The Island Universe
The topic of religion seems to be of great importance to the books we have read in this course. In Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go we see the characters submit to the will of their creators. Some follow their predetermined path without question, some choose to follow this path. Just like good religious followers they ultimately do the bidding of their creator(s) with or without questioning it.
We see more religious undertones within H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. We can think of the island as a microcosm of the universe with Moreau as a god and the beasts as humans. Wells was obviously was drawing upon two important thoughts when he wrote this book in 1896. Darwin’s natural Selection and the other was Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.
In Wells’s metaphor we see Moreau carve men out of beasts. This is a nod to evolutionary theory in that it refers to man coming into existence from animal origins. On this island the animals suffer pain at the hands of the creator, much like humans suffer on earth. This idea is never more prevalent than when Prendick says,
“I must confess that I lost faith in the sanity of the world when I saw it suffering the painful disorder of this island. A blind Fate, a vast pitiless Mechanism, seemed to cut and shape the fabric of existence and I, Moreau (by his passion for research), Montgomery (by his passion for drink), the Beast People with their instincts and mental restrictions, were torn and crushed, ruthlessly, inevitably, amid the infinite complexity of its incessant wheels.” (end of ch. 16)
Wells suggests that we all suffer, unavoidably at the hands of higher beings and for no reason. This religious metaphor is even more apparent as the beasts make laws, but have a tendency to revert to their animal states. Just like the restrictions placed on humanity by religions, people relentlessly have extra-marital sex, consume alcohol, and commit various other sins.
The other significant social idea that Wells draws upon is Nietzsche’s 1882 declaration that “God is dead”. The puma breaks free and kills Moreau, just as Nietzsche has killed god. Nietzsche kills god in as much as you can dispatch a faith-based, improvable being whose existence is based on saying it is alive; saying it is dead.
Wells bears witness to the creation of mankind, the purposeless suffering of humanity, and the eventual destruction of a merciless creator. But just as no one believes Prendick, we are to assume that the majority of people have not realized all that Wells has beheld in nineteenth century thought.