Friday, August 29, 2014
Among the Beasts
I just finished reading The Island of Doctor Moreau. I was first intrigued about the story when I was introduced to it by the book Doctor Franklin's Island by Ann Halam. It was a terrific story, and to be honest, I prefer it to H.G. Well's book. That's not to say that his was not great--it was. I enjoyed it immensely, and loved the intrigue and examination of what made the inhabitants of the island so different--or rather, not. It spoke of the animal in all of us. The biggest example, arguably, is Moreau. The man who can coldly set aside any empathy for a fellow creature's senses, and feelings, to cut them apart while alive and rebuild them into something they didn't even understand. Yes, I find that fascinating. He is the predator that takes his prey as he needs them, uses and disposes them according to the requirements of his curiosity. Montgomery is the man caught in between--he understands both, he is Moreau's creature in that he has let Moreau desensitize his empathy to a great extent. Prendick, our main character, is the story's creature. The island is is torture chamber, his mental hell where he challenges and struggles against all he encounters, human or humanoid...in many ways, he is the man who has been cast adrift on his own inner terrain, taken by the things that make us regress in what we, as a "civilized" people, view as morals--bring out the animal stirrings. The fear of the unnatural, the instinct of what is a natural enemy, etc. Daily clashing with horrors and fear, with evidence of things that challenge his and others' "humanity", Prendick is a good representative of Humanity itself.
But what intrigued me most (and if I seem to be using that word too much, I'm sorry--it's one of my favorites, and I do so like to be intrigued) was the ending. Even if it was something I expected. Once you see the animal, see the jungle--you tend to see it everywhere else. It's hard to go back to what you were, and for many, you never do. Prendick struggled to not see his neighbors as animals--to fear that he saw the Creature that was furtive and fearful and dangerous in their faces, in their gestures. It took so long for him to acclimate again, and even then, he had times where he regressed. But I was surprised by the very ending. Hope? I do believe in it--something one must hold onto, if they are to survive, in my opinion, but I did not expect Prendick to end with a refrain of humanity's hope.
"My days I devote to reading and to experiments in chemistry, and I spend many of the clear nights in the study of astronomy. There is--though I do not know how there is or why there is--a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope. I hope, or I could not live.
And so, in hope and solitude, my story ends. --Edward Prendick"
A swift read, The Island of Doctor Moreau is an interesting examination of Humanity and the Beast.