Monday, July 18, 2011

The Island of Dr. Moreau

I had never before read The Island of Dr. Moreau (H.G. Wells, 1896), but I had seen two film versions.  I was very curious to see how it was the Moreau had turned the animals on his island into humanesque creations.  I was a little surprised to learn of the method.  Moreau created the Beast Men by tinkering with adding and removing body parts through vivisection (live surgery).  Wells speculated that in his near future that the process of tissue graphing and tissue manipulations that a simple surgeon could be capable of making animals walk as bipeds and think and speak like humans.  Of course, this idea is very fallacious, but then you have to consider the time in which Wells wrote his story.  The novel was first published in 1896, though Wells' end-note to the book claims that the story stemmed from a short essay he had written for The Saturday Review in Januray of 1895.  At that time, vivisection was becoming hotly debated as a current issue of scientific morality in England.  It seems that Wells was triggered by the topic and inspired to dream what could happen if tissue graphing through vivisection allowed for the creation of new organisms, such that were alike to humans.  In the modern time, our knowledge of physiology and biology make it apparent that such manipulation is just not possible, but it is still a fun flight of fantasy to read the story.  I feel now that I must watch the films again.  If I recall correctly, the 1996 version (with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer) changed the basic premise such that Moreau uses modern genetic engineering to create his beasts, which is far easier to 'swallow' for the modern science-savvy person.

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