a Dog-Man created from a St. Bernard, before being shot dead by Prendick in self-defence. Luckily for Prendick, since his efforts to build a raft have been unsuccessful, a boat that carries two corpses drifts onto the beach (perhaps the captain of the ship that picked Prendick up and a sailor). Prendick uses the boat to leave the island and is picked up three days later. But when he tells his story he is thought to be mad, so he feigns amnesia.
Back in England, Prendick is no longer comfortable in the presence of humans who seem to him to be about to revert to the animal state. He leaves London and lives in near-solitude in the countryside, devoting himself to chemistry as well as astronomy, in the studies of which he finds some peace.
- Edward Prendick – The narrator and protagonist.
- Doctor Moreau – A vivisectionist who has fled scandal to live on a remote island in the Pacific to pursue his research of perfecting his Beast Folk.
- Montgomery – Dr. Moreau's assistant and Prendick's rescuer. A medical doctor who enjoyed a measure of happiness in England. An alcoholic who feels some sympathy for the Beast Folk.
- Beast Folk – Animals which Moreau has experimented upon, giving them human traits via vivisection for which the surgery is extremely painful. They include:
- M'ling – Montgomery's servant. Moreau combined a bear, a dog, and an ox to create him.
- Sayer of the Law – A large, grey, unspecified animal that recites Dr. Moreau's teachings about being men to the other Beast Folk.
- Leopard-Man – A leopard-based rebel who breaks the Law by running on all fours and chasing Prendick.
- Hyena-Swine – A carnivorous hybrid of hyena and pig who becomes Prendick's enemy in the wake of Dr. Moreau's death.
- Satyr-Man – A goat creature. Prendrick describes him as unsettling and "Satanic" in form.
- Fox-Bear Witch – A female hybrid of fox and bear who passionately supports the Law. Prendick quickly takes a dislike to her.
- Sloth Creature – A small, pink sloth-based creation described by Prendick as resembling a flayed child.
- Dog-Man – A Beast Man created from a St. Bernard who, near the end of the book, becomes Prendick's faithful companion. He is so like a domestic dog in character that Prendick is barely surprised when he reverts to a more animalistic form. Dog-Man is later killed by the Hyena-Swine.
- Ape-Man – A monkey or ape creature that considers himself equal to Prendick and refers to himself and Prendick as "Five Men", because they both have five fingers on each hand, which is uncommon among the Beast Folk. He is the first Beast Man other than M'ling whom Prendick speaks to. He has what he refers to as "Big Thinks" which, on his return to England, Prendick likens to a priest's sermon at the pulpit.
- Wolf-Bear – A hybrid of a Wolf and a Bear who is briefly mentioned during the hunt for the Leopard Man.
- Ox-Bear – A hybrid of an Oxen and a Bear who appears after Montgomery's death.
- Half finished Puma-Woman – The last beast person created by Moreau. She is half way through her process of being turned into one of the Beast Folk; however she is in so much pain from the surgery that she uses her strength to break free of his restraints and escape from the house of pain. Moreau then chases after her with a revolver but he and the Puma fight and kill each other.
The novel has been adapted into films and other works, on multiple occasions:
- Ile d'Epouvante (1913, The Island of Terror), a French silent film (also spelled L'Ile d'Epouvante and Isle d'epouvante). The 23-minute two-reeler film was directed by Joe Hamman in 1911 and then released in 1913. By late 1913, the film had been picked up by US distributor George Kleine and renamed The Island of Terror for its release in Chicago.
- Terror Is a Man (1959), with Francis Lederer, Greta Thyssen, and Richard Derr. This Filipino film, directed by Gerardo de Leon, was reissued in the United States as Blood Creature (1964). Leon partnered with Eddie Romero to direct and release two follow-up films in 1968: Brides of Blood and Mad Doctor of Blood Island. All three were produced by Lynn-Romero Productions.
- At the age of 13, Tim Burton made an amateur adaptation of Wells' novel, The Island of Doctor Agor (1971).
- The Twilight People (1972), starring John Ashley and with an early role for Pam Grier, was Eddie Romero's version of the original story.
- Joseph Silva turned The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), with Burt Lancaster and Michael York, into a derivative published by Ace.
- In The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), with Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, and Ron Perlman, Dr. Moreau introduced human DNA into the animals in his possession in order to make them more human.
- Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, a 2014 documentary on the notorious production of the 1996 release.
- Seattle, Washington's Taproot Theatre Company performed Sean Gaffney's theatrical adaptation of the novel in 1999. The performance was filmed by Globalstage Productions and is available on video.
- The Simpsons annual Halloween special adapted the novel as a segment in their "Treehouse of Horror XIII" episode called The Island of Dr. Hibbert, in which the doctor invites unsuspecting Springfield residents to his island resort, and turns them into animals.
- The film Dr. Moreau's House of Pain (2004), made by cult horror studio Full Moon Pictures, is billed as a sequel to the novel.
The story, as well as the Litany of the Law, have inspired multiple derivative works and popular culture references.
- The Madman's Daughter trilogy, written by Megan Shepherd, tells the story of Dr. Moreau's daughter, Juliet. However, each book is based on a different classic novel: the first book is based on this novel by H.G. Wells, the second one on Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde (1886), and the final book is based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818).
- In chapter 61 of The Fallen (2013), book five of Charlie Higson's post-apocalyptic horror series, The Enemy, the expedition party from the museum encounters a strange set of malformed children at the biomedical company Promithios, who recite the Litany of the Law.
- The Only Living Boy the young-adult graphic novel by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis comics is described by the author as a hybrid of The Jungle Book and The Island of Docotor Moreau. The character, Doctor Once, is based on the Moreau.
- Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!
- Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!, titled in response to the DEVO album
- Are We Not Horses
- No Spill Blood, from Oingo Boingo's Good For Your Soul album
- House of Pain is an American hip hop group whose name is a reference to the novel- a reference carried further by the naming of their 2011 tour "He Who Breaks the Law". Dialogue samples from the 1977 movie are used as snippets within the album
- The Song Toes by the alternative band Glass Animals is based on the book's story
The Island of Dr. Moreau has been used as a plot device in the BBC America series Orphan Black.
In "The Limits of Individual Plasticity" (1895), Wells expounded upon his firm belief that the events depicted in The Island of Doctor Moreau are entirely possible should such vivisection experiments ever be tested outside the confines of science fiction.
- Facsimile of the original 1st edition)
- Barnes & Noble. "The Island of Doctor Moreau: Original and Unabridged". Barnes & Noble.
- "Welcome". politics.co.uk.
- abbott (2011) 463. The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells Retrieved on February 11, 2015
- "Island of Lost Souls". Turner Classic Movies.
- "L'ile d'Epouvante (1913) in Silent Horror Forum". Yuku.
- "The Island of Doctor Agor". imdb.com.
- "DR. MOREAU'S HOUSE OF PAIN (DVD)". FullMoonDirect.com.
- "'The Madman's Daughter' author Megan Shepherd on her 'Lost' inspiration and plans for a movie -- EXCLUSIVE".
- Higson, Charlie (2013). The Fallen. US: Hyperion.
- Canadas, Ivan. "Going Wilde: Prendick, Montgomery and Late-Victorian Homosexuality in The Island of Doctor Moreau." JELL: Journal of the English Language and Literature Association of Korea, 56.3 (June 2010): 461–485.
- Hoad, Neville. “Cosmetic Surgeons of the Social: Darwin, Freud, and Wells and the Limits of Sympathy on The Island of Dr. Moreau”, in: Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion, Ed. Lauren Berlant. London & New York: Routledge, 2004. 187–217.
- Reed, John R., “The Vanity of Law in The Island of Doctor Moreau”, in: H. G. Wells under Revision: Proceedings of the International H. G. Wells Symposium: London, July 1986, Ed. Patrick Parrinder & Christopher Rolfe. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna UP / London and Toronto: Associated UPs, 1990. 134-44.
- Wells, H. G. The Island of Dr. Moreau, Ed. Steven Palmé. Dover Thrift Editions. New York: Dover Publications, 1996.
- Wells, H. G. The Island of Doctor Moreau: A Critical Text of the 1896 London First Edition, with Introduction and Appendices, Ed. Leon Stover. The Annotated H.G. Wells, 2. Jefferson, N.C., and London: McFarland, 1996.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Island of Doctor Moreau.|
- The Island of Doctor Moreau at Project Gutenberg
- The Island of Doctor Moreau at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions)
- The Island of Doctor Moreau public domain audiobook at LibriVox
- A draft of the 1996 films screenplay, dated 26 April 1994
- The Island of Lost Souls (1932) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) at the Internet Movie Database
- Jörg, Daniele (2003). "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly—Dr. Moreau Goes to Hollywood". Public Understanding of Science 12 (3): 297–305. doi:10.1177/0963662503123008. Compares the three adaptations of the novel, focuses on the scientists and the science in the film, considering the year of the production and what was known about genes and cells at the time.
- Analysis of The Island of Dr. Moreau on Lit React