The Island of Dr. Moreau

Overview

A lonely island in the Pacific. The sinister scientist who rules it. And the strange beings who dwell there…

This is the scenario for H. G. Wells’s haunting classic, one of his most intriguing and visionary novels. Living in the late nineteenth century and facing the impact of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Wells wrote this chilling masterpiece about the characteristics of beasts blurring as the animals turn into men. Dr. Moreau, a scientist expelled from his homeland for his ...

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Overview

A lonely island in the Pacific. The sinister scientist who rules it. And the strange beings who dwell there…

This is the scenario for H. G. Wells’s haunting classic, one of his most intriguing and visionary novels. Living in the late nineteenth century and facing the impact of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Wells wrote this chilling masterpiece about the characteristics of beasts blurring as the animals turn into men. Dr. Moreau, a scientist expelled from his homeland for his cruel vivisection experiments, finds a deserted island that gives him the freedom to continue torturous transplantations and create hideous creatures with manlike intelligence. But as the brutally enforced order on Moreau’s island dissolves, the true consequences of his experiments emerge, and his creations revert to beasts more shocking than nature could devise.

A genius of his time, H. G. Wells foresaw the use of what he called the “atom bomb,” the practice of gene-splicing, and men landing on the moon. Now, when these have become part of everyday life, his dark fable serves as a compelling reminder of the horrors that reckless experiments with nature can produce.
 
With a New Introduction by Nita A. Farahany and an Afterword by Dr. John L. Flynn

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Editorial Reviews

John Clute
It is hard to think of a more qualified person to give us, at long last, a version of an H. G. Wells novel which could be trusted... Professor Philmus's edition is extraordinarily full.
Interzone
David Seed
[T]his edition ... [leaves] the reader well placed to observe Wells's changing conception of his work and particularly to see how the novel grows out of the Gothic tradition. [I]t is important to stress what a wealth of materials is assembled in this volume.
Udolpho
Dale Kramer
This is a useful book for its placing the novel against its background of late-Victorian intellectual issues.
English Literature in Transition
Darren Harris-Fain
Philmus's variorum edition of The Island of Doctor Moreau is a shining example of the quality of work that can and should be done in the [science-fiction] field.
Extrapolation
From the Publisher
The Island of Dr. Moreau takes us into an abyss of human nature. This book is a superb piece of storytelling.”
V. S. Pritchett

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451468666
  • Publisher: Signet Classics
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 208

Meet the Author

H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells (1866–1946) left school at thirteen to become a draper’s apprentice (a life he detested); he later won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, where he studied with the famous T. H. Huxley. He began to sell articles and short stories regularly in 1893. His immediately successful novel The Time Machine (1895) rescued him from poverty. His other “scientific romances”—The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), and The First Men in the Moon (1901)—made him the father of science fiction.

Nita A. Farahany is the Director of Science and Society at the Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, Professor of Law and Philosophy, and Professor of Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University. Her research focuses on the legal, philosophical, and social issues arising from developments in the biosciences, particularly behavioral genetics and neuroscience. She has presented her work on bioethics, neuroethics, criminal law, and behavioral health law and policy to wide-ranging audiences including the Second and Ninth Circuit Judicial Conferences, the National Judicial College, the Global Women’s Forum, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. 

Dr. John L. Flynn is a three-time Hugo-nominated author and longtime science fiction fan and critic who has written ten books, numerous short stories, articles, reviews, and a screenplay. A professor at Towson University in Towson, Maryland, he teaches both graduate and undergraduate writing courses, including a course on Writing Science Fiction. He holds two PhDs, in literature and psychology.

Biography

Social philosopher, utopian, novelist, and "father" of science fiction and science fantasy, Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, Kent. His father was a poor businessman, and young Bertie's mother had to work as a lady's maid. Living "below stairs" with his mother at an estate called Uppark, Bertie would sneak into the grand library to read Plato, Swift, and Voltaire, authors who deeply influenced his later works. He shoed literary and artistic talent in his early stories and paintings, but the family had limited means, and when he was fourteen years old, Bertie was sent as an apprentice to a dealer in cloth and dry goods, work he disliked.

He held jobs in other trades before winning a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School of Science in London. The eminent biologist T. H. Huxley, a friend and proponent of Darwin, was his teacher; about him Wells later said, "I believed then he was the greatest man I was ever likely to meet." Under Huxley's influence, Wells learned the science that would inspire many of his creative works and cultivated the skepticism about the likelihood of human progress that would infuse his writing.

Teaching, textbook writing, and journalism occupied Wells until 1895, when he made his literary debut with the now-legendary novel The Time Machine, which was followed before the end of the century by The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, books that established him as a major writer. Fiercely critical of Victorian mores, he published voluminously, in fiction and nonfiction, on the subject of politics and social philosophy. Biological evolution does not ensure moral progress, as Wells would repeat throughout his life, during which he witnessed two world wars and the debasement of science for military and political ends.

In addition to social commentary presented in the guise of science fiction, Wells authored comic novels like Love and Mrs. Lewisham, Kipps, and The History of Mister Polly that are Dickensian in their scope and feeling, and a feminist novel, Ann Veronica. He wrote specific social commentary in The New Machiavelli, an attack on the socialist Fabian Society, which he had joined and then rejected, and literary parody (of Henry James) in Boon. He wrote textbooks of biology, and his massive The Outline of History was a major international bestseller.

By the time Wells reached middle age, he was admired around the world, and he used his fame to promote his utopian vision, warning that the future promised "Knowledge or extinction." He met with such preeminent political figures as Lenin, Roosevelt, and Stalin, and continued to publish, travel, and educate during his final years. Herbert George Wells died in London on August 13, 1946.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The War of the Worlds.

Good To Know

In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel. However, he eventually left her for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895.

Wells was once interviewed on the radio by an extremely nervous Orson Welles. The two are unrelated, of course.

Many of Wells's novels became film adaptations, including The Island of Dr. Moreau, filmed in 1996 by Richard Stanley and John Frankenheimer, and The Time Machine, filmed in 2002 by Wells's great-grandson, Simon Wells.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Herbert George Wells (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1866
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bromley, Kent, England
    1. Date of Death:
      August 13, 1946
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
In The Dingey Of The "Lady Vain."

I DO not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of the "Lady Vain." As everyone knows, she collided with a derelict when ten days out from Callao. The longboat, with seven of the crew, was picked up eighteen days after by H. M. gunboat "Myrtle," and the story of their terrible privations has become quite as well known as the far more horrible "Medusa" case. But I have to add to the published story of the "Lady Vain" another, possibly as horrible and far stranger. It has hitherto been supposed that the four men who were in the dingey perished, but this is incorrect. I have the best of evidence for this assertion: I was one of the four men.
But in the first place I must state that there never were four men in the dingey,--the number was three. Constans, who was "seen by the captain to jump into the gig," luckily for us and unluckily for himself did not reach us. He came down out of the tangle of ropes under the stays of the smashed bowsprit, some small rope caught his heel as he let go, and he hung for a moment head downward, and then fell and struck a block or spar floating in the water. We pulled towards him, but he never came up.
Daily News, March 17, 1887.
I say lucky for us he did not reach us, and I might almost say luckily for himself; for we had only a small breaker of water and some soddened ship's biscuits with us, so sudden had been the alarm, so unprepared the ship for any disaster. We thought the people on the launch would be better provisioned (though it seems they were not), and we tried to hail them. Theycould not have heard us, and the next morning when the drizzle cleared,-- which was not until past midday,--we could see nothing of them. We could not stand up to look about us, because of the pitching of the boat. The two other men who had escaped so far with me were a man named Helmar, a passenger like myself, and a seaman whose name I don't know,-- a short sturdy man, with a stammer.
We drifted famishing, and, after our water had come to an end, tormented by an intolerable thirst, for eight days altogether. After the second day the sea subsided slowly to a glassy calm. It is quite impossible for the ordinary reader to imagine those eight days. He has not, luckily for himself, anything in his memory to imagine with. After the first day we said little to one another, and lay in our places in the boat and stared at the horizon, or watched, with eyes that grew larger and more haggard every day, the misery and weakness gaining upon our companions. The sun became pitiless. The water ended on the fourth day, and we were already thinking strange things and saying them with our eyes; but it was, I think, the sixth before Helmar gave voice to the thing we had all been thinking. I remember our voices were dry and thin, so that we bent towards one another and spared our words. I stood out against it with all my might, was rather for scuttling the boat and perishing together among the sharks that followed us; but when Helmar said that if his proposal was accepted we should have drink, the sailor came round to him.
I would not draw lots however, and in the night the sailor whispered to Helmar again and again, and I sat in the bows with my clasp-knife in my hand, though I doubt if I had the stuff in me to fight; and in the morning I agreed to Helmar's proposal, and we handed halfpence to find the odd man. The lot fell upon the sailor; but he was the strongest of us and would not abide by it, and attacked Helmar with his hands. They grappled together and almost stood up. I crawled along the boat to them, intending to help Helmar by grasping the sailor's leg; but the sailor stumbled with the swaying of the boat, and the two fell upon the gunwale and rolled overboard together. They sank like stones. I remember laughing at that, and wondering why I laughed. The laugh caught me suddenly like a thing from without.
I lay across one of the thwarts for I know not how long, thinking that if I had the strength I would drink sea-water and madden myself to die quickly. And even as I lay there I saw, with no more interest than if it had been a picture, a sail come up towards me over the sky-line. My mind must have been wandering, and yet I remember all that happened, quite distinctly. I remember how my head swayed with the seas, and the horizon with the sail above it danced up and down; but I also remember as distinctly that I had a persuasion that I was dead, and that I thought what a jest it was that they should come too late by such a little to catch me in my body.
For an endless period, as it seemed to me, I lay with my head on the thwart watching the schooner (she was a little ship, schooner-rigged fore and aft) come up out of the sea. She kept tacking to and fro in a widening compass, for she was sailing dead into the wind. It never entered my head to attempt to attract attention, and I do not remember anything distinctly after the sight of her side until I found myself in a little cabin aft. There's a dim half-memory of being lifted up to the gangway, and of a big red countenance covered with freckles and surrounded with red hair staring at me over the bulwarks. I also had a disconnected impression of a dark face, with extraordinary eyes, close to mine; but that I thought was a nightmare, until I met it again. I fancy I recollect some stuff being poured in between my teeth; and that is all.


From the Paperback edition.

Copyright 2002 by H. G. Wells
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Table of Contents

1 In the Dinghy of the Lady Vain 1
2 The Man who was going Nowhere 5
3 The Strange Face 9
4 At the Schooner's Rail 17
5 The Landing on the Island 21
6 The Evil-looking Boatmen 27
7 The Locked Door 33
8 The Crying of the Puma 39
9 The Thing in the Forest 43
10 The Crying of the Man 55
11 The Hunting of the Man 61
12 The Sayers of the Law 69
13 A Parley 79
14 Doctor Moreau Explains 85
15 Concerning the Beast Folk 99
16 How the Beast Folk tasted Blood 107
17 A Catastrophe 123
18 The Finding of Moreau 129
19 Montgomery's "Bank Holiday" 135
20 Alone with the Beast Folk 145
21 The Reversion of the Beast Folk 153
22 The Man Alone 167
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Reading Group Guide

1. At the time The Island of Dr. Moreau was published, Wells had gained success with The Time Machine. However, critics felt the plot of Dr. Moreau was just as unbelievable as that of The Time Machine. While time travel is, and always was, pure science fiction, the late 1800s did see many medical breakthroughs. Why would it be so hard for Wells’s audience to believe in biological engineering?

2. In the Foreword, Peter Straub speaks of the text being “at war with itself, ” with the result that the narrative is tense and multi-layered. Do you agree with this assessment?

3. Notice the many stylesof language throughout the novel: Prendick’s continual misreading of sounds and explanations, the Beast Folk’s slurring speech, Moreau’s bumbling excuse for his experiments, and so on. How does Wells use these variations in language? Is his use of variations a comment on society or merely a literary device to further the plot?

4. Consider the strange litany the Beast Folk recite in chapter 12. What is Wells saying about religion? Is this strange religion positive or negative, and if positive, whom does it benefit -- the creatures or their master?

5. Look at the three men in the novel. Compare Prendick’s mannerisms with those of Montgomery and Moreau throughout the book. What do each man's mannerisms say about him? Do the mannerisms help or hinder each man throughout the action?

6. Wells was an educated man and studied under the famous scientist T. H. Huxley. Both men fully supported Darwin’s theory of evolution. Why, then, did Wells write a novel that seems to view science, and scientificexperimentation, as a threat to society?

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