Are we living on Dr. Moreau’s island?
I think it’s pretty much universally agreed that The Island of Dr. Moreau is a disturbing read. Grafting pieces of animals together in an excruciatingly painful way and then forcing them to live as poor imitations of human beings, does sound basically wrong on every level. However, what if there is another disturbing implication to H. G. Wells’ short novel? As I read it, I could not help but think about Freud and his ideas on the three part human psyche. He believed that all of our personalities are made up of three components: the id, ego, and super-ego. The id contains all of our basic desires and needs, the super-ego works to contradict the id and help us to act in a socially acceptable manner, and the ego is a compromise between the two. Could it be that Wells’ depiction of animals trying to act human is actually commenting on the human’s attempt to suppress its own animalistic id?
There have been many works of literature that have contemplated what happens to the human when society is taken away such as Lord of the Flies, and Heart of Darkness. Wells, however, may be approaching the subject from a different angle. Rather than showing how the human can revert back to animalistic tendencies without society, he shows how the animal tries to become human when forced into a society.
These animals struggle with all of their basic instincts such as eating meat, going on all fours, and drinking water directly with their mouths in order to fit in with the laws that Dr. Moreau has constrained them with. While people obviously do not battle with the desire to walk around on all fours, it is a common idea that we are all suppressing our own basic animal instincts (our ids) with the societal rules that most of us have internalized and convinced ourselves are the way humans ought to act (the superego). The idea that Dr. Moreau’s confused and distorted animals could be symbols for human beings’ self inflicted struggle to act in the ‘proper way’ is certainly a disturbing thought.