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While the winner gets a huge amount of money for supposedly being the strongest human, in fact, the strongest human is merely the one that uses the greatest amount of self-centered cunning and brute strength. If one is going to define humanity, especially in the post-Darwinian age, then it would seem that humanity, to be set apart, would depend on altruistic feelings and use of intelligence rather than selfish feelings and use of brute force alone. In this respect, there is little to separate the producers of TV reality shows from Dr. Moreau, and, by extension, little to separate the participants from the man-beasts. While it is certainly a cynical viewpoint, it would seem that those who participate in the reality shows might be assumed to be as dimly aware of their condition as the man-beasts after their reversion to the more animal state.
Graff compares Dr. Moreau to Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein; both set about upsetting taboos concerning "hybridity, miscengeny and degeneration" (2001, p. 33+). Both are mechanistic in the extreme, viewing individuals as no more than a collection of animal parts to be reconstructed as a human of genius sees fit.
Graff notes that "Science has provided Moreau with the skill and imagination to perform his surgeries, but what will provide him with a reason not to perform these rites?" (2001, p. 33+).
Her answer is that although Moreau's quest is not utopian, it does have a logical basis (and, one might add, a basis not unlike that underlying the claims of pharmaceutical companies that purvey palliatives from mood adjusting drugs to cancer cures) of sorts. Graff notes that Dr. Moreau is ostensibly conducting his experiments to eliminate physical suffering, disease and discomfort, to find a cure for 'work' as then practiced, to overcome poverty, social discord and criminality, and even to supplant moral evil (Graff, 2001).
However laudable these aims might be, Dr. Moreau usurps the powers of a godhead, but without the Christian necessity of also taking care of his creations, as the Christian god was assumed to do.
Clearly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is a Victorian horror story of sorts. It contains horrific deeds and horrific creatures. It also, however, points the way to the disaffection that could lead to a Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald or W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham, in The Moon and Sixpence, weaves a novel around a completely disaffected so-called gentleman and the havoc he leaves behind when he acts from what might be considered best his less-than-human side. Maugham (1874-1965) was a physician and so, between his Victorian upbringing and the major part of his working life occurring in the post-Victorian world, it would have been easy for him to build on the work of Wells and create realistic environments that contained the same sort of monstrous behavior and events as Wells created a generation earlier. Whether Wells had a direct impact on Maugham -- or any other early 20th century writer -- is impossible to say with certainty. But that his very modern marriage of pure science as it was then known and a view of humanity that compares it more directly with apes than with angels may well be indisputable.
In The Island of Doctor Moreau, the suspense is not as well developed as it is in, for example, the work of Edgar Allan Poe, where suspense accounted for more than did the story line. In Wells' work generally, because it is based on the 'scientific' knowledge of the day, there is less suspense. Indeed, Bergonzi considered Wells earlier works to be romances because they contain elements of "the marvelous" but not necessarily horrific marvels. The marvels are based in some area of life with at least a pseudo-scientific connection.
The same could be said of this horror tale, except that the marriage of the 'scientific method' with the plot itself anchors the horrific happenings much more solidly than the would be anchored in a true romance. Sirabian (2001) notes that where Robert Louis Stephenson or Mary Shelley might focus on the effects of science, Wells, especially in The Island of Dr. Moreau, focuses more steadily on the scientific method itself. While that might indeed create a certain disaffection, already mentioned concerning the genre itself, it also allows for suspense. After all, in the scientific method, one doesn't know the answer to a problem or a quest, no matter how solidly one expects a certain answer. This factor allows Wells to manipulate the characters and the reader at the same time, almost as if he were the godhead he is positing in the character of Dr. Moreau.
Bergonzi, Bernard. The Early H.G. Wells: A Study of the Scientific Romances. Manchester, Eng.: Manchester UP (1961).
Graff, Ann-Barbara. "Administrative Nihilism': Evolution, Ethics and Victorian Utopian Satire." Utopian Studies 12.2 (2001): 33+. Questia. 27 Sept. 2005 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001049071.
Hillegas, Mark. The Future as Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. New York: Oxford UP (1967).
Sirabian, Robert. "The Conception of Science in Wells's the Invisible Man." Papers on Language & Literature 37.4 (2001): 382. Questia. 27 Sept. 2005 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000917120.
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