Sympathy in “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells Book Review

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells is one of the outstanding early scientific novels, related to the Darwin’s theory of evolution. (Booker 2014). The story is told by the main hero of the novel Edward Prendick, who shipwrecked and then was rescued by a boat and taken to the island of Doctor Moreau. This scientist was preoccupied with the idea of creation of human-like hybrids of animals as the result of vivisection. Apart of the scientific side of the novel, the author aimed to explore the universal issues of cruelty, human ability to be sympathetic, human identity and responsibility for the natural world. “The novel is the earliest depiction of the science fiction motif “uplift” in which a more advanced race intervenes in the evolution of an animal species in order to bring the latter to a higher level of intelligence.” (Booker 2014). The novel by H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau investigates the profound and sophisticated contradiction between the meaning of scientific progress and norms of ethics in human relations and human – nature relations with the help of the three characters – Dr. Moreau, Montgomery and Prendick.

The novel presents one of the examples of discussion of the problematic relations between science and morality and in particular the place of sympathy there. The plot of the story is related to the experiments of Dr. Moreau and Edward Prendick, who arrived to the island by a chance. For the modern readers such procedures as exchange of genes seems to be not that fantastic, but for the period, when the novel was created, bioengineering and gene-splicing astonished the readers. However, the ethical and moral aspects, which were discussed by Wells in his novel, are out of time, they still have not lost their meaning. Such issues as moral responsibility of humans, their ability to be sympathetic and caring of their nature and the contradiction between science and morality remain acute for the modern societies as well. The Darwin’s theory of evolution was debated two centuries ago, as well as nowadays there are hot debates about cloning or the meaning of robots for humanity.

The key characters of the novel reflect the summed up variety of the positions of humans in considerations of ethics and morality of scientific progress. The author of the novel presents the Beast Men as “mockeries” for humanity. (Booker 2014). Prendick takes the position that even if there is a close connection between humans and animals, still they are not equal and he definitely puts himself superior to animals. He is convinced that the Beast Men are not able to become happy and satisfied with life, because they are not animals and still they lack some features to be absolute humans, they are inadequate. The position of Montgomery is different, as he is ready to treat the situation with relativity. He used to be separate from other humans and he spent too much time with the Beast men and this time made him closer to them. Montgomery thus does not make such clear distinction between himself and the Beast men, like this is done by Prendick.

The major characters of the novel express their sympathy in different ways and at different moments of the narration. Montgomery reveals his sympathetic position for the Beast Folk, when he defends M’ling against the people from the ship. Although M’ling is presented as “black-faced cripple”, still Montgomery takes his side and takes care of him “Montgomery had trained it [M’ling] to prepare food, and indeed to discharge all the trivial domestic offices that were required” (Wells 1988). After the death of Moreau Montgomery says to Prendick that it is not possible to massacre all of the Beast Folk “We can’t massacre the lot. Can we? I suppose that’s what your humanity would suggest.” (Wells 1988). The word “your” is definitely stressed by Montgomery. Montgomery wanted to underline his own not belonging to that humanity, associating himself more with the Beast Folk.

Wells avoided traditional presentation of the bad side and the good side and the struggle between them, as nothing is black and white, when the discussion of scientific progress starts. (Booker 2014). The author reveals sympathetic elements in all his characters, for example Dr. Moreau is not absolutely negative personage and could not be treated as the villain contradicting the good side. He plunged into science too much and his ideas become obsessive for him. Although he calls his creatures his children, he does not treat them correspondingly, as he uses pain in order to manage them. Thus his creatures are worthy real pity and they are finally not demonized even by Prendick, who had the chance to follow the events on the island before and after the crisis.

Overall, The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells is not simply a scientific tale with predictable ending. On the contrary this is a complex depiction of the relationship between the world of humans and that of animals. Humans believe they have complete power over the rest creatures around them, but at the same time they are so much depending upon them, irrespective of the scientific progress and almost unlimited opportunities of genetic engineering. The problem of morality in the frames of application of the advances of this technological and scientific progress still remains unsolved, and the model of Wells, presented in his novel, could be a serious hint urging to continue to look for the solutions.

Works cited:

Booker, Keith M. Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction in Literature. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau. New York: Signet, 1988. Print.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

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freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
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