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Essay: Importance of Science and Humanity in Moreau and Jekyll

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  • Published: June 18, 2021*
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Importance of Science and Humanity in Moreau and Jekyll

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.

Hyde by Robert Stevenson are two novels that both focus on the themes of humanity and the ethics of science. The two novels, although written a decade apart they carry similar themes and similar messages. The two authors use these themes to portray the main message in these two novels which is a warning to not meddle with the natural order of nature.

The first theme that is focused on in both of the novels is humanity or rather the duality of man. And with this duality the inevitability of primitivity. In the first quote is from Stevenson’s 1886 novel where Dr. Jekyll is explaining his reasonings behind creating his formula to separate his dual persona into its good and purely evil sides. In Dr. Jekyll’s case when attempting to remove the weak aspects of humanity so that he “ could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path”, he removed all of the good aspects as well. His evil side took control of his body, as this took place he changed mentally and physically so much that an alternate identity was formed, he became Mr. Hyde.

The evil side of Jekyll, Hyde the ape-like mutation, was was able to kill and hurt innocent people, whereas the good side was able to maintain his well respected reputation in his community. However, the evil side seem to be stronger as it began taking over Jekyll’s body more and more frequently. Within the hybrid that Jekyll was, the two personalities were fighting for the reins of consciousness and Jekyll, the good half, was losing.

This dilemma is similar to the beast creatures in Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau that Moreau creates through vivisection. No matter the methods that Moreau uses the animals require constant experimentation in order to stay as the animal human hybrid. This war between the animal and the human halves is described in the second quote listed above written by Wells. The “long internal struggle” that these hybrid beasts are undergoing is exactly the same for Jekyll, and they are both the result of the battle between the strength of the animalistic persona and the determination of their humanity; both having been uncovered by their experiments.

In Well’s and Stevenson’s novels they train the readers to see primitivity not as the lowest level of humanity but as something different that has always been inside us. Humans, from birth, are innately good and innocent but there are primitive remnants that are left in our DNA and in our subconscious from our ancestors, and in these novels they take control. Dr. Jekyll, and all of the beasts of Dr. Moreau resort to their more animalistic personalities by the end of the novels. Prendick, when left alone on the island, he has to resort to his more primitive side in order to survive and keep his superiority among the beasts. All of the civilized manners of the men and all of the human traits inserted in Moreau’s beasts were abandoned as the ‘evil side’ took priority. These two stories show not only that given the right circumstances, even the most civilized of people can give way to primitivity, but also the importance of humanity.

The second theme that is present in both novels is the improper and unethical use of science. Both authors warned the negative effects of using science to meddle with nature in an attempt to improve society or make a world altering discovery. The third quote listed above is from Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. In this quote the narrator Prendick is talking about Dr. Moreau, the mad scientist who experiments on animals is intelligent, curious, but instead of being the “mad scientist” cliche, he is “careless” and cruel. His actions deserve and receive no intrigue from Prendrick, the shipwrecked man, because they are irresponsible and at their core evil.

At the time of the publication of the novel similar scientific procedures were taking place in Wells’ town. Vivisection and other animal experimentation was an active practice. Wells’ character Moreau states in the novel that he does not enjoy the act of vivisection, he finds it disturbing but it is a means to an end. This statement makes his actions all that much worse as he is able to recognize the pain that he is causing the animals but he feels no remorse for what he has done. In the quote Prendick, the speaker, states that Moreau throws out the beasts once he has created them to live in the island among his other creations for a whole year. Dr. Moreau, engrains just enough humanity in these creatures for conscious thought and communication then sets them free to live as savage animals once again. This makes his experiments all that much worse.

In Stevenson’s novel Jekyll experiments on himself and as previously stated his results are similar to Moreau’s. Human experimentation, even if it is self inflicted, is just as unethical and irresponsible if not more than the actions Moreau. Similar to Moreau, Jekyll’s creation ended up destroying him also. It can be speculated that Wells and Stevenson wrote these novels as a warning regarding unethical scientific experiments. As explained with the previous quotes just as they stress the importance of humanity, they stress the importance of mercy and ethics in scientific procedure. Yes these novels are fictional and entertaining stories but with such strong themes an ulterior motive is almost always present. They show the readers that scientific advancement usually come at a cost, Wells and Stevenson saw the direction that their societies were going and it is possible that they were portraying the message that nothing good will come from these experiments.

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