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Edward Prendick says in The Island of Doctor Moreau “What could it mean? A locked enclosure on a lonely island, a notorious vivisector, and these crippled and distorted men?…” (Wells). After finishing the book it is likely that the reader feels as confused about Moreau as Prendick was in his first moments on the island. An analysis is needed to answer these questions pertaining to why Moreau did the surgeries and how he could fathom to think what he was doing was not evil. It is evident to the reader that Moreau is an extremely cruel person but my goal in the analysis is to not focus on how he is so terrible.
Instead, I want to inform the reader as to why Dr. Moreau acted the way he did. The single-minded ambition to go further than any scientist had before in the study of vivisection that possessed Moreau and helped him become scientist that did abnormal experiments on animals is a crucial factor in his personality. Next is the history he had of being cast out of society for his ambition which caused his experiments to become more extreme. After that, it is important to understand that the setting of a remote island with few humans to oversee him made Moreau adapt to believe that he was a god and made him unable to understand pain. All of these points played a role into Moreau’s treatment towards the animals on the island.
Dr. Moreau wanted to go further than any scientist had before through vivisection this led to the ambition and desire to change animals into more advanced creatures. It powers him so much that he can perform the surgery without any hesitation because he believes he is doing his job as a scientist and exploring a topic. Moreau explains the procedures he does as a common practice in the modern world. Moreau says “This is a kind of grafting in a new position of part of an animal upon itself”. He then continues and explains to Prendick how his surgeries are for the purposes of plasticity. We learn from this passage the mindset that Moreau possesses and how his goal of plasticity makes his work seem aimless because the word is too broad to define in this context.
Moreau does not see himself as a villain and may even believe he is a hero because he is making the animals more like humans while discovering more about vivisection. Another crucial point that shows why Dr. Moreau used vivisection is because of the history he has had involved with his experiments. Before living on the island Moreau lived in London. We learn from Prendick that Moreau was a well-known scientist but left London after a journalist discovered a wretched dog leaving Moreau’s house. Prendick explains this in the book when he says “The doctor was simply howled out of London”.
The outcome of having this news publicized made both the scientific and common citizens force him out of the country because they did not respect his research. Moreau’s experiments are a part of him so when the community responded opposingly to his research it affected him significantly. Another reason for him to leave London was to be completely removed from society and this explains him going to an island where he was uninterrupted to conduct research. Moreau was determined to do his work even if it meant leaving everyone which shows the reader how much Moreau values his experiments.
While Dr. Moreau had been experimenting with vivisection in London once he was cast out he had nothing standing in the way of his work and continued to get more involved with it. This passage further reveals the history of Moreau’s life and the feelings that he has toward civilization that led him to live in such a remote destination outside of all forms of society. It is also important for the reader to understand how to comprehend the setting that Dr. Moreau is in. Moreau is on an island and it has been years since he was part of civilization. Being alone or with little company for years changes one’s perspective on the world. At the end of the book when Prendick returns to civilization he describes how different he is than before. He says “My trouble took the strangest form.
I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another, still passably human, Beast People, animals half-wrought into the outward image of human souls: and they would presently begin to revert, to show first this bestial mark and then that”. Prendick was only gone a year and he felt this way but Dr. Moreau had been gone for 11 years. Although Dr. Moreau clearly changed it was quite different that Prendick’s. Prendick became paranoid and reserved after his experience in contrast to Moreau who thrived on the island and being away from society. Moreau enjoyed being away from society because he had no one tell him how to run his experiments.
Next, it is necessary to understand how Moreau uses vivisection on the animals and feels no sympathy for their pain. To do this the reader should understand the event where Prendick is questioning Dr. Moreau on how he justifies the pain that he causes to the animals through vivisection. Moreau responds by saying “All living flesh is not painful, nor is all nerve, nor even all sensory nerve. There’s no taint of pain, real pain, in the sensations of the optic nerve”. This example shows the reader that Moreau does not believe he is causing pain on the animals.
Throughout the book we consistently see Moreau harming the animals and causing absurd amounts of pain with his surgery. However, Moreau was alone for so long that this severely influenced his perception of pain. Since he was one of the two humans on the island and had animals for company he began to feel superior to them. He carried a gun around at almost all times and had nothing that could harm him. He began to forget what pain was because he had not experienced it in so long.
This analysis has drastically changed how I have viewed the The Island of Doctor Moreau. When reading this book I focused on the evil things that Dr. Moreau did to the animals instead of the characteristics that led him to do these actions. After choosing my topic and doing deeper reading in the book I was able to understand the factors that played into Moreau’s personality. For example, I can now comprehend the reason Moreau felt no sympathy after harming the animals is because he forgot what pain feels like, since he rules the island and has not been harmed personally in quite a while.
This false perception can explain how he was reckless enough to chase after a wounded and enraged puma immediately after it had broken loose from its enclosure. Moreau is so blinded from pain that he chases after a puma immediately after it escapes without thinking of the consequences that his actions could cause him. After proceeding to chase after puma we discover that Moreau had been killed by the creature. His own ego and foolishness led him to chase after a creature that was infuriated and had just escaped her cage.
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